Sexual Harassment Punishments in the UAE

Sexual crimes against women are continuously on the rise globally. However, due to strict law enforcement in the UAE, the sexual crime rate is exceptionally low. The crime rate in the UAE for sexual crimes against women is as low as 1.5 per every 100,000 women. The lower statistics indicate the combined approach of the police department, judiciary, and public to ensure better implementation of the law. The government is also trying to enforce better and sensitive handling of such cases so that it would not negatively impact the victim in any way. The women in the police force are given special training to handle rape cases with care and lend their support to victimized women.

In the UAE, sexual harassment cases are described as “any unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and physical or verbal behavior of sexual nature.”

The different types of sexual harassment cases are:

Verbal: Examplemake a sexualized comment about a person, their body, or narrate sexual jokes or stories.

Non-verbal: Example, staring at a person to the extent that it makes them uncomfortable or making sexual hand gestures or body movements.

Physical: Example, touching inappropriately, without consent.

Some of the examples of sexual harassment incidents we deal with in the UAE courts and listed by the United Nations are:

  • Rape or attempt to rape.
  • Undue pressure for sexual favors.
  • Unencouraged touching, leaning over, pinching, or cornering.
  • Unwanted sexual looks and gestures.
  • Using sexualized terms to describe a person.
  • Using sexualized questions and words during conversation or to address someone.
  • Catcalls.
  • Whistling at someone.
  • Asking intimate questions about sexual history or sexual life.
  • Kissing sounds and gestures.
  • Spreading rumors about a person’s sexual history or orientation.
  • Forceful hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking.
  • Gifting sexualized objects.
  • Staring at someone or elevator eye movements.
  • Lewd facial expressions, winking, licking lips, etc.

Laws for Sexual Harassment

The sexual crimes are covered under Articles 358, 359, 361, and 362 of The Federal Law no. (3) of 1987 promulgating the penal code.

Article 358: Article 358 states that a person who openly commits an indecent and disgraceful act shall be punished by a custodial sentence of 6 months or more. If the act is conducted to a girl or boy under 15 years old, even if not committed openly, the duration shall be increased to 1 year or more.

Article 359: Article 359 states that a person who attempts to disgrace a female verbally or physically in a public place shall be punished for a jail term of a maximum 1 (one) year and AED 10,000 or less. The judge can decide to club two punishments or sentence only one of them. The same penalty is given to the person dressed in woman clothing to enter the premises only permitted for females.

If the crime is conducted by a group carrying a weapon or holds a place of (functional, family, or educational) authority over the victim, then it invites harsher punishments. In such cases, the penalty shall be 2 (two) years or less and/or a fine of a maximum of AED 50,000. If the perpetrator is a foreign national, he shall be deported after completing the punishment.

Article 360: Anyone publicly passing lewd messages or gestures to passersby in public places shall be punished by detention for a minimum 6 (six) months.

Article 361: Whoever publicly engages in lewd speeches, appeals, sings, and seduces anyone shall be punished by imprisonment of a maximum 6 (six) months and a fine of not exceeding AED 5,000.

Article 363: If anyone entices or persuades a minor female or male to practice prostitution or assist them in the act, shall be punished by the detention of a minimum 2 (two) years and a fine.

Sexual Harassment in Cyberspace

Additionally, cybercrime in the United Arab Emirates also addresses the issues of sexual harassment in cyberspace. The law does not nullify any punishments mentioned in the abovementioned Articles but offers modern additions in describing the crime.

By analyzing the law mentioned above and punishments, it can be broken down to the elements mentioned below:

Deliberation: The perpetrators’ intentions must be deliberate while conducting the crime. The crime is not performed merely to commit the criminalized act.

Annoyance: The act of sexual harassment must be unwelcomed, unwanted, and unrequested by the victim.

Repetition: According to Article 359 bis, the act must be repetitive. The one-time act may not be considered harassment in the UAE Penal Code. However, it would still be regarded as punishable by law.

Indecent Nature: The act committed by the perpetrator devoid of any sexual conduct will not be qualified as sexual harassment. Even when the act is pestering and repetitive because of lack of sexual nature, the victim cannot file a sexual harassment case.

Gender: The victim can be both female and male.

What is the procedure to file a complaint about sexual harassment?

Any victim experiencing or experienced sexual harassment must go to the nearest police station to file a complaint (recommended to accompany a lawyer). You must provide the complete details of the act and evidence if possible. Based on your complaint, the public prosecutor initiates an investigation about the harasser and prepares a criminal report.

Harassment at the workplace:

Sexual harassment cases are rarely reported, as most women prefer to give up on the job. Sadly, in this age, too, when women try to report harassment, they are subjected to public scrutiny. Most of the humiliating sexual harassment cases primarily reported in the UAE are:

  • Inappropriate touching
  • Obscene comments
  • Sending lewd messages, or pornographic material
  • Asking intimate questions about sexual life or anatomy

Apart from the above list, any sexually offensive behavior which disrupts the work environment or creates a toxic environment for a woman to work and perform her duties well can also be reported to authorities. Men, too, are subjected to sexual harassment at work, and the UAE penal code penalizes all sexual harassment cases. If a criminal judgment punishes an accused under the UAE Labour Law (Federal Law Number 8 of 1980) in Article 12 gives the right to the employer to fire an employee without notice. The procedure of complaint about sexual harassment at the workplace in the UAE is as follows:

  • Go directly to the police station and lodge a complaint.
  • Report to company’s human resource department. Most organizations have procedures to deal with such complaints.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) via their helpline 80060; they will guide you on how to file a complaint.

Bottom Line

Understanding the law empowers the victims to seek the right legal help. It also helps the potential perpetrators to avoid unnecessary and unneeded legal troubles. The social and legal norms may vary from country to country, so it is good to have a clear understanding of your legal rights. Sexual crimes, irrespective of their gravity, are taken seriously in the UAE. The authorities continuously strive to make UAE a safe place to live and work for women.

Sexual harassment can be stopped, and the offenders can get punished if the victim takes clear and informed actions. You can connect with our lawyers for online legal consultation and seek legal guidance. We have a team of talented female lawyers. The female victims can comfortably discuss their concerns with them without hesitation.

If you are falsely accused of sexual harassment, you can seek help too from our experienced lawyers in Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman. You are not guilty until proven so.

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