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As widely reported, the UAE government has embarked on one of the biggest overhauls of the legal system in years, with big changes to family law and other areas affecting people’s daily lives in the Emirates. The laws reflect progressive measures to improve living standards and for the UAE to continue to be a destination for people from around the world. The UAE is currently home to more than 200 nationalities and is accommodating to their needs, however, these new reforms make life in the UAE for those 'ex-pats' less complicated and help to eliminate some concerns people face when considering a move to the region. Let's take a look at some of these points and how they benefit those looking to relocate to the region...
Cohabitation for unmarried couples
One of the biggest concerns for an unmarried couple relocating to the region was always legalities around sharing a home in the Emirates. Until now, it has been illegal for an unmarried couple, or even unrelated flatmates to share, although the authorities have rarely targeted or prosecuted anyone found in breach of this. However, with these changes, the law will allow for the legal cohabitation of unmarried couples and will hopefully put people at ease knowing they are on the right side of the law when they move to the country.
With the UAE being a Muslim country, the question as to whether you can or the misconception that you can't drink has always been there. Until now, the rules have been that individuals have been required to hold an alcohol license in order to consume alcohol either at home or in authorized areas.
The new rulings mean that an alcohol license is no longer required and persons over the age of 21 are free to consume alcohol privately or in licensed public places.
Divorce and inheritance
One of the most significant developments relates to divorce, separation, and the division of assets if a marriage breaks down. The new laws state that if a couple were married in their home country, but get a divorce in the UAE, the laws of the country where the marriage took place will apply.
The new law mentions joint assets and joint accounts, and that the court could be called on to mediate if there was no agreement between the two parties. The changes also cover wills and inheritance. Up until now, family members of a deceased person could have found assets were divided under Sharia, which ex-pats may be unused to. Now, a person's citizenship will dictate how their assets are divided among their next of kin unless they have written a will.
Suicide and 'Good Samaritans':
The law will ensure "Good Samaritans" who intervene in situations where people are in need cannot be held liable for the outcome of those they help. Under a long-standing, but rarely used the clause, it was possible for someone who went to the aid of someone, to give CPR or other first aid, to be held accountable for their injury or death. The new law states that “any person who’s committing an act out of good intention, that may end up hurting that person, will not be punished”.“If you want to give help or assistance in an emergency and that person gets harmed [as a result] you will not be punished.”
Previously, someone who tried to take their life but survived could have been prosecuted, though such instances were rare, if not unheard of. Police and courts would ensure vulnerable people receive mental-health support. However, anyone found assisting an individual with an attempted suicide will face an unspecified jail sentence.
Harassment and assault:
With the new changes, there are a number of amendments seeking to protect the rights of women, including tougher punishments for men who subject women to harassment of any kind, which is thought to cover street harassment or stalking. The law appears to be a reiteration of legislation brought in last year that brought tougher offenses for harassment, and also recognized that men could be victims of harassment or stalking.
More information can be seen here.
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