UAE allows cohabitation of unmarried couples, relaxes Islamic laws

On November 7, 2020, the United Arab Emirates announced major changes to its Islamic laws. It includes loosening of alcohol restrictions, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate and loosening criminalization of honour killings.

Key Highlights

Previously the users had to purchase license for liquor and to have alcohol at homes. The new rule now allows Muslims to drink alcoholic beverages freely. The Government also liberalized the laws protecting the honour crimes in the country. The law that supported a tribal custom under which a male may evade prosecution has now been relaxed.

Significance

UAE is a country where the expatriates (person who lives outside their native country) outnumbers the citizens nearly nine to one. Thus, the amendments will permit the foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues such as divorce, marriage and inheritance.

Expatriates in UAE

UAE is home to one of the world highest percentage of immigrants. It is home to 200 nationalities. Emiratis constitute to only 20% of the total population. The foreigners outnumbered the native people in spite of strict laws in the country. Article 8 of the UAE Federal law says that a person can apply to UAE citizenship after he resides in the country not less than 30 years. He should speak fluent Arabic and should have not been convicted of crime.

Recent Reforms in UAE

The UAE recently signed a historic US brokered peace deal with Israel. It is called the “Abraham Accord”. Apart from such reforms in foreign relations, UAE also announced changes to create more flexible and modern bureaucracy. In two years, UAE is to convert all the government platforms into digital platforms.

Why the reforms?

The reforms have come post COVID-19 period. According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy of the country will contract by 3.5% in 2020. Therefore, UAE is taking every step to boost its economic growth. This includes reforming the Islamic laws to ease lifestyle of the foreigners who are major contributors of the economy of the country.

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