New UAE law: Will I face any legal issues if my live-in girlfriend gets pregnant?

Major changes will take effect in January 2022; residents must comply with the following provisions

By Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 5 Dec 2021, 11:26 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Dec 2021, 11:35 AM

Q. My question is about the UAE’s largest legislative reforms announced recently. I work and live in Dubai, while my girlfriend is back in my home country. I was hesitant to bring her over as I was not sure what her legal status would be. With the new reforms, I am now planning to being her to the UAE. My question is this: Would we face any legal issues if we live together or if she gets pregnant? What would the procedure be to legalise such a child and get identification documents for him/her?

A. It is noted that you live and work in Dubai, while your girlfriend resides in your ‘home country’. You are apprehensive of how the UAE laws shall apply, should you cohabit with your girlfriend in the UAE, or if she becomes pregnant.

As of December 2021, penal laws in the UAE are governed by the Federal Law No 3 of 1987 on the Issuance of the Penal Law, as amended (the ‘Penal Law’). In November 2020, certain provisions of the Penal Law were amended, by the Federal Decree Law No (15) of 2020 (‘FDL 15/2020’). Thereupon, certain acts which were punishable by law before, were either decriminalised or the applicable penalties were reduced.

By Article 356 of the Penal Law (before FDL 15/2020) the act of sexual cohabitation without marriage used to be a punishable offence. This was called the offence of indecent assault. By FDL 15/2020, Article 356 has been amended entirely, and the provisions for indecent assault have been removed. Following this, unmarried couples are allowed to live in the same accommodation and cohabit without marriage.

However, in FDL 15/2020 no specific provisions were set forth as to parenting of children by unmarried couples. This position is set to change by the new UAE Decree Law No (31) of 2021 concerning the Penal Code (the ‘New Penal Law’) to be effective on and from January 2, 2022. It is anticipated that the existing Penal Law shall then be abrogated and replaced entirely by the New Penal Law.

As to your queries, Article 410 of the New Penal Law is relevant.

Article 410 of the New Penal Law contains detailed provisions in respect of cohabitation by unmarried couples and bearing of children by such couples. The provisions thereof are roughly translated as follows:

“Anyone who has sexual intercourse with a female who has completed (18) eighteen years of age and has given birth to a child, shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of not less than two years. The female shall be punished with the same penalty.

“In all cases, a criminal case is not filed against them if a man marries a woman, or one or both acknowledges the paternity of the new-born child, and the identification papers and travel documents have been extracted for the child according to the laws of the country of which either is a national, and also considering the applicable laws of the country (UAE), and the consequence of this marriage or acknowledgment or the issuance of identification papers and travel documents for the child shall not give rise to a criminal case, or suspension of the execution of the penalty, as the case may be.”

Based on the above, it may be noted that come January 2022, there shall be a major shift in the applicable penal laws of the UAE, upon enforcement of the New Penal Law. Thereupon, you may elect to bring your girlfriend to the UAE and cohabit with her provided that she is above 18 years of age.

In the event, she becomes pregnant and bears a child in the UAE without marriage, then you (and your girlfriend, as applicable) will need to ensure that you comply with the following provisions –

a) You may marry your girlfriend; or

b) You and/or your girlfriend must singly or jointly acknowledge the child and provide identification papers and travel documents in accordance with the laws of your country considering the applicable laws of that nation.


Should you fail to comply with the above provisions, a criminal case would introduce a prison term of two years for both you and your girlfriend.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.

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