Liberalising Laws on Pregnancy Out of Wedlock in UAE

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:41:00



Single women who is pregnant outside of marriage in the United Arab Emirates need not any longer flee the country. The UAE has been turning itself conducive to global attention, investment, and tourist attraction, thanks to how well this nation works on bringing cultures together and understanding differences in view-points. The Middle-Eastern nation has liberalised their laws relating to questions surrounding morality and conditions imposed by faith, turning the nation into a freer space for an international community to comfortably blend in. Under the new law of the United Arab Emirates, it is not a criminal offence to get pregnant out of wedlock. In a new step toward secularizing state laws, she said, single women who are pregnant outside of marriage in the United Arab Emirates can no longer flee the country to have an abortion before marriage.

Reforms to the Law

In light of the recent legislative reforms announced by the United Arab Emirates Government to comply with various laws, including the provisions of the United Arab Emirates Federal Law, cohabitation between married couples has been decriminalised and no longer constitutes a crime. This clarifies that consensual sex and pregnancy outside marriage are not punishable. It is pertinent to note that prior to these reforms, it used to be a criminal offence to engage in sexual relationships with someone not married to the person in question.

Article 356 of the United Arab Emirates Criminal Code was amended to decriminalise the indecent assault by mutual consent, a term used for decades to punish sex outside marriage, cohabitation, extramarital relations and same-sex relationships. In 2020, the UAE amended Article 356 to remove language criminalizing the vague offenses of consensual indecency and degradation, punishable by a minimum of one year in prison, for persons engaged in consensual sexual relationships outside marriage (zina). This amendment also deleted the reference to the application of Islamic law to Hadd offences, including sexual relations outside marriage. In September 2020, UAE government officials introduced an important update to the penal code of the UAE under Federal Decree 15 of 2020, including that premarital sex is no longer a criminal offence in the UAE.

Status of Children Born Out of Wedlock

Here it is pertinent to note that despite the above-mentioned changes is no legal reform on the status of children born out of wedlock. Marriage is a prerequisite in the law of the United Arab Emirates, as it is the only legal link between a man and a woman in order to establish a relationship and a family. According to the Sharia law applicable in the United Arab Emirates, marriage is only a legal bond if one wants to enter into relationships and have children. Many expats are concerned about the new law as Article 356 of the UAE Criminal Code says that any caught with consensual sex outside the marriage will be found guilty and likely will face imprisonment and deportation. Seven months ago, the United Arab Emirates decriminalized premarital sex, but that does not reflect how extramarital pregnancies should be treated, according to government guidance to lawyers and hospital staff. As per UAE Law, marriage is the only legal link between a man and a woman to form a family and have legitimate children.

A woman who has an illegitimate child cannot obtain a birth certificate for her baby if she is unable to present a valid marriage certificate. The law states that unmarried couples expecting a child cannot leave the UAE to apply for their baby's birth certificate. Although women can no longer be locked up for premarital sex, new-borns still require a parent's marriage certificate, health insurance does not provide maternity cover for unmarried women and unmarried women remain wary of seeking medical help. Some women choose to leave the UAE when a pregnancy becomes apparent. In accordance with Articles 89 and 90 of the United Arab Emirates Family Law, which says that the father of a child must admit before a judge that he is the father.

Pregnant women living in the UAE who are still single must either return home or fly to another country. Because a marriage licence is required to obtain any form of maternity care in the country, getting married in Dubai after conception will not suffice to solve the legal problem. Unmarried women who choose to leave the UAE because they are pregnant may find difficulties re-entering the nation after giving birth. In November 2020, the UAE revised the Personal Status Law in order to allow foreign couples to apply their country of residence law on personal status matters instead of UAE Law on Personal Status.

Shifting Sands in UAE’s Sharia Law

The United Arab Emirates announced the decriminalisation of alcohol and suicide in addition to allowing cohabitation between unmarried partners and unmarried sexual relations. There has been an abolition of laws that punish women in the event of pregnancy outside the marriage. Hence, it could be observed that UAE has been making the penal laws more conducive to individuals hailing from diverse backgrounds in terms of worldview and opinions on morality, enabling more scope for working together despite differences.