Sexual harassment punishments in the UAE: what you need to know?

Posted by Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants on December 19th, 2021

Sexual harassment may be perpetrated in different forms; it could be verbal harassment; it could be in the form of unwanted attention and also in a physical form. Instances of verbal sexual harassment include making lewd comments, making sexual jokes or offensive comments about a person’s body etc. Making lewd gestures or eve-teasing are other forms of non-verbal sexual harassment. Similarly, sending someone offensive sexual jokes or obscene text, pictures or videos are actionable instances pursuant to the UAE law. In a physical form of sexual harassment, there is physical contact which may be any actions such as touching another person without their consent and can include instances of molestation.

The UAE laws pertaining to sexual harassment are codified in Federal law number 3 of 1987, promulgating the penal code, and its amendments (UAE Penal Code) which provide the provisions governing sexual harassment. The UAE penal code provides a broad definition for sexual harassment as, ‘Sexual harassment shall mean excessive annoyance of others by repeating acts, words or signals that would molest them, for the purpose of pushing them to respond to their own sexual desires or the desires of others.’ (Article 359 bis)

Article 358 of the UAE states, ‘Any person who publicly commits a disgraceful act shall be sentenced to a fine of no less than one thousand Dirhams and no more than fifty thousand Dirhams. In the event of recidivism, he shall be sentenced to Imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months and a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Dirhams or either of these two penalties.

The same penalty shall be imposed on any person who says or commits any act against public morals. Any person, who commits an indecent act with a woman or a boy under the age of fifteen years, even if not in public, shall be sentenced to Imprisonment for no less than one year.’

Further, Article 359 states, ‘Imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding ten thousand Dirhams or one of said two penalties shall be imposed on whoever molests a female in an indecent way by words or acts on a public road or in a much-frequented place. The same penalty shall be imposed on any male, disguised in female apparel, who enters a place reserved for women or where entry is forbidden for other than women. Should he perpetrate a crime in this condition, this shall be considered an aggravating circumstance.’

The earlier provisions concerning sexual harassments law have been amended in the UAE recently in order to bring both genders of men and women into the said provisions. As earlier, the provisions were applicable only to women. Any victim of sexual harassment should immediately report and file a complaint with the police and should be prepared to provide their detailed statement recording their testimony and also be able to refer protentional witnesses.

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Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants
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