Expat Wives Warned On Rights In UAE

By Cassarah Harvey, for ExpatBriefing.com 08 August, 2014

A new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) has highlighted that child custody disputes among Western couples living in the United Arab Emirates are likely to be resolved in favor of the father, and that complaints of domestic violence are often not taken seriously.

The watchdog's findings come shortly after the UK Foreign Office published guidance advising that UAE Personal Affairs Law, which is based on Islamic principles, can apply to foreign nationals in child custody and divorce cases. In one instance earlier this year, a British woman previously married to a French man was convicted of kidnapping in Dubai after she failed to bring her son to an access meeting with her ex-partner. The woman told the court that the man had threatened her at the previous meeting.

HRW said that it had researched three cases involving UK women married to Western expatriates. The women reported that local police had discouraged them from reporting domestic violence, and had failed to investigate their complaints properly. In two of the cases, courts subsequently awarded child custody to the father.

HRW warns that the UAE has no specific law on domestic abuse, and that the responsibilities of police, courts, and government agencies are unclear. Further, the UAE's penal code allows the imposition of "chastisement by a husband to his wife," within limits prescribed by Sharia law. One of the women was advised by police that "in the UAE, husbands are allowed to beat their wives." In the one instance where a prosecution did go ahead and was successful, the woman was also prosecuted for damaging her husband's property during the assault.

According to HRW, the UAE is failing to fulfil its obligations under the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The latter provides that courts must consider the best interests of the child in all situations and decisions regarding custody.

Tags: Expatriates | Court | United Arab Emirates | Law | Dubai | Expats | Welfare |


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