Women in the United Arab Emirates

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Women in the United Arab Emirates
Maitha Salem Al-Shamsi (cropped).jpg
Maitha Salem Al-Shamsi, female Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.241 (2012)
Rank 40th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 12 (2010)
Women in parliament 17.5% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 73.1% (2010)
Women in labour force 43.5% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6372 (2013)
Rank 109th out of 136

Women in United Arab Emirates have achieved some measures of legal protection in recent years. In 2008–2009, 21% of Emirati women were part of the labor force, whereas 45% of Kuwaiti women were part of the labor force.[2]

Some laws continue to discriminate Emirati women. Emirati women must receive permission from "male guardian" to remarry.[3] The requirement is derived from Sharia law, and has been federal law since 2005.[3] Women in UAE are victims of Sharia-derived judicial punishments such as flogging and stoning.


The role of women in UAE society has gradually expanded since the discovery of oil. Before 1960 there were few opportunities for them outside the realm of home and family. In the early 1990s, there were five women's societies promoting various issues of importance to women, including literacy and health.[4]


In 2006, less than 20% of Emirati women were part of the national labor force.[5] UAE has the second lowest percentage of local women working in the GCC.[2] In 2008–2009, only 21% of Emirati women were part of the labor force.[2] UAE has the highest percentage of total female labor participation in the GCC (including expatriate women). However, Kuwait has the highest percentage of local female labor participation in the GCC because more than 45% of Kuwaiti women are part of the national labor force.[2] 80% of women in UAE are classified as household workers (maids).[6] Within the business sector, the UAE possess the largest number of businesswomen in the region where entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly popular. At the nine year old Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, women constitute 43% of its investors while the city’s Businesswomen’s association boasts 14,000 members.[7] At the forefront of Emirati women in business is Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan al Qasimi, appointed Minister for Economy and Planning in November 2004 and subsequently promoted to her current post as Minister of Foreign Trade. Sheikha Lubna holds the distinction of being the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the country. Her efforts have led her to be rated within the Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women.[8]

Flogging and stoning[edit]

The UAE's judicial system is derived from the civil law system and Sharia law. The court system consists of civil courts and Sharia courts. According to Human Rights Watch, UAE's civil and criminal courts apply elements of Sharia law, codified into its criminal code and family law, in a way which discriminates against women.[9]

Women in UAE are victims of flogging and stoning.[10] Flogging and stoning are legal judicial punishments in the UAE due to the Sharia courts. Flogging is used in UAE as a punishment for several criminal offences, such as adultery, premarital sex and prostitution.[11] In most emirates, floggings are frequent with sentences ranging from 80 to 200 lashes.[12][13] Between 2007 and 2013, many women were sentenced to 100 lashes.[11][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] Moreover in 2010 and 2012, several Muslims were sentenced to 80 lashes for alcohol consumption.[21][22] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[23]

Stoning is a legal form of judicial punishment in UAE. In 2006, an expatriate was sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[24] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[17][25][26] In May 2014, an Asian woman was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[27][28][29]

Sharia law dictates the personal status law, which regulate matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody. The Sharia-based personal status law is applied to Muslims and sometimes non-Muslims.[30] Non-Muslim expatriates are liable to Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce and child custody.[30] Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear family disputes, including matters involving divorce, inheritances, child custody, child abuse and guardianship of minors. Sharia courts may also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the influence of alcohol and related crimes.[31]

Apostasy is a crime punishable by death in the UAE. UAE incorporates hudud crimes of Sharia into its Penal Code - apostasy being one of them.[32] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE's Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty,[32][33] therefore apostasy is punishable by death in the UAE.

Emirati women must receive permission from male guardian to remarry.[3] The requirement is derived from Sharia, and has been federal law since 2005.[3] In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.[34] In the UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".[34]

Politics and government[edit]

Within the public sector, governmental employment for Emirati women has increased from 11.6% in 1995, 22% in 2005 and 66% as of June 2007.[7] In September 2008, Hassa Al Otaiba and Sheikha Najla Al Qasimi became the UAE’s first female ambassadors, serving Spain and Sweden respectively.[35]

The UAE became the second Arab country with a female marriage registrar after Egypt.[36] By 2006, women have accounted for over 22% of the Federal National Council.[37] The UAE's minister of state post is Reem Al Hashimi, who is the first female minister to be in this role.[38]

Sexual assault[edit]

Over 50% of women residents in the UAE say that they would not report a rape to police.[39]

Male guardianship[edit]

All Emirati women have a male guardian. Emirati women must receive permission from male guardian to remarry.[3] The requirement is derived from Sharia, and has been federal law since 2005.[3]


The 2007 report on the progress of MDGs in the UAE states, “the proportion of females in higher education has risen remarkably at a rate that has not been achieved in any other country in the world. During the years 1990 to 2004 the number of female university students has grown to double that of male students. This is the result of the promotion and encouragement of women’s education by state and family.”[40] The ratio of literate females within the 15- to 24- year age group rose from 100.5% in 1990 to 110% in 2004, reaching 90% literacy overall in 2007. Upon completion of high school, 95% of Emirati women continue on to higher education and comprise 75% of the student population at the Al Ain national university. Women comprise 70% of college graduates in the UAE.[37][37] According to Dubai Women’s College, 50-60% of its 2,300 students proceed to seek employment upon graduation.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Kuwait: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix". International Monetary Fund. 2012. p. 43. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Divorcees, widows concerned about receiving ‘permission’ before remarrying". 
  4. ^ "Status of women". United Arab Emirates: A country study. Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (January 1993).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ The Emirati Workforce Page 30
  6. ^ Glass, Amy. "Working women contribute US$3.4bn to the UAE’s economy". Arabian Business (December 2007).
  7. ^ a b "Women in the United Arab Emirates: A Portrait of Progress" (PDF). UAE Ministry of State and Federal National Council Affairs (June 2007).
  8. ^ “The 100 Most Powerful Women.” Forbes (2007).
  9. ^ "Human Rights Watch warns expat women about the UAE". 
  10. ^ "Scarred by the savage lash of Islamic justice". 
  11. ^ a b "Torture and flogging". Fanack. 
  12. ^ "UAE: Judicial corporal punishment by flogging". World Corporal Punishment Research. 
  13. ^ "United Arab Emirates". Crime and Society. 
  14. ^ "Pregnant maid to get 100 lashes after being found guilty of illegal affair". 
  15. ^ "Teenager to be lashed for adultery". 
  16. ^ "Illicit lovers sentenced to 100 lashes each". 
  17. ^ a b "Two women sentenced to death for adultery". 
  18. ^ "Prison for couple who conceived outside of wedlock". KA, 19, Emirati, was sentenced to six months in prison. Her would-be husband, AM, Omani, was sentenced to 100 lashes and one year in prison. 
  19. ^ "Adulterer to be lashed, jailed in Sharjah". 
  20. ^ "DUBAI: Alleged victim of gang rape sentenced to one year in prison". At that point, she was facing a penalty for extramarital sex, which is 100 lashes and a minimum of three years in prison. 
  21. ^ "Man to get 80 lashes for drinking alcohol". 2010. 
  22. ^ "Man appeals 80 lashes for drinking alcohol in Abu Dhabi". 2012. 
  23. ^ "Woman denies affair after hearing she faces stoning". Under the same law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes. 
  24. ^ "UAE: Death by stoning/ flogging". Amnesty. 
  25. ^ "Man faces stoning in UAE for incest". 
  26. ^ "Woman denies affair after hearing she faces stoning". 
  27. ^ "Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning in UAE". 
  28. ^ "Asian housemaid gets death for adultery in Abu Dhabi". 
  29. ^ "Expat faces death by stoning after admitting in court to cheating on husband". 
  30. ^ a b "Britons 'liable to Sharia divorces' in UAE". BBC. 
  31. ^ "The UAE Court System". Consulate General of the United States Dubai, UAE. 
  32. ^ a b Butti Sultan Butti Ali Al-Muhairi (1996), The Islamisation of Laws in the UAE: The Case of the Penal Code, Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4 (1996), pp. 350-371
  33. ^ Al-Muhairi (1997), Conclusion to the Series of Articles on the UAE Penal Law. Arab Law Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4
  34. ^ a b "United Arab Emirates International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2009)". state.gov. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  35. ^ "Sheikha Fatima hails ability of UAE women to undertake national responsibilities." The National Media Council: UAE Interact (September 2008).
  36. ^ “Fatima is UAE's first woman marriage registrar.” Gulf News.com (November 2008).
  37. ^ a b c "On "Human rights day", Emirates first among Arab countries and (95%) women's participation in higher education.". mohesr.gov.ae. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  38. ^ "The Business Year". thebusinessyear.com. Retrieved 2015-02-07. 
  39. ^ “Survey says Arab women unlikely to Report Rape.” Muslim Women News.com (January 2010).
  40. ^ UNDP Millennium Development Goals United Arab Emirates Report (PDF), p. 14 (March 2007).[dead link]
  41. ^ "Dubai Women Storm World of Work". BBC News (August 2005).