Year 2020: When UAE announced relaxing of Islamic laws for personal freedoms
The year 2020 saw a major announcement being made in the United Arab Emirates. UAE announced the relaxing of Islamic laws for personal freedoms.
This meant allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalising so-called "honour killings."
The broadening of personal freedoms reflects the changing profile of a country that has sought to bill itself as a skyscraper-studded destination for Western tourists, fortune-seekers and businesses despite its legal system based on a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law.
The changes also reflected the efforts of the Emirates'' rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.
The announcement also follows a historic US-brokered deal to normalise relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment.
Changes included scrapping penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession for those 21 and over.
Previously, individuals needed a liquor license to purchase, transport or have alcohol in their homes. The new rule would apparently allow Muslims who have been barred from obtaining licenses to drink alcoholic beverages freely.
Another amendment allowed for "cohabitation of unmarried couples," which has long been a crime in the UAE. Authorities, especially in the more free-wheeling financial hub of Dubai, tend to look the other way when it comes to foreigners, but the threat of punishment still lingered for such behavior.
The government also decided to get rid of laws protecting "honour crimes," a widely criticised tribal custom in which a male relative may evade prosecution for assaulting a woman seen as dishonouring a family. The punishment for a crime committed to eradicate a woman''s "shame," for promiscuity or disobeying religious and cultural strictures, will now be the same for any other kind of assault.
In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.