Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2024 & Onward?
The UAE Government announced changes in the country’s Islamic personal laws. As per the new rule, unmarried couples in UAE will now be permitted to stay together. The recent move is an effort to improve the living standards of the residents in the country.
Can unmarried couples live together in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and the rest of the UAE in 2024 and onward? Will people living together in Dubai’s hotels be fined? Can unmarried couples cohabit—that is, have sex in Dubai without being punished for it? Will they be reported? The article answers these questions.
While Dubai is an Islamic city, it has been widely hailed as the Middle East’s most Western city, emphasizing Western liberal qualities. Its architecture is one good example of this connection.
And while Dubai is considered a liberal Islamic city, particularly by Muslims, the about 200 nationalities Dubai hosts think the cosmopolitan city is a bit strict. It’s particularly over its laws on the boyfriend-and-girlfriend-type relationship, or sex out of wedlock and unmarried people living together in identical houses or rooms, be it hotels or personal homes. But Dubai and its host, the UAE, aren’t ready to be the bad guys, constricting people austerely.
In this connection, the ever-dynamic city and the UAE as a whole have updated their laws on this matter and, consequently, now and hereafter. Unmarried couples can live together in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and the rest of the UAE without penalties, conviction, query, or fear of getting reported. In other words, the cohabitation of unmarried men and women is no longer illegal but now legal, whether they’re lawfully wed or not. It also means that unrelated flatmates can share a home in the Emirates.
Law Update: Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2024 and Onward?
The UAE relaxes Islamic laws and allows cohabitation by unmarried couples. On Saturday, the United Arab Emirates announced a significant overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions, and criminalizing so-called honor killings.
By FDL 15/2020, Article 356 has been amended entirely, and the provisions for indecent assault have been removed. Following this, unmarried couples are allowed to live in the same accommodation and cohabit without marriage.
It is against the law for unmarried couples in Dubai to stay in the same room. In reality, most hotels do not enforce it.
This development isn’t a surprise, although a happy one for many, as in recent years, the government has been turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to people found in breach of the law concerning cohabitation. And now, by the law, it wants heterosexual couples to be sure no one is watching them, even though they aren’t married.
The answers to the preceding questions should be clear by now.
Some people have complained that trials in the UAE are done in Arabic and not in the language they understand, say English. The new law mandates that translators be provided for defendants and witnesses in court if they do not speak Arabic. It states that the court must ensure legal translators are available. Furthermore, new privacy laws mean that evidence related to cases of indecent acts will have to be protected and cannot be publicly disclosed.
Unmarried couples stay in the same room in Dubai, and so long as it is quiet and not advertised, no one cares.
UAE changes laws on alcohol, cohabitation, divorce, and women
The United Arab Emirates changed the criminal, civil, and inheritance codes to facilitate coexistence in the country.
The UAE government has embarked on one of the most significant legal system reforms in years, with changes in family law and other areas that affect people’s daily lives. The new rules affect issues such as divorce, inheritance, and alcohol, as well as harsher punishments for men who harass women and a new law defending the Good Samaritan.
The laws, effective immediately, are measures aimed at improving citizens’ living standards and ensuring that the UAE continues to be a destination for foreign direct investment and people from around the world. It is about regulating crucial personal and civil laws with provisions that allow non-Emiratis to deal with their personal affairs under the law of their home country.
The UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities, and now its laws will be more tailored to them. The reforms will affect the laws related to divorce and separation, how wills and assets are divided, alcohol, suicide, and the protection of women.
The changes also mean that the laws of a person’s home country can be used for divorce and inheritance, meaning that Islamic law, or Sharia, will rarely be used when it comes to family law cases involving expatriates. Several of these measures had already been discussed in the UAE and reflected an essential milestone in the country’s judicial progress.
Divorce and inheritance
One of the most significant changes relates to divorce, separation, and property division if a marriage breaks down. If a couple were married in their home country but divorced in the United Arab Emirates, the country’s laws where the marriage took place will now apply. The new law mentions joint assets and joint accounts and that the court could call to mediate if there is no agreement between the two parties.
If a couple were married in their home country but divorced in the United Arab Emirates, the country’s marriage laws will now apply in a UAE court.
The changes also cover wills and inheritances. Until now, family members of a deceased person, especially in complex cases, might have found that assets were spread out under Sharia law, which expatriates weren’t very used to.
Under the new law, a person’s citizenship will dictate how their assets are divided among their closest relatives unless they have written a will. The only exception will be for property purchased in the UAE, managed by UAE law.
In Dubai, non-Muslims have been able to register wills in the wills and probate registry of the Dubai International Finance Center, which is linked to the government, but not in Dubai’s state civil courts. In Abu Dhabi, non-Muslims have registered a will with the Emirate’s Judicial Department since 2017.
Suicide and ‘Good Samaritans’:
Suicide and attempted suicide will be decriminalized. Until now, someone who tried to kill himself but survived could be prosecuted, although these cases were rare. The police and the courts will ensure that vulnerable people receive mental health support from now on. However, anyone found helping a person who attempts to commit suicide will face a jail sentence yet unspecified.
The law will ensure that “good Samaritans” who intervene in situations where people are in need are not responsible for the outcome of those they help. According to an old and rarely used rule, it was possible that someone who came to the aid of another person, giving him assisted breathing, mouth-to-mouth, cardiopulmonary. For example, he was responsible for an injury caused by rescue technique or even death or other first aid.
The new law establishes that “any person who performs an act of good intention, which could end up injuring that person, will not be punished.” If you want to provide help or assistance in an emergency and that person is harmed due to that technique, you will not be punished.
Harassment and assault on women
Several new laws seek to protect the rights of women. There will no longer be a distinction between crimes known as “honor crimes,” in which a male relative could receive a lighter sentence for assaulting a female relative under the pretext of “protecting honor.” These incidents will be treated as crimes, just like any other assault.
There will be harsher punishments for men who subject women to harassment, including street harassment or stalking. The law appears to be a reiteration of legislation enacted last year that already included more serious stalking offenses and recognized that men could be victims of harassment or stalking.
The punishment for the rape of a minor or someone with limited mental capacity will be the death penalty.
Alcohol consumption is no longer criminalized. Anyone who drinks has alcohol or sells alcoholic beverages in authorized areas, but the license will no longer face penalties without alcohol.
Previously, such prosecutions were rare, but more often than not, a person was charged with consuming alcohol without a license when arrested for another crime. It will no longer happen under the new law.
Of course, to drink alcohol, the subject must be at least 21 years old in the United Arab Emirates, and anyone who is caught selling alcohol to someone who is a minor will be punished.
Alcohol can only be consumed privately or in authorized public places. Abu Dhabi ended its resident alcohol licensing system in September. Previously, a license was required to purchase or consume alcohol. This federal law will now apply to all emirates, albeit while granting each emirate the authority to dictate regulatory standards in this matter. Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2022 & Onward?
The cohabitation of couples and sexual crimes
For the first time, the law will allow the legal coexistence of unmarried couples. Until now, it had been illegal for an unmarried couple, or even unrelated roommates, to share a home in the Emirates.
In recent years, authorities have rarely prosecuted anyone who has violated this rule. But it will ensure that unmarried couples feel safe when they move to the country and live in the same home.
The new changes also restrict the punishment of sex crimes under coercion, threat, or force. Consensual sex will not be punished by law under the new changes. However, consensual sex will be punished by law if the victim, male or female, is under 14 years of age or if the victim is deprived of her will due to young age, insanity, or mental disability. Suppose the culprit is a first-degree relative of the victim or responsible for their upbringing or chronic care or has the authority of the minor victim.
A person convicted of having sexual relations with a minor or a person with a mental disability by force would be punished with the death penalty. Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2024 & Onward?
As of my last knowledge update in January 2022, Dubai, like the rest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), adheres to Islamic law and has conservative social norms. Cohabitation (unmarried couples living together) is generally not socially accepted, and there are legal considerations based on the UAE’s legal and cultural framework.
In the UAE, relationships outside of marriage are considered illegal, and there can be legal consequences for cohabitation. This includes not only residents but also tourists. Islamic law, or Sharia, influences family and personal matters in the UAE, and legal authorities often consider such matters within this context.
It’s essential to note that laws and regulations can change, and it’s advisable to consult official sources or legal experts for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding cohabitation or any related laws in Dubai or the UAE. Legal advice from professionals familiar with the local laws and cultural norms is crucial for those living or considering living in the UAE.
The new law requires translators to be provided to defendants and witnesses in court if they do not speak Arabic. The court must ensure that legal translators are available. In addition, the new privacy laws mean that evidence related to indecent acts must be protected and cannot be publicly disclosed.
- Death penalty for sexual relations with minors
- The honor crime is treated as murder
- The inheritance of expatriates will apply according to nationality
- Marriage laws will apply depending on the country where it took place
- Only financial fines for public indecency
- Decriminalized suicide or its attempt and jail for accomplices
- Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2022 & Onward?
New amendments to the Personal Status Code and Civil Law give expatriates living in the UAE the option to choose the law that would apply to their inheritance to ensure the stability of foreign investors’ financial interests in the country. Therefore, the new changes stipulate that the inheritance will treat according to the deceased’s nationality at the time of his death.
As for the general terms of the will and other post-mortem, terms will be treated by the country’s law specified in the will. If that condition is not explicitly mentioned in the will, the law of the country of nationality of the deceased person at the time of his death will apply.
For an expat’s will involving their real estate in UAE, UAE laws apply.
The new changes to the Code of Personal Status stipulate that the country’s laws in which the marriage took place would apply concerning the terms of the marriage instead of the previous provisions that applied the laws of the country of nationality of each spouse.
Another amendment stipulates that the law of the country in which the marriage took place would also apply concerning the personal and financial conditions of the marriage contract, divorce, or separation agreement instead of the law of the country of nationality of the husband in the moment of marriage, divorce or the beginning of legal proceedings.
New changes in Civil Law now allow a partner in a company to sell the entire company after a request to a judge if he cannot sell his stake in the company to another partner. The price would be divided among the partners according to the value of each one.
Laws of decency
In indecency laws, the new changes stipulate that the punishment for those who committed indecent acts in public will be a financial fine instead of imprisonment for the first offense.
Emphasis on the privacy of the victim
In the Criminal Procedure Law number 35 of 1992, a new change has been introduced in the Presidential Decrees that obliges judicial agents authorized to carry out arrests to have an interpreter present if a suspect or a witness does not know the Arabic language.
Another change stipulates that the judicial officers authorized to arrest will not reveal the personal information of a victim except those involved in cases that are:
1- sexual such as rape, abuse, indecency, prostitution;
2- the case involves the physical, psychological, mental, moral safety, or the minor was exploited for begging, sexual crimes, pornography, or work in inappropriate or threatening conditions.
Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2024 & Onward?
The UAE government explains these changes.
These presidential decrees that modify some articles of the Personal Status Law, the Federal Criminal Code and the Federal Law on Criminal Procedures have been signed by the President. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in line with the ongoing efforts of UAE to develop consolidate Emirates as a global destination for foreign investment.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, highlights the firm belief of the United Arab Emirates intolerance, openness, and coexistence with all peoples.
It occurred in Sheikh Mohammed’s speech during a session of the High-Level Meeting to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. UAE believes in tolerance, openness, and coexistence with all peoples, Mohammed bin Rashid says on UN 75th Anniversary
“We believe that there is no future for anyone without cooperating with the other and that no nation can isolate itself from the rest of the world. The world learned this lesson in 2020 with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Shaikh Mohammed.
“This year has been difficult for everyone, with the suspension of the movement of people and the decline of the global economy, where many people lost their jobs. But in the United Arab Emirates, we tried to create a different model, and we responded to the global call to turn this pandemic challenges into opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and human development,” he added.
He explained how the UAE’s model in terms of human diversity is similar to that of the UN, where the UAE opens its doors for all people to make their dreams come true. “All nations and peoples realize that true strength and true prosperity come through cooperation and coordination,” Sheikh Mohammed said, reiterating that “our strength lies in our diversity and our solidarity.”
There is no future without cooperation.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions, His Highness said: “We believe that there is no future for anyone without cooperating with the other and that no nation can isolate itself from the rest of the world.”
Sheikh Mohammed highlighted the experience of the United Arab Emirates in dealing with the pandemic and said the country strove to create a different model at a time when the global economy was in decline. Saying: “We have responded to the global call to transform this challenge posed by COVID-19 on opportunities. Opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and human development”. His Highness reviewed several of the UAE’s achievements in overcoming the challenge posed by the pandemic.
He also referred to Expo 2020 Dubai, which will be launched in October 2021, noting that the event will be more attractive and innovative, and promised that “Dubai and the United Arab Emirates will dazzle the world.”
Sheikh Mohammed emphasized that the UAE adheres to its national and international obligations through the empowerment of women, the fight against climate change, and youth energies to achieve sustainable development.
Concluding his speech before the United Nations meeting, His Highness reiterated the need for unity and cooperation to create a promising future for humanity and humanity.
As of my last knowledge update in January 2024, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have certain cultural and legal norms that may impact cohabitation for unmarried couples. The UAE follows Islamic law, and the country’s legal system is influenced by Sharia law.
Traditionally, it has been the norm for unmarried couples to refrain from living together in the UAE. Cohabitation outside of marriage may be considered contrary to local cultural values. While Dubai is more cosmopolitan and diverse compared to some other parts of the region, it’s essential for residents and visitors to be aware of and respect local customs and legal regulations.
It’s advisable to check with local authorities or legal experts for the most up-to-date and accurate information, as policies can change, and my information might be outdated. Cultural and legal practices can vary, and understanding and respecting the local customs is crucial while staying in a foreign country.
By law, only married couples can have sex or even share a bed in Dubai. In practice, hotels do not ask for proof of your relationship when you check in with your partner. However, the authorities do take the matter seriously. Sexual relationships or unmarried couples cohabiting is illegal in Dubai. Cohabiting, including in hotels, is also illegal, however, most hotels in Dubai do not enforce an ‘only married couples’ rule. The luxury hotels which mostly cater to foreigners are especially relaxed.
While unmarried couples are not allowed to stay in the same hotel room, some signs of public affection between those who have said I Do are also not permitted. Kissing and holding hands is classed as “inappropriate behavior” according to Government guidelines.
Is there a law that prohibits unmarried couples from staying together or checking in to a hotel together? No, no law prohibits unmarried couples from visiting together or checking into a hotel.
Generally, Dubai and all of the UAE are working towards minding its interference with your business. Stay guided!
Can Unmarried Couples Live Together in Dubai (UAE) in 2022 & Onward?