Legal Relationship Do’s & Don’ts for Tourists & Expats in Dubai

Legal Relationship Do’s & Don’ts for Tourists & Expats in Dubai

Boasting state-of-the-art attractions, Dubai is a fun destination to be. With visitors from about 120 countries exploring this site, virtually the whole world read about Dubai or actually visit it. Dubai’s government, laws and customs are informed by Islam, although not in the sharia way. In this way, what is expected in or as a relationship in Dubai is quite different from other countries in the world, especially Western countries.

What are some relationship rules for tourists and expats in Dubai? Or simply, what rules or do’s and don’ts on relationship should tourists and expats in Dubai observe?

Please note if you would read through, do not miss the
conclusion as it holds vital information.

Law on Sex

If you’re from a non-Islamic or Western country; you’re a full-grown adult and you’re not married, you should have taken a dip before; you should have made love with an unmarried adult without getting into trouble. In Dubai and all of the UAE, however, premarital as well as extramarital sex is unacceptable; it is illegal. People who are not married in Dubai — tourists, expatriates, Emiratis, Muslims or non-Muslims — are forbidden to have sex.

And irrespective of whatever non-marital relationship you have with a person in the country you may be visiting Dubai from, if you’re not married but there’s evidence you had or have been having consensual sex in Dubai, you should get the punishment of a one-year detention, pursuant to Article 356 of the Penal Code.

Barney Almazar, director at Gulf Law says expatriates usually seek assistance when an illegal affair has resulted in pregnancy. “If we will include marital disputes involving extramarital affairs or presence of third parties, I would [deal with] an average of ten [cases] a month,” says Almazar.

“Most of the time, [the problem] will lead to a court case if the act resulted to pregnancy and the mother has to deliver here [in Dubai]. Other instances are when there are unexpected complications with pregnancy requiring medical attention–which means disclosing the fact of engaging in premarital sex. In some cases, the complication was due to induced abortion–majority are those left by their partners.”

So, if an unmarried lady were discovered with pregnancy, she’d be in legal trouble as well as with the man responsible. As a matter of fact, the local laws doesn’t allow unmarried man and woman — in a relationship or not — to share a roof.

In 2006, a couple, a 19-year-old female and a 20-year-old male, from Kazakhstan who were caught having a sexual intercourse in a vehicle in Shaikh Zayed Road were sentenced to three months in jail by the The Dubai Court of First Instance. This would be followed by deportation. They were caught by a police patrol and they confirmed it was true.

In 2008, a British couple, Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer who were caught having extra-marital sex in public on a Dubai beach were sentenced on jail terms. On appeal, their terms were suspended with the clause that they’d get married on their return to England but the marriage didn’t happen especially because the man had a wife already.

In 2012, a couple, Bangladeshi nationals, J.A, 32, and M.S, 21, were given a one-month imprisonment each for having consensual sex in a car, even though they claimed there were married and only ended up in the situation because they had no place to stay.

In 2017, reports that a British woman and a Pakistani man who through investigation were found to have had sex were promptly arrested and sentenced even though they pleaded not guilty. Also in the same year, a Japanese duo were reported to be deported from Dubai for having sex on the beach in Dubai.

The no-sex-between-persons-not-married in Dubai includes rape. What this means is that if a woman were raped, for example, and she makes this known and the matter gets into the court, she’d not go without scot; she’d not go unpunished. In other words, some legal punishment would be meted on her over sex outside marriage.

Closely related the thematic concern in this section is that same-sex marriage in Dubai is unrecognized and homosexuality is illegal.

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Public Show
of Affection

In non-Muslim countries, the US as an example — no ill intended, you could find people holding hands, kissing and cuddling and even making out in public. In contrast, you can’t have a public display of affection in Dubai. You shouldn’t hold hands, hug or kiss in public and you dare not make out in public. Consider Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer’s case. This law is informed by the general prim characteristic of Islam.

towards Ladies in Dubai

The watchword’s chivalry. You should generally be courteous to ladies in Dubai. Foul languages are completely unacceptable. In the beach with a camera, mind how you use it. You don’t want to be charged with photographing or filming a lady’s body. You could, but not a lady you don’t know.


A Lady in Dubai

While Dubai is an Islamic domain, the city is heavily cosmopolitan with only about 10 percent of its population being locals (Emiratis). You’d find lots of ladies who are cosmopolitan; ladies who are rather Western. This means you could still excuse a lady in Dubai as you could in, say, the US.

Muslim ladies in Dubai may evince much of the Islamic characteristic but it has been said that they go to Dubai to loosen up. You may ignore what a visitor in Dubai says, namely tangentially, that the Muslim ladies are like every other lady behind veils.


Since you’re already here, let’s touch upon dressing. Dressing in Dubai should upon dressing. Dressing in Dubai should be modest — yes, honestly modest. While a non-Muslim woman may not necessarily wear the female Islamic dress — abaya and sheyla — they’re not allowed to dress inappropriately.

Dressing well would save you a lot. I have seen an Emirati woman on a video aggressively abusing a woman for what she thought was an immodest dressing. A good suggestion would be that women should cover up to their elbows and knees, as well as cover their décolletage. And clothes mustn’t have things considered foul, sexually explicit or insulting to the government.

men like woman are not allowed to be in public with sensitive parts of their
bodies, say their chests, seen as may be customary especially in non-Islamic

— Expectations, Actuality and Exemptions

The talk so far on the law on sex outside marriage, covering up and doing so modestly, public show of affection are all largely only expectations — what’s expected of you. No one really goes around looking for unmarried couples making love. As a matter of fact, someone I know impersonally, who lives in Dubai and should be from Dubai, a really big YouTuber, publishes on YouTube a video with title like: picking my girl from school… We’ve deliberately made the foregoing statement vague since premarital sex in Dubai is illegal. We don’t want to cause anyone trouble, if this would cause them trouble.

So, there’re actually many unmarried couples in Dubai dating. puts it, in 2017, that “In the UAE, all sex outside marriage is illegal, although in Dubai, a blind eye is usually turned to unmarried western couples who co-habit”. Trouble might only erupt over premarital sex when it results in pregnancy and the service of the hospital might be needed, which means it’d be made known with an evidence; or when an enemy testifies in court with concrete evidence such as a photograph or a video…

Further, in Dubai, people hug, shake hands, and may hold hands. It all depends on where they do it. In the beach and bars, for example, you could completely hold hands, play and frolic. Places such as the beach and bars thus are more relaxed and informal and so the foregoing rules may not really apply stringently in them. As a rule of thumb, however, make out nowhere in public in Dubai.

A woman who’s not married to you is pregnant for you? Well, an unmarried woman who gives birth in the UAE may encounter problems registering the birth of her child, according to advice from the British Government: “To get a birth certificate from the UAE authorities, you must provide a marriage certificate and the authorities may compare the date of the marriage against the estimated date of conception.”

Given the conclusion, you could derive the expectations, the actuality and the exemptions on this topic in Dubai. Stay guided!


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