Extramarital relationship a criminal offence in UAE
If found guilty, a couple may even be deported from the country.
Question: I am in a relationship with a man who is separated from his wife. Their divorce has been pending in the courts for many years now. Now that the UAE has legalised cohabitation, will I face any legal implications if I live in with my lover? Please clarify.
Answer: Pursuant to your queries, it may be noted that until recently, engaging in a relationship (sexual) with someone who is not married to you was a criminal offence in the UAE and hence punishable by law.
This is in accordance with Article 356 of the Federal Law No. (3) of 1987 Related to Issuance of Penal Code (the ‘Penal Law of UAE’), which states: “Without prejudice to the preceding two Articles, the crime of indecent assault with mutual consent shall be punished by detention for at least one year. However, if the crime is committed against a male or female who is under fourteen years of age, or if the crime is committed by coercion, it shall be punished by temporary imprisonment.”
Further, cohabitation without marriage attracted deportation. This is in accordance with Article 121 of the Penal Law of UAE, which states: “If a foreigner has been sentenced to a custodial penalty in a felony or misdemeanour, the court may call in its judgement for the deportation of the convicted foreigner from the state. Deportation orders shall also apply to felonies perpetrated on the honour.
“The court may, in cases of misdemeanours, order the commutation of a custodial penalty stated for a misdemeanour to deportation.”
Recently, the UAE government announced reforms in the personal laws, women’s safety, suicide, alcohol consumption and laws related to Good Samaritans. The reforms included decriminalising cohabitation of unmarried couples. Therefore, if two unmarried persons are in a living relationship, it may not be considered as a crime henceforth and there may be no imprisonment or penalties for co-habitation.
However, in context of your relationship with your boyfriend who is married, it will be considered a criminal offence in the UAE. If you and your boyfriend are found guilty and sentenced to a custodial penalty, the court may order the deportation of both in accordance with Article 121 of the Penal Law of UAE.
Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: www.amalawyers.com. Readers may e-mail their questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.
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