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Kissing in Dubai

Monday 18 February 2019 (UAE)   

Kissing and public displays of affection (PDA) in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE

Information about kissing in Dubai, French kisses in Dubai, sex on the beach in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, UAE. How to behave and misbehave, public decency and indecency laws, arrests and court cases, public displays of affection (PDA) in the UAE. Kissing in Dubai news, rules, law, is it illegal, news, kissing in public in Dubai. Kissing at Dubai airport, malls, hotels, clubs, bars ... before or after drinking beer, wine, other alcohol.

None of what is written here should be taken as any sort of advice. It is only intended to be an observation of what happens in the UAE based on our experiences of living in the country. The only recommendation we can really give is that you follow the law, and be respectful of UAE culture, especially during Ramadan, and/or outside Dubai, and even more so in Sharjah.

Dubai and the UAE do not have religious police with the job of checking on public morality, as is the case in Saudi Arabia. Nor do the police spend their time walking around shopping malls and bars looking for illegal hand-holding or kissing (at any rock concert in Dubai you can see the police calmly observe beer-drinking, hand-holding and kissing expats without usually taking any action). However, the job of the police is to uphold the law, and if someone makes a complaint, then the police will usually feel obliged to act, especially if the complainer is someone who might have more wasta than the police and/or the alleged offenders.

What is illegal in Dubai and the UAE (as far as we know)
  • Public Displays of Affection (PDA) but where the line is drawn between what is acceptable and what isn't, is sometimes variable. Assume that technically, any physical contact between two unrelated bodies of opposite sexes is forbidden, and you should be safe. Men and women shaking hands when greeting each other is probably on the right side of the law, but as a man, don't offer to shake a woman's hand unless she extends hers first.
  • Indecent behaviour, which could include kissing someone on the cheek but usually isn't something to worry about for normal greeting kisses, otherwise the jails would be filled with all the French, Italian, Lebanese, Spanish, South American, etc nationals who live in and visit the UAE.
  • Being somewhere private with a member of the opposite sex that you are not married or related to (in a car, private home, hotel room).
  • Having sex with someone you are not married to.
  • Public nudity - a bit obvious this, but note that men (and women) jogging in public should wear a t-shirt. Shirtless on the beach is probably ok.
  • Indecent attire - this could mean an offensive slogan on a t-shirt, not covering shoulders or legs, or apparently as of April 2010, Asian men wearing lungis in Sharjah (one was arrested). Bikinis on the beach should be ok. Topless is not. Thongs (not the Australian kind) are not, although you might see them occasionally.
  • Sending nude or indecent photos of yourself or other people, or sexy or racy text messages by phone or email (a court case in Abu Dhabi in April 2012 made that clear).
Age of Consent in the UAE (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, etc)
  • The Age of Consent in Dubai and other emirates in the UAE does not exist (sort of), given that sex outside marriage is an illegal activity in the UAE, irrespective of age. Our understanding of the expression "Age of Consent" is that it is the minimum legal age at which someone can have sex with someone else - usually from 16-18 years old in most countries where having sex outside marriage is legal.
  • The age of 18 might be the age of consent in the UAE if it means that below this age it is not possible for someone to have consensual sex with another person (in legal terms), with respect to people on trial for having consensual sex outside marriage - for example if two people have sex and one of them is under 18, then the other can be charged with statutory rape. This apparently was the case in a July 2010 report about a 28 year old male on trial for rape and a 14 year old female on trial for having sex outside marriage - The National newspaper said that Even if the girl is found guilty of consensual sex, M H would still be charged with statuary [sic] rape, because the girl is younger than 18, the age of consent. Which still doesn't really make sense to us - if 18 is the age of consent, then how can a 14 year old be convicted for consensual sex if the law says she cannot give consent because of her age? Note that we don't know exactly what the law says, our comment is based on what a newspaper says the law says. There are other reports of unmarried people younger than 18 being tried and convicted for having consensual sex.
  • If the interpretation of Age of Consent in the UAE mentioned in that report is accurate, then perhaps the bizarre situation could arise that if two people younger than 18 are on trial for having sex outside marriage, both might be facing a charge of statutory rape of the other. In reality, when two people under 18 have ended up in court on a sex outside marriage charge, both have faced a charge of consensual sex according to reports we've seen.
  • However, another report about the same case, in The National on 02 Aug 2010, sort of clarified things saying The 14-year-old girl and the 28-year-old driver are being tried according to Sharia law, in which people are treated as adults if they have reached the age of puberty. ... The girl's lawyer argued that although she had reached puberty physically, Sharia law also required a person to be mentally mature. Although there appears to be a conflict between Sharia law and UAE law - with respect to the case about the 14 year old girl, she was tried as an adult and sentenced to jail for consensual sex, but the conviction was later thrown out by the Appeals Court which said she was too young to be tried as an adult.
Kissing in Duba
  • Dubai and the UAE have certain cultural and legal constraints on what might be regarded as acceptable behaviour in many other countries, usually western nations.
  • Public displays of affection (PDA) such as kissing between opposite genders, holding hands, and other romantic behaviour is at least frowned upon, and might get you in trouble with the police. Especially if you're in Sharjah, if it's during Ramadan, or if someone easily offended by such behaviour sees you and reports you to the police.
  • Same gender greeting kisses on the cheek are unlikely to cause offence, unless a passer by, and/or the police, think it's an indication the couple are homosexual.
  • Opposite gender greeting style kisses on the cheek are commonly seen, and usually tolerated by those who might take offence. But don't be too brazen about it.
  • Couples kissing on the lips to say goodbye or hello in public, for example at the Dubai airport, are not usually going to get into trouble even though technically it's probably illegal. Or at least unacceptable culturally. Chances of causing offence resulting in problems with the law increase if the kiss becomes obviously more sexual in nature, or is lengthy. French kissing in public would definitely be ill-advised.
  • Technically it makes no difference if a couple is married, or in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. However, in reality, if an unmarried couple gets into bother over a kissing related incident, they are more likely to be penalised, or suffer a harsher penalty.
  • Couples behaving affectionately in bars and nightclubs in Dubai, and/or at concerts and other events where alcohol is available, such as the Dubai Rugby 7s, are more likely to be tolerated than if displaying the same sort of behaviour in a shopping mall or more public venue.
  • However, groping each other in a sexual way anywhere in public (even in a bar) is much more likely to result in a visit to a police station.
  • If alcohol in Dubai is part of the activities, and the interest of the police has been aroused, then penalties are more likely to be imposed, and/or likely to be more severe.
  • A jail sentence and/or fine and/or deportation are the possible penalties if caught for any PDA related activity.
Holding hands in public
  • Men and women holding hands is a public display of affection which in theory could result in a problem but is unlikely to, unless in Sharjah, or it's Ramadan.
  • Walking through shopping centers, especially in Dubai, it is not uncommon to see even Emirati couples (of opposite sexes) holding hands.
  • Mothers and fathers holding their children's hands is acceptable.
  • It is quite common to see groups of Asian, Indian, or Pakistani male nationals holding hands. A cultural habit that often leaves westerners feeling confused given that couples are apparently not allowed to do the same. It is not (usually) an indication of homosexuality. Unknown whether or not strictly speaking such hand-holding is legally permitted or not. If you are a westerner, don't be tempted to hold hands with your same-sex friend just to see what happens. It is more likely that the authorities will wonder if you are gay, which might result in a visit to the police station, or worse.
Conviction of sex related crimes in UAE
  • For the successful prosecution of the crime of having sex outside of marriage in the UAE, Mohammed Al Suwaidi, a lawyer at the Al Suwaidi legal firm, was reported as saying (Xpress 27 January 2011) that a high degree of evidence is required for sex charges to stick in court, including a suspect's confession, witness testimonies or medical tests. ... The burden of proof under Sharia (Islamic law) is even tougher. Under Sharia, four witnesses are required to testify and if there are less than four then the other witnesses may be charged with defamation.
  • In reality, what the court seems to think is acceptable appears to sometimes be different to what the accused might think is necessary to prove guilt, especially in emirates other than Dubai. For example a young lady was accused and convicted of illegal sexual intercourse in Khor Fakkan on the Fujairah coast in May 2009, despite tests reportedly proving otherwise (see further details below). And an odd twist to that story was that her alleged sex partner was acquitted of the crime.
  • One also wonders when reading newspaper reports of court cases and convictions for consensual sex (some of them as a result of a rape complaint being made), just where the minimum 4 witnesses were, given some of the descriptions of the events. Perhaps in the case of making a rape complaint, the complaint itself is sufficient evidence of sex having taken place, and it then is left up to the courts to decide if it was consensual or not.

Sex, indecent exposure and kissing related stories in the UAE

  • 30 Mar 2013 - a report in The Daily Mail (UK) (not what many would regard as a reliable source of information, but the same story not found elsewhere - which possibly casts doubt on the DM version, nevertheless ...) of a court case in Abu Dhabi (which is often regarded as more conservative than Dubai) said that a woman was charged with being alone in the company of a man other than her husband or a close relative, and drinking alcohol without a licence. The man was not charged with being alone with the woman though (according to the DM report it is not a crime for men to be alone with an unrelated woman in the UAE, but it is for women, which doesn't really make sense to us and contradicts what we thought the law said). The woman was apparently having lunch and a glass of wine with the man at his house when the police visited as a result of a complaint laid by his wife, whom he had thrown out a week earlier after an argument. The police then apparently informed the man's wife about her husband having a lunchtime glass of wine with another woman (which sounds like a peculiar sequence of events - perhaps we've misunderstood the story), and the wife wanted them to press charges. It was not clear from the report when the arrests were made - at the time of the initial visit, or if the police went back after talking to the wife. Outcome unknown but the report claimed she might face a jail sentence of 1 month to 1 year. There might be more to the story than what was reported since it is very unusual for women (or men) to be arrested and charged for being in the company of an unrelated man. All the same, the Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned phrase comes to mind ... be careful out there ... Unknown how related the nationalities are to the story but the woman was from the UK, the man from Syria, and his wife's nationality not reported (the law doesn't specifically say UK women or men should be charged and Syrian women or men should not). Outcome unknown.
  • 16 May 2012 - an Irish man and a British woman were arrested for allegedly having sex in the back seat of a taxi after drinking for 12 hours at The Irish Village in Dubai according to various reports. The story goes that the taxi driver was offended when the couple started getting intimate, and reported them to police in a patrol car, who then arrested the couple for being drunk in public and having sex outside marriage, and took them to Jebel Ali police station where they were held from 05-09 May 2012. The Daily Mail (UK) reported the woman as saying "I have no idea where these sex allegations have come from because none were put to me by the authorities. I was arrested for having a bottle of beer in the back of a cab, not having sex. That is all. I was alone in the vehicle." Update 22 Nov 2012 - AP reported that the two passengers were sentenced to three months in jail followed by deportation. The report said the defendants denied the charges and accused the taxi driver of fabricating the story after a fare dispute.
  • 05 April 2012 - a woman was jailed for sending a nude photo of herself to a man she was allegedly trying to seduce, and appeared in the Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi. According to The National, the judge said "You've been accused by your sponsor of sending an indecent picture of yourself to another man to push him to having sex. ... So you were doing the devil's job basically, then the man sent you an indecent picture of himself." It wasn't clear what happened to the man, but apparently, after the woman requested deportation, The National report said "But when you get deported we will keep the photos," joked the judge. 'Joked'? That seems to be either a bizarre attitude on the part of someone in a position of authority with the power to significantly affect the lives of people who appear before him, or a bizzare translation (assuming the judge spoke in Arabic, not English) and spin on the part of the reporter. After all, it was a serious enough offence within the UAE legal system in the first place that resulted in the woman being arrested and imprisoned. The appeals verdict was to be issued on 15 April 2012.
  • 16 February 2012, The National reported a case where a woman was appealing her conviction in August 2011 by the Dubai Court of Misdemenours of having consensual sex and being sentenced to 6 months in jail followed by deportation (the other party received the same sentence and did not appeal). According to the report "K A's lawyer has filed an appeal, however, claiming prosecutors failed to provide any evidence backing up their claim of consent to have sex. Yaqoub Shaheen, from Dubai Advocates, asked the court to dismiss all charges, citing a "miscarriage of legal procedure."" The story started in January or February 2011 when the woman went to the police to report that she had been drugged and raped at a party on 28 January 2011 after an SMS exchange with the party host (she claimed she did not recall anything after drinking what she thought was a glass of orange juice). The report said, "According to court records detailing the SMS exchange, when K A responded saying she did not know what had happened, and asking if they had sex, he replied: "It was an accident, that is why I am saying sorry". " She was from the Philippines for those who want to know, his nationality wasn't reported.
  • 18 January 2012, The National reported a court case where a female tourist who filed a complaint of attempted rape, ended up facing a charge of drinking alcohol. Her story was that in September 2011, she had caught a taxi, and the taxi driver attempted to rape her, but she successfully fought him off and escaped, after which she went to Muragabat (Murraqabat) police station to file a complaint. The policeman on duty told the court, "She said that she was drunk and that she was coming to file a report on an attempted rape ... I warned her that she would face alcohol consumption charges, but she responded by telling me that she did not care if she was deported for being drunk." The taxi driver was found and arrested. In court he denied the rape and his case was adjourned until 28 Februrary 2012. While the woman was indeed packed off to the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours to face charge of illegally consuming alcohol. The lesson from this story seems to be if you get raped, and you've been drinking, don't admit to drinking if you want to avoid facing charges for consuming alcohol (if you have an alcohol licence it might be ok).
  • On 29 April 2011, Gulf News reported a case in Ras Al Khaimah where a housemaid was sentenced to 3 months in jail followed by deportation, and a 15 year old boy was sent to a juvenile deliquents center for observation, as a result of police arresting the maid after she gave birth at Saqr Hospital in RAK. The hospital reported her to the police when she failed to prove she was married. The maid reportedly claimed the boy raped her, and the sponsor's family kept her locked up for 9 months until she gave birth, while the boy claimed that the maid seduced him. The report said The Criminal Court in Ras Al Khaimah convicted the Ethiopian housemaid and 15-year-old Emirati schoolboy despite the woman's claims that she was raped by him. The verdict was appealed by the housemaid's lawyer.
  • On 27 April 2011, Gulf News reported a case at the Dubai Court of First Instance involving a claim of rape of a housemaid. The report said: According to prosecution records, the 37-year-old Emirati police corporal's Uzbek wife alleged that she spotted her husband undressing and sexually abusing their 25-year-old housemaid inside the pigeon cage in their villa's front yard. During prosecution questioning, the housemaid alleged that the suspect raped her nearly 14 times. She was also apparently threatened with death. The 7 Days newspaper quoted her as saying "He raped me 14 times. He threatened to kill me if I told the police. One time I was feeding the pigeons when he tried to take off my clothes and molested me." The accused denied the charges, and the case was adjourned until 07 June 2011.
  • On 02 September 2010, the Gulf News reported about a 17 year boy who was deported after having sex with a 15 year girl - The Dubai Juveniles Court recently found the 17-year-old Lebanese boy and 15-year-old Emirati girl guilty of having consensual sex. The court decided to reprimand the pair and hand them over to their parents. However sources close to the case told Gulf News that the boy had been deported back to his country.
  • In May 2010, the Dubai Appeals Court overturned the decision of the Dubai Misdemeanors Court to convict a Pakistani couple of public indecency after they were found having sex in a car. Their lawyer successfully argued that the inside of a car is a private place, not public, helped by the car having windows tinted dark enough that the policeman at the scene couldn't see inside. The couple were married. The original sentence was a month in jail followed by deportation. Unknown if the car windows were tinted darker than the legally allowed 30% limit, or if the car owner was in trouble if they were.
  • 17 March 2010 (The National) - two cabin crew from Emirates Airlines (a flight attendant (FA) and her supervisor) were convicted of the crime of "coercion to commit sin" in December 2011 and sentenced to 6 months in jail followed by deportation, by the Dubai Court of Misdemeanors after allegedly sending each other SMS text messages with a sexual theme. The sister of the FA was also in the dock and received a 3 month sentence followed by deportation for perjury. Following an appeal, the Dubai Appeal Court (Court of First Appeal?) reduced the sentence to 3 months for the first two, and removed the deportation orders for all three of them. The story apparently starts in 2008 when the husband of the FA claimed she was having an affair with her supervisor and the text messages were allegedly proof of the affair. The sister got involved because she claimed she had sent the messages and was the one having a relationship with the supervisor. It wasn't clear in the end who was having a relationship with who but the court didn't think the sister was involved with the supervisor, hence the conviction for perjury.
  • In March 2010, the RAK Criminal Court sentenced a Bangladeshi man and an Indian woman to one year in jail followed by deportation after police caught them having sex in a car. Police responded to a complaint by a passer-by. The sentence appeared to be for the couple having illicit sex since the court did not recognise the marriage certificate that was produced, saying it wasn't attested.
Norwegian woman raped but not raped in Dubai - March 2013

A confusing story and court case about an alleged rape that allegedly wasn't a rape in Dubai, made international headlines, mostly with the spin that Dubai is a draconian misogynistic dangerous place to visit for women who are at high risk of being raped, and then jailed if they report it to the police. Whilst being jailed for having sex, after reporting a rape, is a real risk, this particular story sounds like there was an unusual combination of events and circumstances which led to a situation that might not have been exactly the picture painted by the international press.

  • What apparently happened is that Marte Deborah Dalelv from Norway was drinking with a married male coworker from Sudan, then went to his hotel room where they had sex. After those events she filed a complaint with the police in Dubai that she was raped by her Sudanese work colleague, then later withdrew her allegation and said the sex was consensual.
  • There seem to be no question marks about the drinking, the sex, the complaint to the police, and her story changing from being raped to having consensual sex. His version of the story was that the sex was consensual (unsurprisingly, rapists don't usually admit to raping someone).
  • The question marks are to do with whether or not the sex really was consensual, what motivated her to make a false rape claim if it was consensual, or what motivated her to change her story if it really was rape. She claims that a manager at her company advised her to change her story so the mess would "go away" but the company claims it was a police officer who advised her to change her story and the company representative was just translating what the police said in Arabic. Nevertheless, if she really was raped, it was very bad advice for her since in the UAE, having sex outside marriage is illegal, and by admitting to that, she made it easier for the courts and prosecution to process the case of having illegal sex. And additionally she ended up admitting to making a false rape allegation.

Whatever anyone thinks about UAE laws regarding sex outside marriage, that is what they are, and there is enough information easily available that any visitor or resident should know sex outside marriage is illegal. Admittedly the question of whether or not it's a good idea to report a rape in the UAE seems to be more of question mark since the complaint is also an admission of committing a crime if the police or courts come to the conclusion that a rape didn't happen. It also seems to be the case that the police and court system in the UAE are somewhat skeptical of a rape claim if the woman was drinking alcohol with the man and voluntarily went back to his hotel room with him.

Reality is that both rapes and false rape claims happen anywhere in the world, and the only two people who know what really happened are the two involved. Even they might have differing perspectives on what actually happened.

Ms Dalelv was convicted and jailed for the crimes of sex outside marriage (1 year), drinking alcohol (3 months), and making a false complaint (1 month). She was subsequently pardoned (possibly international media coverage helped her in that regard), lost her job, and went back to Norway. Her partner in crime (for want of a better choice of words - his name was not released) was also sentenced to a year in jail for the crime of sex outside marriage, and also pardoned.

A couple of things that could be lessons to learn from this episode:

  • Remember that the job of the police (anywhere in the world, not just the UAE) is to investigate an alleged crime, and collect evidence to present in court. Usually the police are on the side of the prosecution. If the crime is illegal sex then that's what will be investigated and prosecuted, and if the alleged criminal makes the job easier by admitting to the crime, that admission can and will be used as evidence against them. Don't make the mistake of thinking the police (or anyone else) is on your side. They are on the side of doing their job.
  • Remember that your employer is your employer, not your friend or a family member. When someone gets into trouble with the law, especially in the UAE where your employer is usually your sponsor, there is a mess that the employer doesn't want. So a smooth path out of the mess might easily trump any desire on the part of the employer to help you. In this case, assuming that Ms Dalelv didn't understand Arabic, she doesn't know what was said in the conversation between the company representative and the police.
  • If you get in trouble with the law, get a lawyer who is on your side - which normally means you have to pay him or her to be on your side.
  • If you are raped, go to hospital and get evidence of it as soon as possible, don't depend on the police to do that. In the UAE they have a conflict between investigating the crime of rape, and the crime of having sex outside marriage. Don't resolve that conflict for them by admitting to the latter crime.
  • If you admit to a crime, expect to be prosecuted and convicted for it. If you admit to lying to the police, expect to be prosecuted and convicted for making a false complaint.

As a contrast to this story to illustrate that the UAE does take the crime of rape seriously, in July 2012 a British woman was drugged, kidnapped and raped by three Iranian men in Dubai, who were each convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail followed by deportation. In July 2013, after they had exhausted the court appeal process, the sentence was upheld.

14 year old school girl arrested for adultery in Ajman - March 2011
  • A 14 year old school girl was reportedly arrested in Ajman on 22 March 2011 and jailed on a charge of adultery after she was caught on the rooftop of her house with her 25 year old boyfriend (Gulf News 04 April). Later reports said the girl would be tried in April 2011.
  • Her father said, according to the report, that "When police called me to report along with my daughter to the CID, ... I learnt that someone had complained against her - that she was meeting an adult man on the roof of our building. ... Police surprised me when they said she should go behind bars and I had to go back home without my daughter."
  • Apparently there is a case pending with the Public Prosecutor as a result of the father previously complaining about the boyfriend, reportedly saying "Once I complained against him to police when I learnt that he was chasing her to her school bus."
  • After spending a couple of weeks in Ajman Central Jail, apparently including 3 days in solitary confinement, she was transferred to a juvenile detention center in Sharjah.
  • The GN report said The 14-year-old school student was kept in police custody and later referred to a gynaecologist who confirmed she was still a virgin, her father told Gulf News.
  • A Gulf News report 13 April 2011 quoted an unnamed "law expert" as saying "The law states that the minimum age of suspects in crimes related to sex must be 15 years. Such cases should be conducted in special juvenile courts. Otherwise, suspects are considered victims rather than suspects,"
  • The boyfriend was reportedly arrested in Dubai but it's not clear what happened to him.
Kiwi Brazilian British love triangle in Dubai - December 2010
  • Just before Christmas 2010, one NZ male and two females from Brazil and UK discovered the hard way that Dubai Police are not amused when called to deal with domestic disturbances between unmarried people having sex.
  • Mr Kiwi Bloke (TC, age 32?) had a Brazilian girlfriend (PF, age 24 or 25) but dumped her. The day after the dumping, he had formed a good enough friendship with a young lady from Britain (DS, age 25 or 31) that the two of them reportedly slept together. That would probably have made for a pleasant memory except that ...
  • ... sometime during the morning-after-coitus, the just-barely-ex-girlfriend, PF, visited Mr TC at his apartment to discover that he was not as lonely as she was probably hoping he would be.
  • The Brazilian was not amused and apparently threatened the other occupants with a knife, along with throwing abuse and household items around. The new girl locked herself in the bathroom, and the busy boy called the cops.
  • The cops either couldn't figure out what was going on so they arrested everyone, or they did figure out what was going on and arrested everyone anyway. It sounds like it would have been reasonably obvious what had happened.
  • The two girls were chucked into the same jail cell and reportedly became friends. Unknown if either, neither, or both are still considered to be a girlfriend of TC, who was also thrown in jail for a while, but with men. Unknown if he made any more new friends while incarcerated.
  • Foreign newspapers picked up on the story with great delight. The Sun found a good friend of DS who was quoted in a 21 January 2011 report as saying "She left England in 2003 after working as a lapdancer in Hull and at Spearmint Rhino in Birmingham."
  • Nine News in Australia reported on 23 January 2011 that PF wasn't an ex-girlfriend, quoting her as saying "We hadn't split up, we's [sic] had an argument. We have been seeing each other for five years and were going to get married."
  • Xpress (Gulf News) reported 27 January 2011 that the trio faced a total of 5 charges (reduced from 12 initially) of consensual sex, threatening to kill, and consuming alcohol without a licence. It wasn't clear who faced which charge although apparently all three faced the sex charge.
  • All three appeared in court in Dubai on 16 February 2011 on charges of having sex outside marriage, and PF was also charged with something to do with her alleged violent behaviour. All three denied the sex charges. Their next appearance is scheduled for 27 February 2011.
  • Update: The kiwi received 2 months in jail for illegal sex (unknown if it was one month for each woman), the Brit 1 month for illegal sex, the Brazilian 1 month for illegal sex and 1 month for threatening to kill the others. They also received fines - AED 1,000? Deportation at the end of the jail sentences was also imposed. The sex conviction for the Brazilian sounded odd since she presumably was not having sex with him while throwing things around the apartment. Perhaps the courts backdated the crime to before the couple's bust-up, but unclear what evidence was presented unless someone confessed.
Brazilian schoolgirl aged 14 allegedly raped by bus driver - April 2010
  • In July 2010 in the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance, a 14 year old Brazilian girl was charged with having consensual sex, and a 28 year old Pakistani bus driver was charged with rape, as a result of an encounter between the two parties at the girl's home in April 2010.
  • The girl claimed she was raped, but the man claimed he was seduced. Then before the first court hearing, the girl withdrew her claim and said nothing had happened. A report in The National on 13 Aug 2010 said The teenager initially accused the 28-year-old school bus driver, MH, from Pakistan, of rape, but later withdrew the accusation. A medical examination more than a month after the incident found no evidence of rape.
  • The National reported 30 July 2010 that even if the man's story prevailed, he could still be charged with statutory rape given that the girl was below 18, the age of consent (which doesn't really make sense given that the Age of Consent doesn't exist in the UAE since all sex outside marriage is illegal, nevertheless, the report said Even if the girl is found guilty of consensual sex, M H would still be charged with statuary [sic] rape, because the girl is younger than 18, the age of consent). But on 10 August 2010, the girl was sentenced to 6 months in jail followed by deportation, and the man was sentenced to 1 year in jail, followed by deportation. Both defendents were convicted of consensual sex under Sharia law in the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance.
  • The presiding judge, Chief Justice Saeed Abdul Bashir was reported by the Gulf News as saying "She had been sending very intimate pictures of herself to the accused, some of which included nude pictures, … and also used to send him text messages," which is what apparently convinced him that the 14 year old girl was old enough and responsible enough to know what she was doing, and deserved to go to jail. Never mind that she was perhaps struggling to deal with her changing hormonal levels during puberty.
  • The headline of the 10 August 2010 report in The National said Girl, 14, jailed for sex with school bus driver. However, a 15 August 2010 WAM news report clarified that she wasn't jailed, saying that the girl has not been detained and has been in the custody of her family throughout the investigation and the court hearings and that she will remain with her family until the completion of the due legal process, including any appeal.
  • A further report in The National 19 August 2010 said that Public prosecutors and defence lawyers have joined together in court to argue that a 14-year-old girl jailed for having consensual sex with her school bus driver should not have been tried under Sharia ... Consensual sex should be prosecuted under UAE law. Also, under UAE law, a defendant must be over 18 to be tried as an adult. The lawyers argue that Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance has therefore made an error.
  • The girl appealed against her sentence in a second hearing at the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeals according to a 30 September 2010 Gulf News report (the report also made the bus driver younger by 3 years, saying he was 25 years old). At the first appeal hearing earlier in September 2010, the court ordered a lawyer to be assigned to the bus driver.
  • On 19 October 2010, the appeals court overturned the girl's conviction but upheld the driver's conviction (for consensual sex, not for rape). The National reported on 20 October 2010: However the Appeal Court found yesterday that she was too young to have been tried as an adult, and threw out the guilty verdict. ... He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison and deportation, a verdict that was upheld yesterday.
Dubai Kissing Couple at JBR - November 2009
  • In November 2009, a British couple were reportedly kissing in a restaurant at Jumeirah Beach Residence The Walk (Bob's Diner) in Dubai at around 2am. The couple were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to one month in jail along with a fine of AED 1000 and deportation. Some of the penalty was for consuming alcohol.
  • The eyewitness, a 2 year old child, saw them kissing on the lips according to her mother. The couple claimed they were just kissing each other on the cheeks.
  • The Gulf News reported on 12 March 2010 that the mother of the eyewitness made a statement to the court that said "My daughter told me that the accused were kissing on the mouth. Then I spotted them doing so myself. I also saw them touching each other, as they were seated two to three metres away from our table. A number of customers witnessed the scene as well,"
  • The same report also quoted the verdict from the report as saying "The court concluded that the man kissed and touched the woman's leg and shoulder in the restaurant in JBR. She consented to what he did. The court deemed their behaviour as public indecency and a breach of modesty and honour."
  • As the consumption of alcohol in Dubai is permitted under certain circumstances, it also seems surprising that the couple were convicted of consuming alcohol (which they pleaded guilty to). It's not exactly clear what law they actually broke with respect to the alcohol consumption.
  • The couple appealed the initial conviction handed out at the Court of First Instance, and lost at the Court of Appeal, after which the woman served her one month jail sentence and returned home to Britain.
  • The man appealed again at the Court of Cassation, and lost (verdict reported on 24 May 2010).
  • The BBC reported on 24 May 2010 that "The original complaint was made by a local Emirati woman. She never appeared in court and lawyers were never able to contact her." Which some might regard as a rather unnnerving reflection on the legal system (or lack of it) in Dubai.
  • Many wonder what else might have happened that wasn't reported, or if the complainant had a lot of wasta, or if the Dubai authorities are simply trying to teach all the kissing expats and tourists a lesson.
  • Unfortunately, the mismatch between the promotional and marketing materials coming out of Dubai (including from government owned entities), and what the Dubai court system apparently wants couples not to do, means that residents and visitors will remain confused about how to behave in Dubai.
Jail for sex but no sex in Sharjah - May 2009
  • A British-South African lady, Roxanne Hillier, and her Emirati boss (initials MH) were nabbed by Sharjah Police on 16 May 2009 after a tipoff or complaint that they were sleeping together.
  • Ms Hillier was a dive instructor in Khorfakkan (Khor Fakkan) on the east coast, north of Fujairah but politically part of the Sharjah emirate. At the time of the arrest, she was reportedly sleeping in the dive centre while her boss was working in another part of the centre.
  • The Telegraph (UK) reported 09 June 2009 that Her father, Freddie Hillier, said police records showed the raid was ordered after someone rang them to make a complaint about her boss.
  • Following the arrest, the case went to court which resulted in a conviction for both parties of having sex and being alone in a commercial building after working hours.
  • The Telegraph reported that Mr Hillier said his daughter's big mistake was to sign a confession in Arabic that she did not understand. "They were shouting at her in Arabic," he said. "She was scared and made the mistake of bowing to pressure. She thought that was going to get her off." She told the prosecution the next day that she was retracting her confession, but the case went ahead anyway.
  • Sharjah is thought of by many as a much more conservative emirate than the rest of the UAE, which might explain why the court convicted the pair even though the defense argued there was no evidence the two had been having sex - providing medical test results to back up their claim. The prosecution reportedly did not provide any evidence that the two were having sex, except, presumably, Ms Hillier's confession.
  • Maktoob Business News reported on 26 July 2009 that Hillier said the police took her to be examined by doctors immediately. “They took me to this place where I was examined by a doctor and nurse, both women. They lifted up my clothes and stuck probes everywhere,” she said. ... The tests proved Hillier did not have sex with her boss, according to documents seen by Maktoob Business,
  • Ms Hillier was sentenced to 3 months in jail followed by deportation, and Mr H got a 6 month jail sentence. The case then went to the appeals court.
  • Maktoob Business News reported on 15 June 2009 that Both had hoped to be freed by the court of appeal on Sunday after tests into whether they had sex came back negative. The appeal judges reserved their decision, which they will deliver next week.
  • In June 2009, after an appeal, Mr H was released from prison after his sentence was reduced or acquitted, but Ms Hillier's punishment was upheld. Which doesn't really make sense - there wasn't a clear explanation from the Sharjah courts about how they thought Ms Hillier could be in the same room with Mr H and have sex with him, while he wasn't in the room with her or having sex with her. Perhaps they thought she was having sex with herself, but we didn't think that was a crime in Sharjah or the UAE.
  • Or maybe they took into account what the South African consulate in Dubai thought. Pretoria News reported 22 June 2009 that South African consular staff said Hillier could have escaped jail if she had admitted guilt. They said the evidence against her was overwhelming, apparently including medical tests that confirmed the pair had had sex and a confession from Hillier's boss.
  • And Maktoob Business repeated a version of that report on 29 September 2009: Following Roxanne's conviction Ishwar Mahadeo, consul at the South African Consulate General in Dubai, told South African daily the Mercury that the evidence against her was “overwhelming” and that it included "medical tests that confirmed the pair had had sex. The fact is that the sponsor had sexual intercourse with her that night,"
  • On 26 July 2009 Ms Hillier was released early after being pardoned by the Ruler of Sharjah, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi.
  • The National reported on 28 July 2010 that She was told she would not be deported but would be able to leave of her own accord. She left.
Sex on the beach couple in Dubai - July 2008
  • On 05 July 2008, a couple were reportedly having sex on a beach in Dubai after getting drunk at one of Dubai's infamous Friday brunches, an activity that would probably get people into trouble anywhere in the world.
  • There were mixed reports about what actually happened - some claiming the police first gave the couple a warning, which was ignored, other reports said the women threw or waved a shoe at the policeman, while the couple apparently said they were just kissing and hugging. Later reports in the UK press had the male half of the coupling indicating that something more than just kissing and hugging had gone on.
  • The couple were arrested, fined 1000 dirhams, received a 3 month jail sentence, and deportation. The jail sentence was not carried out but they were deported.
  • The BBC reported that "Palmer and Acors were found guilty of unmarried sex and public indecency at Dubai's Court of First Instance."

Sharjah rules

  • Sharjah is an emirate that is more conservative than the rest of the UAE and so visitors and residents should be more circumspect with any sort of affectionate behaviour in public.
  • Sharjah has stricter "Decency Laws" than other emirates (if they have any). For example men should not wear shorts in public, women should not expose their knees or shoulders in public. Despite the laws, it is still common to see men in shorts, and women with naked shoulders, in Sharjah shopping malls.
  • On 07 April 2010, the Gulf News reported "Sharjah bans South Asian attire lungi in public" after an Asian man was arrested in Sharjah for wearing a lungi (a kind of wraparound clothing item, like a sarong) in public. Gulf News asked a Sharjah Police officer about any clothing laws and reported "He said people were expected to wear decent clothes in public, but did not explain if there was a ban on wearing the lungi in public." Which reflects common confusion about many rules in Sharjah.
A last word

In our opinion, given the number of western expats who happily live in Dubai or visit Dubai, for most couples (whether married or not), as long as they behave reasonably respectfully and sensibly, it is unlikely that they will find themselves in trouble just for holding hands while walking through a shopping mall or kissing each other hello at the airport. Just keep the tongues and hands under control until in the privacy of home or hotel bedroom. And if anyone has something to say about your behaviour, whether police, security official, or member of public; stop whatever it is you were doing that offended them, apologise politely, thank them for letting you know that your behaviour was not appropriate, and say how much you are enjoying the country. Whatever you do, don't start ranting about being right, or how things are different in your own country, or make any sort of criticism of UAE culture and morals.

Last update Saturday 21-Jun-2014. Page development 4L 5C.
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.detainedindubai.org - Detained in Dubai website, a group who try to help people jailed in Dubai for offences related to the moral code, drugs, and/or some financial crimes.


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