27 October 2023

Shuchi Goel

Previously unmarried couples living together faced many restrictions if residing in the UAE. The revised UAE Penal Code for Non-Muslims has now changed and made it a point to improve the living standards of its residents and tourists. 

Dubai: The UAE government has announced new status law for Non-Muslims whereby Unmarried couples are now permitted to cohabit in the UAE. The changes include laws related to decriminalized consensual relationships outside of marriage, added provisions for unmarried parenting, and broadened the scope of rape charges. Although prosecutions were uncommon, the law has been relaxed to allow roommates and couples to legally share a home. The new law is UAE's most significant set of legislative changes, that intends to boost women's and domestic workers' protections while promoting social cohesion public safety.

In the past years unmarried couples were even denied accommodation in one hotel room or long-term apartment rent. However due to the economic boom and the vast number of western tourists and expats living in the country, it was taken into consideration their habits and therefore laws were passed to ensure that the UAE residents are living in it while still preserving their habits. It is however clear that respecting the local customs and laws regardless is still a must and any failure to do so may generate into more serious consequences. Display of public affection in any public place such as a shopping centre, restaurant or beach.

Previously, under Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, living with an unmarried partner was punishable by a year in prison. Amendments to the Federal Decree-Law No. 15 of 2020 announced last year decriminalized consensual relationships between unmarried couples. The new law further highlights that consensual premarital sex is no more prosecuted as it is now decriminalized, unless one of the partners (man or woman) is a minor less than fourteen (14) years old or if the partner is too young to take independently its decision or suffers from mental illness and retardation. 

The unmarried couple could not have children previously and if a woman was pregnant outside wedlock, this would be considered a crime with jail term and deportation for foreign females. At the time a woman falls pregnant and without any tergiversation when the doctor asks for a marriage certificate and there is none, the police was informed. Unmarried couples over 18 years of age can only face up to six months in jail under the new Law if a complaint is filed by either party's wife, husband, or custodian. However, if the spouse or guardian decides to withdraw the charges, the case will be postponed or dismissed. This was not the case as per the old statue. It stated that if the consenting intercourse included a victim under 18 years of age, the criminal faces sexual molestation charges, which are penalized by temporary jail. Presently, any sexual relation is allowed out of wedlock in the UAE, and medical assistance will be provided for these women who are pregnant without being married, until the time the baby is borne. In the event the woman is still wanting to stay in the UAE, she will have to be married at the time she is giving birth.
One of the significant amendments to the New Penal Code, which takes effect on January 2, 2022, includes significant revisions to Federal Law No. 3 of 1987. One most crucial change is the increase of the legal age of puberty from 14 to 18 years, which implies that victims of rape, sexual molestation, or consensual sex under 18 years are classed as minors under the new Penal Code. Furthermore, raping a woman now carries a life sentence under the new Law. If one of the following four conditions are met, the penalty is increased to capital punishment. The four conditions include; if the victim was less than the age of eighteen (18); if, for whatever reason, the sufferer was unconscious; if the victim was incapacitated or otherwise unable to resist; if the criminal is a member of the victim’s family or caretaker or an employer with power over a woman or domestic assistant. 

In conclusion

Any heterosexual couple, or opposite sex people, can live together in the UAE, yet it falls under some conditions such as: the man or woman should not be married outside and cohabiting with each other, as this situation is seen as adultery and treason standing in violation of the law and will be classified as a crime. 
In Conclusion
The legislator provided the above as the only relaxation in the rules whereby the unmarried couple yet cohabiting together cannot apply for residency visa together or to sponsor each other as the relationship is not official. The UAE offers wife and husband residence visa only. 


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