UAE flag raised in UAE
A file photo of the UAE flag Image Credit: Twitter/ Courtesy: @HamdanBinZayed

In a legislative milestone aimed at overhauling parts of the civil and criminal laws, the UAE on Saturday announced major changes that are in line with the country’s progressive march to consolidate the supremacy of the law, protect women rights, upgrade its legal codes, and boost its status as a global destination for foreign investment and skills.

The changes came in a number of decrees issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a number of presidential decrees amending several articles in the Personal Status Law, the Federal Penal Code, and the Federal Penal Procedural Law.

The changes, which come as the country prepares to celebrate its Golden Jubilee in the new year, signal a great confidence in the nation and its identity but also eyes the fact that some 200 nationalities, from different cultures, religions and races, coexist in the UAE - cited worldwide as a shining example of the country’s success story and its commitment to tolerance and diversity.

The changes cover wide-ranging subjects such as sex crimes, honour crime, which will to be treated as murder, alcohol consumption, marriage and divorce of expatriates, their inheritance and indecency rules, among other matters.

The new rules seem to emphasise a guiding principle that the origins of the law lie in the permissibility unless an act constitutes harm to others or their interests that are protected by the law. For example, an unmarried adult couple living together is no longer a violation of the law. But the punishment is toughened for sexual crimes against minors to protect children from the vile predators. Forced sexual intercourse with minors now carry the death penalty.

When it comes to alcohol consumption, again the new legal frame signalled toughened punishment for selling it minors. However, consuming alcohol by adults in authorised places or in the privacy of their own space is legal.

And in a major move to ensure the stability of the financial interests of foreign investors, the new changes give the expatriates living in the UAE the option to choose the law that would be applied to their inheritance. The UAE is already one of the leading recipients of foreign investment in the world. the new reforms will certainly enhance that position.

The President’s decrees represent a legal evolution that is in sync with both its deep-rooted cultural identity and its ambitious vision to be a 21st century beacon of tolerance and coexistence.