What exactly does the law say about dressing indecently in the UAE? Is there a uniform rule that applies to all emirates or does it vary? Gulf News spoke to lawyers and police officials from various emirates to find out the law and possible punishments.
If a person's outfit or lack of clothing amounts to public indecency, such as when a person goes to a mall wearing no more than a swimming suit, for example, police will take action against that person
"There is no law concerning dress code in the UAE, or penalty guidelines for being dressed indecently," says Riad Al Kerdashi, lawyer and Court Advisor.
"However, some individuals in administrative positions in governmental authorities have their own opinions on what may deem appropriate, and may select to ban certain attires such as shockingly short or transparent clothes, etc.
"Some people in court refuse to service those who dress inappropriately. If it is not a law, then the judgment of the individual – within limits, or course, should be accepted – not necessarily respected, but if it is not breaking the law, then it cannot be penalized."
There is no law in the UAE forcing people to dress in a certain way, but respect towards the country's religion, culture and heritage is expected, according to Dubai Police.
"No one usually tells people what to wear but residents and visitors dress decently out of respect, not because they are forced to do so by the law," a spokesperson from Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department said.
"People from all over the world flock to Dubai to enjoy the beaches, malls and other attractions, and not all of them are aware of the culture here, although they should be," he said, adding that police only interfere if someone lodges a complaint.
"If a person's outfit or lack of clothing amounts to public indecency, such as when a person goes to a mall wearing no more than a swimming suit, for example, police will take action against that person."
The first time a person is caught he or she has to write an undertaking not to repeat the offence, and if they do, legal action is taken against them for public indecency.
On his part, Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Al Mazyoudi, Director of Port Police Station, said 259 people had to sign an undertaking for dressing inappropriately on the beach in the first four months of 2012.
"These people were sunbathing or swimming in their underwear, which when wet becomes see-through, and they appear as if they were not wearing anything, or they removed part of their bathing suite," he said. On the other hand, 2,837 people were also made to write an undertaking for going to the beach fully clothed.
"People in swimming areas should not be wearing their full clothes and just watch others, because there are rules for going to the beach, and while undressing is not encouraged, so is staying fully dressed and watching or harassing other beachgoers," he added.
Police implemented a decency rule in 2001, in accordance with the directions of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.
According to the rule, it was aimed to "express society's conscious need to stand against indecency, and to preserve public civility, and to clarify the proper concept of personal freedom of safeguarding other's rights."
An official at Sharjah Police explained that men are prohibited from wearing very short shorts in public or exposing their chest, not allowed to wear the wezar (national male underwear) and the lungi – a dress similar to a sarong popularly worn by South Asians.
"Women are prohibited from wearing clothes that expose their stomachs and their backs, short skirts above the knee, and also tight and transparent clothing that reveals the body," he said.
While women are not allowed to wear swimsuits on public beaches, the rule does not apply to hotels and private swimming pools. Residents and visitors found violating the rule will be given a verbal warning by police.