The UAE has developed from a juxtaposition of Bedouin tribes to one of the world’s most modern and wealthy States in only about 50 years. It works as a current State, grounded in tribal loyalties and Islamic values. UAE has been promising commercial and trading hub providing business friendly environment to everyone regardless their nationality and religion. Knowing that such diverse economic environment is essential to country’s businesses and economy but what if these legal reforms become threat to country’s cultural and religious values?
The recent reforms of the UAE are an example to understand the said concept better. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities announced changes in several civil and criminal provisions of Islamic laws on 7th November with landmark changes such as legalizing extramarital sex and loosening alcohol restrictions.
Alcohol has always been available to foreigners with a special license. Still, the new laws mean Emiratis can now also buy and consume alcohol as UAE declared it legal. It can still only be finished privately or in licensed public places, and people must be at least 21 to drink legally in the UAE.
Legalizing Umarital sex:
Moreover, previously, the UAE banned unmarried foreigners from living together, but it was generally overlooked. In a landmark move, it is planned to officially legalize sex for unmarried couples. It is worth noting that even now, the UAE authorities do not prosecute unmarried foreigners who live in the country without stamps in their passports. However, the risk of their being subject to an appropriate liability measure remains.
Lenient penalties for ‘Honor Killings’
Along with this, the authorities intend to amend family law as well. It promises to cancel lenient penalties for ‘honor killings,’ a tribal custom that permits a male relative to escape legal trial despite assaulting a woman. UAE has canceled standard clauses that allowed judges to issue merciful sentences in “honor crimes.”
The Emirati government said courts will now treat those crimes as normal murder cases. However, there are many other new amendments in the inheritance laws as well which can make a person think of the sudden changes in the Arab Gulf countries.
Changing Winds in the Arab Gulf:
The UAE government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the country’s investment climate and consolidate “tolerance principles.” But one can argue that do they introduced legal reforms after signing a peace deal with Israel to normalize relations between the two states?
Moreover, in Saudi Arabia, lifting the 35-year ban on cinemas and the opening of the Dubai based nightclub in Jeddah, all were sudden changes in the legal reforms triggered the fundamental question, Why did King Salman agree to do this, and why now? Because for decades, the royal family – including Salman before he became king – has maintained unjust laws and legal reforms.
However, many people are not happy with UAE legalizing alcohol and allowing couples to have extramarital sex. These people argue that the country is moving away from its own culture and embracing the west. So far, the authorities have not published any specific decrees, but they have announced that the amendments will enter into force immediately.