UAE Legal Q&A’s: Reporting affronts to public decency

In many malls and shopping centres, my family and I see men improperly holding women accompanying them or even putting their hands in the women’s back pockets and groping them. Can I report such behaviour to the police? And on what charge?

Article 358 of the Penal Code states that “whoever openly commits an indecent and disgraceful act shall be punished by detention for a period of at least six months. Whoever commits a disgraceful act with a girl or boy who has not completed 15 years of age, even if it is not committed openly, shall be punished by detention for at least a period of one year”. According to the UAE courts, an indecent act is a disgraceful one that is committed on purpose and that outrages people’s sense of modesty. It is not based on sexual freedom but on the outrage of public decency. Consequently, the act is considered indecent even if it is between two people in a legitimate relationship.

My husband and I are having problems but he refuses to divorce me and instead resorts to abusive behaviour so that I divorce him and he does not have to pay my dues. How can I prove this in court and how can the law help me?

In the absence of love or even understanding between spouses, the Islamic Sharia has come up with a solution – an honourable separation. If the husband, who has the right to commence a divorce (Isma), refuses to do so and abusively and detrimentally holds on to his wife, the latter may, if she can no longer stay with him and if the harm is ongoing, bring the matter before the court and request “fault divorce” by virtue of Article 117 of the Personal Status Law and following articles, which stipulate that 1) Either spouse may file for divorce if he or she is being harmed by the other, and such harm makes it impossible for the parties to live together, and neither of them shall lose the right thereto unless their reconciliation is proven. 2) By virtue of Article 16 of the law, which states that it is incumbent upon the Family Guidance Committee to reconcile spouses. Failing to do so, the judge shall propose reconciliation. If this, too, fails and the harm is proven, the judge shall pronounce the divorce.