The United Arab Emirates announced on Saturday a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws. The government said the legal reforms were part of efforts to improve legislation and the investment climate in the country, as well as to consolidate “tolerance principles”. The changes also reflect the efforts of the Emirates’ rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.
The Changes include scrapping penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession for those 21 and over. Another amendment allows for “cohabitation of unmarried couples”, which has long been a crime in the UAE. The government also decided to criminalise so-called “honour killings”, a widely criticised tribal custom. The announcement also follows an historic US-brokered deal to normalise relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment.
The broadening of personal freedoms in UAE reflects the changing profile of the country that has sought to bill itself as a skyscraper-studded destination for Western tourists, fortune-seekers and businesses despite its legal system based on a hardliner interpretation of Islamic law.