The Legal Perspective of Harassment in the UAE

Harassment is a set of conducts whose objective is to disturb, threaten, intimidate or place a person in fear of their security. In the UAE, this action is not unknown. 


Types of Harassment:

There are different types of harassment, such as:

Studies from last year determined that 80% of women who experience harassment do not report it and, in this article, we will focus our attention on sexual harassment. 


Firstly, it is essential to say that sexual harassment could be:

  1. Verbal: for example, make sexual comments about a person’s body or tell sexual jokes or stories.
  2. Non-verbal: looking a person up and down or making sexual gestures with hands or body movements.
  3. Physical: for example: Giving a massage around the neck or shoulders or standing very close to another person.


Secondly, Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 (the Penal code of UAE) is not silent about this topic.

Article 358 lays down: a person that commits an indecent and disgraceful act will be punished by imprisonment of six (6) months or more, but there is detention for one (1) year or more if the disgraceful act is for a girl or a boy under fifteen (15) years old. Additionally, Article 359 mentions that a person who attempts to disgrace a female using words or actions in public, he/she will be punished by imprisonment maximum one year or a fine of AED 10.000 or less. It will be possible for these two penalties or only one of them. 

Furthermore, it was added article 359 under Article 2 of the Federal Decree Law Number 15/2020 dated 27/09/2020 that defines sexual harassment as an excessive annoyance of others by repeating acts, word or signals and lay down two types of penalties:

  1. In case of sexual harassment crime, the guilty will be in jail one year or less and/or a fine not less than AED 10.000.
  2. Suppose the perpetrator is a group, has a weapon, or has authority (familiar, educative, or functional) under the victim. 

In that case, the penalty will be two (2) years or less and/or a fine of AED 50.000 or less.If the perpetrator of harassment is foreign, the penalties before mentioned will be applied, followed by deportation. Article 361 determines that a person who seduces a person publicly, the penalty will be detention for six (6) months and a fine of a maximum of AED 5.000. Article 363 lays down that if a person persuades a girl or a bay under eighteen (18) years old to practice prostitution, the penalty could be at least two (2) years of detention and a fine.


What is the procedure to file a complaint about sexual harassment?

Victims should go to the nearest police station to file a complaint about the harassment. He/she should complete details of the act and, if it is possible, provide evidence. With the complaint registration, the public prosecutor will initiate an investigation about the harasser and draft a criminal report to the Criminal Court for the verdict. When we talk about harassment, we only think of women, but men are victims of harassment, and article 359 expand sexual harassment to men.


Harassment at work:

Sexual harassment at work is rarely reported in the UAE, and sometimes, women prefer to give up on the job instead of reporting the harassment. On occasions, the victim does not know his/her rights or is scared about the offender’s retaliation, such as loss of or humiliation by colleagues. Most of the common harassment against women are inappropriate touching, obscene comments about her appearance or body, text messages with pictures, videos, or pornographic material. And it is not only the women; men suffer harassment at work too. But what legal provisions have the worker in case of sexual harassment in employment? As we said before, the UAE penal code penalizes these types of the act. Moreover, the UAE Labour law (Federal Law Number 8 of 1980) in Article 120 considered that an employer could fire an employee without notice if a criminal judgment punishes him/her. The procedure of complaint, in case of harassment at work it is possible in two ways: