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Family Protection Laws and Regulations in the UAE

Family Protection Policy

The protection and security of families are of prime importance in the UAE. This was confirmed by the adoption of the Family Protection Policy (the Policy) in November 2019. Family protection is defined in the Policy as protecting family members from any abuse, harm, or threat committed by a family member or similar against another family member, bypassing his state, guardianship, maintenance, authority or responsibility, and it results in material and psychological harm.

The Policy seeks to strengthen and maintain social ties in the UAE’s families and communities, increase awareness of domestic abuse and train staff to detect potential dangers and intervene more efficiently.

The Policy specifically identifies women, children, the elderly and people of determination as groups requiring protection from any type of violence or abuse and includes mechanisms for the development and implementation of:

  • legislation and laws combatting domestic violence;
  • community awareness;
  • standards for training of staff and increasing competencies of those dealing with domestic violence; and
  • studies, research and statistics of domestic violence.

A number of initiatives will also be launched as part of the Policy, namely:

  • a unified database linking national-level institutions concerned with family protection;
  • introduction of university disciplines in the field of family protection;
  • establishment of a standardized reporting system for the receipt of complaints at a national level;
  • development and implementation of standards for primary prevention;
  • issuance of legislation strategies for family protection.

Forms of Domestic Violence in term of the Policy

The Policy defines 6 forms of domestic violence:

  • Physical Abuse – Any aggressive physical behavior towards an individual by another individual within the family, or withholding physical needs from him/her, or performing any physically harmful behaviors, or threatening them directly, including, for example: hitting, pushing, kicking, or withholding physical needs;
  • Verbal Abuse – Any abusive language used to discredit, embarrass, or threaten a victim, for example: using ugly and inappropriate contact names, telling victims that they are undesirable, agitating and screaming.;
  • Psychological/Mental Abuse – Any behavior that exploits the victim’s weakness to confuse him and notify him of personal insecurity, whether in real life or in virtual reality, including, for example: Manipulating the victim’s nerves, intimidation, attempting to control, transition leading to undermining the victim’s self-confidence, public humiliation, the threat of murder, refusal to speak.
  • Sexual Abuse – Any behavior that includes sexual abuse, whether it is verbal or physical behavior, for example, the use of force or coercion, manipulating the victim, forcing the victim to have sex, unwanted sexual experiences, engaging in prostitution, preventing pornography with the victim as a mechanism of control, Threatening the victim to publish or expose his/her photos using social media or other different means of publication;
  • Economic/ Financial Abuse – Any behavior that includes manipulation of the victim’s economic resources, for example: not allowing the victim to obtain or reduce money in one way or another, directing family income out of place, coercing the victim into an allowance, causing the victim to lose his/her job;
  • Neglect – The apparent and persistent failure to provide basic material, psychological, health or educational needs, or to take precautions and measures to prevent harm in a way that threatens the safety of any family member, and calls for its right to protection and care, including but not limited to: Failure to extract identification documents, failure to follow-up on life affairs, refraining from counseling.

Child custody under Domestic Violence

Legislation for the Protection Against Domestic Violence

In addition to the Policy, the President of the UAE issue Federal Decree-Law No. 10 of 2019 concerning Protection Against Domestic Violence (the Domestic Violence Law), which amongst others, gives the Public Prosecution Authority the power to issue a protection order, of its own accord or based on the victim’s request, to deter violent action and protect the victim’s body, well-being, and economic status.

The protection order may specify the following:

  • The complainant’s right not to be exposed to the defendant;
  • That the defendant may not approach certain places or areas designated for the protection of the complainant or any other place mentioned in the protection order.
  • That the defendant may not damage the complainant’s personal property or that of any of his/her relatives.
  • That the complainant, or a designated representative, may collect the complainant’s personal belongings.
  • Any further measures which the Public Prosecution may deem relevant for the protection order to ensure the effective protection of the complainant or to any other related person likely to be harmed because of such relation.

Article 7 of the Domestic Violence Law further specifies the protection order may be issued for a minimum period of 30 days, which may be extended twice. The third extension must be granted by a competent court for a period not exceeding 6 months. Either the defendant or the complainant may petition against the restraining order within seven days from the date of issue of the protection order.

And Article 8 of the Domestic Violence Law provides further that punishment for the breach of a protection order can be imprisonment for a period of 3 to 6 months and a fine of between 1000 and 10,000 AED or either of these 2 penalties.  The aforementioned penalty may be doubled in circumstances where the breach involved violence.

Article 9 of the Domestic Violence Law stipulates that any person committing any of the acts of domestic violence, defined in the Law as acts of physical, psychological, sexual or material abuse, shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months and a fine not exceeding 5,000 dirhams or either of these 2 penalties. The Domestic Violence Law also makes reference to the provisions of the UAE Penal Code, giving the court the discretion to double the aforementioned penalty if the defendant re-commits any of the acts of domestic violence within a year of committing the previous act.

Article 10 of the Domestic Violence the Law further talks to the possibility of conciliation between the parties as it makes reference to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law No. 35 of 1992, which in turn provides rules and procedures for amicable settlement of the matter.

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M. Al Khairy, LL.B. is a Senior Partner of HHS Lawyers in UAE. Practicing law for almost a decade, he has in-depth knowledge on UAE legislation with particular expertise on legal drafting, contract drafting, labor disputes, family law, and regulatory compliance for business organizations. Al Khairy also provides counsel on legal rights and obligations in the UAE to clients, including individuals and businesses subject to investigation or prosecution under Criminal Law by major regulators. Read more