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International Last Updated: Nov 9, 2020 - 11:54:17 AM

Revealed: all you need to know about the new UAE Government reforms
By Taronish Mistry, Arabian Business 8/11/20
Nov 9, 2020 - 11:53:17 AM

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The changes are expected to be put into practice with immediate effect to reflect the rapid progress the UAE seeks to make.

At a time when the world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns are being renewed and economies continue to bear the brunt of the financial fall-out, the UAE is opening up, encouraging visitors and businesses to come to the country.

Huge stimulus packages, retirement visas, amendments to the bankruptcy laws, remote working options and a raft of reforms outlined by the UAE Government on Saturday, all designed to make the UAE the destination of choice for tourists and expatriates.

Although no official text of the changes has been published at the time of writing, the changes are expected to be put into practice with immediate effect to reflect the rapid progress the UAE seeks to make. Nevertheless, the legal nuances and details will only be known with certainty once the actual text of the changes is released.

Cohabitation for unmarried couples:

Prior to the change

The principle of this prohibition was based in Sharia law, which prohibits cohabitation among people of opposite sex, who are not married or blood related. Accordingly, such cohabitation was illegal regardless of whether the cohabitants were in fact a couple.


Our opinion is that the unmarried / non-blood-related individuals of the opposite sex will now be able to cohabitate without the worry of legal repercussions as was previously the case. Although in the past authorities have rarely targeted or prosecuted such cohabitation, this update removes any worry of breaching UAE law altogether. This will enable younger expats to and yet unmarried couples to share a home in the UAE.
Alcohol consumption:

Prior to the change

Although certain venues could serve alcohol to customers, individuals (non-Muslims) in the UAE required a licence to drink alcohol, even if done in the privacy of their homes. Muslims could not obtain such licences in any event. Only non-Muslims were exempt from ‘Hadd’ (corporal punishment) for consumption of alcohol under Article 313 of the Federal Law No. 3/1987 (the Penal Code).


We believe that appropriate and authorised alcohol consumption will no longer be a criminal offence of the broad scope that it was earlier. We expect that moving forward individuals will be able to drink and keep alcohol at home without a licence and will not face penalties. It is to be noted that legal requirements such as minimum age (18 or 21 years) must still be met to drink alcohol; selling alcohol to or buying it for an underage individual will still be prohibited, as will driving under the influence of alcohol. Due to the nuances/caveats involved, the official text of the changes must be seen to gain a clear understanding of what is and is not allowed. We also believe that individual emirates will likely issue regulations in relation to the same.
Divorce and inheritance:

Prior to the change

Marriage and divorce: if a couple were married in a foreign country but got divorced in the UAE, there was a risk that UAE law (i.e., Sharia law) would apply.

Inheritance and wills: in some cases, the family of a deceased person would find that the deceased’s assets were divided as per Sharia in a way which expats did not usually favour.


Marriage and divorce: Even if the divorce occurs in the UAE, we expect the laws of the country where the marriage took place to apply. We also believe that the courts shall mediate in cases where there is no agreement between the divorcing parties.

Inheritance and wills: We expect citizenship of the deceased to dictate how assets will be divided unless they have a written will (which may itself provide how to distribute assets and which law governs its execution). This is likely to include real estate assets. Overall, the change is aimed at achieving financial stability for foreign investors.

As with the other topics, we still await the actual text to know the nuances and exactly how the changes will be applied.
Suicide and 'Good Samaritans':

Prior to the change

Suicide: Someone who attempted to commit suicide could have been legally prosecuted under Article 335 of the UAE Penal Code and subject to six months’ imprisonment and/or to a fine of up to AED5,000 (even though this was rare in practice).

Good Samaritan law: In the absence of ‘Good Samaritan’ law, an individual who, in helping a person in danger, causes injury or death e.g., through CPR or first aid, could be held accountable. This was under the UAE Civil Code Article 282 whereby, “Any harm done to another shall render the doer thereof, even though not a person of discretion, liable to make good the harm.”


Suicide: Suicide and attempted suicide will be decriminalised. We expect the authorities will ensure those vulnerable individuals receive mental-health support, however, those assisting in suicide will face an unspecified jail sentence.

Good Samaritan law: We expect that ‘Good Samaritans’ will not be held liable for the injury or death of the person they intended help, encouraging those individuals to help when they can in dire situations, without legal fears hindering their helpful actions.
Harassment and assault:

Prior to the change

Male perpetrators faced weaker penalties or evaded prosecution for “honour crimes” (including assault or killing) committed against a woman by stating that the woman was "dishonouring" the family.


In line with principles of equality, we expect incidents that previously fell under the category of ‘honour crimes’ to be treated just like any other crimes, without the mitigating factor available only to males. Accordingly, we expect the introduction of harsher penalties for men who commit such crimes against women.

Rape of a minor or someone with limited mental capacity will now face the death penalty, further deterring crimes against vulnerable individuals.
Judicial procedure:

We expect that translators will be provided for non-Arabic speaking defendants and witnesses in court if necessary. Additionally, in relation to privacy in judicial proceedings, evidence related to cases involving indecent acts will likely be protected, and accordingly will not be publicly disclosed.

Source:Ocnus.net 2020

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