The Gulf nations are in a mode of revamping their laws and social norms to project an image of a freer land that helps promote tourism.
In an effort to move its fortunes from oil and to give a boost to its tourism industry, the Gulf nations have made a flurry of announcements that convey that tourists can expect compatible environs. This follows a historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment into the Gulf nations.
The United Arab Emirates announced on 7 November a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws with landmark changes such as allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate and loosening alcohol restrictions, reports AL Jazeera.
Among other changes that it promises to usher in the criminalization of the so-called “honour killings”, a tribal custom that permits a male relative to escape legal trial despite assaulting a woman seen as dishonouring the family.
The UAE government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the investment climate in the country, as well as to consolidate “tolerance principles”.
UAE citizens have welcomed the new laws
The UAE citizens have welcomed the new laws as progressive and proactive. The general feeling is that though 2020 has been a tough year, it has also been a transformative year for the UAE, reports Al Jazeera, citing a filmmaker.
Despite its legal system based on a hardline interpretation of Islamic law, the UAE has been a favoured destination for businesses and business people. The Emirates’ rulers are letting it be known through these changes that the UAE seeks to keep pace with a rapidly changing world.
No more penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession. Those 21 and over will be permitted to indulge in these items. No more requirement of a liquor license to purchase, transport or have alcohol at home. Islamic laws disallow alcohol-consumption but the new laws flex the same for Muslims in UAE. They were denied licences earlier, but now they too can drink alcoholic beverages freely.
Cohabiting or living-in for couples
Abiding by strict Islamic laws that disallowed “cohabitation of unmarried couples” earlier, and made it a crime in the UAE, the same was illegal and disallowed in the Gulf nations. But that law too is scrapped now.
Dishonour or Honour killing laws
The crime committed to eradicating the so-called “shame” brought on by a woman’s promiscuity or disobeying religious and cultural strictures will now be considered an assault. This type of crime is particularly endemic to most of South Asia and the Middle-East, say human rights activists and calls for an overhaul of social beliefs. Thousands of women have feaced assault, defacing, maiming, and even death for eloping, fraternising with men, or any transgression of conservative values regarding women. The UAE’s new laws now promise “tougher punishments for men who subject women to harassment of any kind, which is thought to cover street harassment or stalking,” The National reported.
The UAE’s expatriates population by far outnumbers its original citizens but the former were earlier forced to attend and abide by Islamic courts on issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Now that caveat too is gone.
The UAE’s high-stakes World Expo will likely bring in about 25 million visitors to the country and promising commercial activity, a much-needed break after a year of losses and being battered by the coronavirus pandemic.