Legal System in the UAE

One of the most overlooked aspects of relocation or visiting a foreign country is an understanding of the legal system. Laws are designed to protect the general safety of the residents as well as to preserve their rights against exploitation and abuse.

Despite its technological advancements and modern infrastructure, the UAE is an Islamic country at heart. This means there are cultural rules based on Sharia Law which both Emiratis and expatriates are expected to respect. A few examples of such laws include:

  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Swearing or Making Rude Gestures in Public
  • Cross-dressing
  • Public Display of Affection
  • Live-in relationships

The UAE also has laws to maintain the aesthetics, social order and peace of the community. Some laws may be similar to those in other countries, and some might seem outright strange. Either way, the UAE strictly enforces them. Examples include:

  • Taking photographs of people without their permission and/or sharing them on social media
  • Taking photographs of road and aviation accidents and/or sharing them on social media
  • Washing your car in public spaces
  • Littering
  • Eating or Drinking on Public Transport
  • Fundraising without government approval
  • Using a VPN
  • Bounced Cheque

For more information, look up 23 Dubai Laws You Should Know.

In addition, the UAE has tough laws for serious crimes such as domestic violence, child pornography, human trafficking, drug smuggling, cybercrime and terrorism.

There are certain gray areas in the UAE judicial system which has come under increasing public scrutiny over the years. While there is still some confusion regarding them, it is best to know these gray areas:

  • Adultery
  • Rape
  • Apostasy
  • Blasphemy
  • Homosexuality
  • Death Penalty

Understanding the laws of a country can seem both mundane and tedious. Yet, there have been various incidents across the world of individuals getting into trouble simply because they failed to acquaint themselves with the local laws. In a city like Dubai, you especially come face-to-face with extreme polarities. For example:

  • You have the thriving nightlife on one hand, and no public display of affection on the other.
  • Dating is tricky, yet Dubai is the land of multicultural couples.
  • Sharing a hotel room with the opposite sex is illegal, yet many hotels accommodate tourists.

Walking the line in-between can be delicate business. So, go ahead and familiarize yourself with the customs, laws and judicial process of the UAE. It will only take a little bit of your time and will definitely be helpful in the long run.

Further Reading

The UAE Government

Structure of the Judicial System of the UAE

Where to find UAE federal laws?

UAE Labour Law | Laws and Regulations

New UAE law that protects debt-ridden residents

TAMM | Abu Dhabi Government Services