In the United Arab Emirates, there exists a different kind of punishments for crimes including capital punishments for the most heinous of crimes such as rape. Sexual assaults are heavily punished in Dubai and can often include death sentence, especially in instances of sexual assault of minors.
The penal code of the UAE is promulgated under UAE Federal Law number 3 of 1987 and its amendments (the “UAE Penal Code”) which sets of the legal provisions that determine actions recognized as crimes under the penal code and also sets out the penalties incurred for such crimes. Article 354 of the UAE penal code defines ‘Rape’ as, ‘Without prejudice to the provisions of the Law on juvenile delinquents and displaced, death penalty shall be imposed on whoever used coercion in having sexual intercourse with a female or sodomy with a male. Coercion shall be considered committed if the victim is below fourteen years of age when the crime is perpetrated, or if the crime is committed against a person whose will is not recognized due to young age, insanity or dementia’. Further, Article 355 states that ‘Attempt to perpetrate the crimes stipulated in the preceding article shall be sanctioned to life imprisonment. And article 356 states, ‘Without prejudice to the two preceding articles, temporary imprisonment shall be imposed on whoever commits sexual molestation against a person by coercion, threat or ruse’.
As discussed earlier, capital punishment exists in the UAE for grave crimes such as rape especially, in instances of crimes against minors and pursuant to Article 357 of the UAE penal code death penalty is sentenced if the crime results in the death of the victim. Article 357 of the UAE penal code states, ‘Should death of the victim result from one of the crimes provided for in the preceding articles, the penalty shall be the death sentence’.
In terms of rape crimes in the UAE burden of proof is often to be showcased by the witnesses. Further, false allegations of rape or sexual assault are punishable in the United Arab Emirates. As stated in Article 276 of the UAE penal code, ‘Shall be subject to a jail sentence and/or to a fine, whoever falsely and with bad faith makes a false report to the judicial or administrative authorities that a person committed something which deserves a criminal penalty or an administrative sanction even if it did not entail filing a criminal or disciplinary action, as well as whoever fabricated false material evidence that a person has perpetrated a crime, or caused taking legal measures against a person knowing that he is innocent. The penalty shall be a jail sentence and fine should the fake crime be a felony. In case the false accusation result in inflicting a felony penalty, the slanderer shall be sanctioned to the same adjudged penalty.’
The crime rate in the UAE is comparatively lower when compared to most countries worldwide. This includes sexual crimes. The crime rate in the UAE for rape and sexual assaults is as low as 1.5 per every 100,000 women. When you compare this statistic to that of the USA, the crime rate for rape is 27 per 100,000 women in the USA. Stringent law enforcement in the UAE accounts for the lower statistics of sexual crimes in the country and also ensures that steps are taken to reduce the crime rate further with the aim to achieve the lowest level of crime rate in the world in the coming years. It is also realized that much stigma exists in instances of sexual crimes that often due to pressures from family members such crime also goes unreported. The police department, public prosecutors and judges are partnering on best practices to ensure better enforcement and sensitive handling of such cases. Women in the police force are secured special training in handling rape crimes and also to ensure support to women who are victims of such crimes.
Prior to the amendments introduced by federal decree no. 15 of 2020 introduced on 27th September 2020 to the UAE penal code, voluntary sexual intercourse between consenting adults outside marriage was considered a crime. Using the said language, victims of sexual assaults could be charged for illicit sex and for violating this Law. Now, with the recent changes, voluntary sexual intercourse is no longer punishable in the UAE if both parties are adults and provided that the consent has not been obtained through coercion. The UAE has been continuously working to create a more secure environment that protects and strengthens women’s rights in the emirates, and these recent amendments reflect such progressive steps.