The UAE has a federal judicial system. Within the judicial structure there are three main branches: Civil Law, Criminal Law and Sharia Law. The judicial system in the UAE is derived from the civil and Sharia law system. The judicial system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. According to Human Rights Watch, UAE criminal and civil courts apply elements of Shari’a codified in the penal code and family law in a manner that discriminates against women.
Flogging is punishment for crimes such as adultery, premarital sex and alcohol consumption. Because of Shari’a courts, flogging is legal with penalties of 80 to 200 lashes. Verbal insults to a person’s honour are illegal and are punishable by 80 lashes. In the period 2007 to 2014 a number of people in the UAE have been punished with 100 lashes. In 2015, 2 persons have been sentenced to 80 lashes on charges of beating and verbally abusing a woman. Also in 2014, a foreign national in Abu Dhabi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 80 lashes on charges of drinking alcohol and of raping an infant. Alcohol consumption is illegal for Muslims and is punishable by 80 lashes; many Muslims have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking alcohol. Sometimes 40 lashes are given. Illegal sexual intercourse is sometimes punishable by 60 lashes. The standard number of lashes for those who are sentenced to flogging is 80 lashes in several emirates. Shari’a courts have punished domestic servants by flogging. In October 2013, a Filipino housekeeper was sentenced to 100 lashes for illegitimate pregnancy. Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many expatriates have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drunk driving. People in Abu Dhabi had been sentenced with 80 lashes for kissing in public. According to UAE law, sex before marriage is penalized with 100 lashes.
Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. An Asian cleaning woman has been sentenced to death by stoning on May 2014 in Abu Dhabi. Other expatriates have been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. From 2009 to 2013, a number of persons were sentenced to death by stoning. Abortion is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 100 lashes and 5 years in prison. In recent years several people have withdrawn their guilty pleas in cases of illegal sexual relations after being sentenced to stoning or 100 lashes. The penalty for adultery is 100 lashes for unmarried persons and stoning for married persons.
Shari’a courts have exclusive jurisdiction in family law cases and also have jurisdiction in a number of criminal cases, including adultery, premarital sex, theft, alcohol consumption and related offences. Sharia-based civil status law governs matters such as marriage, divorce and custody of children. Islamic civil status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes also to non-Muslims. Non-Muslim expatriates may be subject to Shari’ah decisions on marriage, divorce and custody of children.
Apostasy is a crime that is punishable by death in the United Arab Emirates. Blasphemy is illegal; expatriates who insult Islam are liable for expulsion. The UAE includes Huddish Shari’a crimes (i.e., crimes against God) in its penal code – apostasy is one of them. In accordance with sections 1 and 66 of the Penal Code of the UAE, all Huddish crimes are punishable by death; as a result, apostasy is one of them and is punishable by death in the UAE.
In several cases, UAE courts have imprisoned women who have reported rape. For example, a British woman was charged with “alcohol consumption” after reporting a gang rape by three men, another British woman was charged with “public intoxication and extramarital sex” after reporting a rape, while an Australian woman was sentenced to a similar prison term after reporting a gang rape in the UAE. In another case, an 18-year-old Emirati woman recently withdrew her charge of gang rape by six men when the prosecutor threatened her with a long prison sentence and flogging. The woman had to serve another year in prison. In July 2013 a Norwegian woman, Marte Dalelv, reported a rape to the police and was sentenced to prison for “unlawful sexual intercourse and alcohol consumption”.
Other laws discriminate against women. Emirati women must obtain permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry. This requirement results from the interpretation of Sharia law by the United Arab Emirates and has been a federal law since 2005. In all Emirates it is forbidden for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims. In the UAE, it is criminalised to marry a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man, since it is considered a form of “fornication”.
Kissing in public is illegal and can lead to expulsion. Expatriates in Dubai have been deported because they kissed in public. In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for public kissing. A New Federal Law of the UAE forbids swearing on the Whatsapp and punishes them by a fine of $68,061 and imprisonment; while expatriates are punished with deportation. In July 2015, an Australian living abroad was deported because he had sworn an oath on Facebook.
Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and a capital crime. In 2013, an Emirati man was put on trial on charges of “homosexual handshake”. Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Criminal Code provides for a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment for consensual sodomy, while Article 177 of the Dubai Criminal Code provides for a prison sentence of up to 10 years for consensual sodomy.
In the UAE, according to the Sharia courts, amputation is a legal punishment, while crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE. Article 1 of the Federal Criminal Code states that “the provisions of Islamic law apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punishment and blood money”. The Federal Criminal Code has only repealed those provisions of the criminal codes of the individual Emirates that contradict the Federal Criminal Code. Consequently, both are applicable simultaneously.
During the fasting month of Ramadan it is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset. Exceptions apply to pregnant women and children. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and failure to observe this rule may lead to arrest. Dancing in public is illegal in the United Arab Emirates.