Sexual Harassment Law in the UAE

The Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, which promulgated the Penal Code and its Amendments (UAE Penal Code), contains the regulations governing sexual harassment and codifies the laws of the UAE about it. In the UAE, “sexual harassment” is defined broadly as “extreme annoyance of others by repeating acts, words, or gestures that would molest them, to pressuring them to respond to their own sexual impulses or the wishes of others.” Article 359 bis.

Types of Sexual Harassment

The term “sexual harassment” refers to a broad range of unwelcome attention based on a person’s gender. It can take any of the following forms and involves the physical, verbal, and non-verbal aspects of such unwelcome attention:

  • The harasser makes sexual favours a condition for employing, promoting, or rewarding a person, either explicitly or implicitly.
  • Assaulting the victim sexually.
  • Requesting sexual favours from the victim.
  • Making sexually harassing statements, including crass jokes about sexual acts or a person’s sexual orientation.
  • Initiating or maintaining physical contact with the victim inappropriately.
  • Making unwelcome sexual advances on the victim.
  • Having unseemly conversations about sexual relations, stories, or fantasies in inappropriate places like work, school, and others.
  • Applying pressure on a person to engage with them sexually
  • Acts of indecent exposure, whether of the harasser or the victim
  • Sending unwanted and unsolicited sexually explicit pictures, emails or text messages to the victim.

Laws concerning Sexual Harassment in UAE

UAE and Dubai once viewed “sexual harassment” as a crime against women and had laws created accordingly. However, the definition of a victim has recently been expanded to include men, and this new perspective is reflected in recent legal developments (Law Number 15 of 2020). Consequently, sexual harassment victims of both sexes are now addressed similarly.

The change broadened the definition of sexual harassment to include persistently offensive gestures, words, and acts. It also involves behaviors intended to persuade the target into granting the harasser’s or another person’s sexual wishes. Additionally, the amendment introduced stronger sanctions for sexual harassment.

Penalty on Sexual Harassments

Articles 358 and 359 of the Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 of the UAE penal code outlines the punishments and penalties for sexual harassment.

Article 358 states the following:

  • If a person publicly or openly commits a disgraceful or indecent act, they will be in detention for at least six months.
  • Or if a person performs an unwelcoming or disgraceful act against a girl below 15 years old, whether publicly or privately, they will be imprisoned for at least one year

Article 359 states the following:

  • If a person publicly disgraces a woman by words or deeds, they will be imprisoned for no more than two years and pay a maximum fine of 10,000 dirhams.
  • Or if a man disguises himself in a woman’s clothing and enters a public place reserved for women, they will be imprisoned for no more than two years and pay a fine of 10,000 dirhams. Furthermore, if the man commits a crime while garbed as a woman, this will be considered an aggravating circumstance.

However, the amended laws now state the following punishments for sexual harassment:

  • Anybody who publicly molests a female either by words or actions is liable for a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either. This provision also covers catcalling and wolf-whistling.
  • One that encourages or incites acts of lewdness or debauchery is considered to have committed a crime, and the penalty is up to six months in prison and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either.
  • Anyone who appeals, sings, yells, or makes immoral or obscene speeches is also considered to have committed a crime. The penalty is a maximum prison term of one month and a fine of 100,000 dirhams, or either.

Rights against it

As a citizen of Dubai and UAE, you have the following rights:

  • The right to work and live in a safe and sexual harassment-free environment
  • To knowledge of the laws and policies regarding sexual harassment
  • The right to talk about and speak out against sexual harassment
  • To report the harassment to the relevant authority
  • The right to testify as a witness or participate in an investigation

Why do you need a Lawyer?

An attorney who specializes in sexual harassment makes sure that your case goes as smoothly as possible. They ensure that the technicalities of registering a complaint and pursuing legal action against the person who harassed you don’t overwhelm you. Additionally, they ensure that you submit your claim within the legal deadline to receive compensation for your damages.