Ending Violence Against Women with the New UAE Domestic Violence Policy

In November of last year, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and UAE Prime Minister approved a new “no tolerance” policy on domestic violence in the country. The “Family Protection Policy” will prevent violence against women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations. It also provides a mandate for a unified, focused, and collective governmental approach towards rooting out and treating the social ill of domestic violence. As such, the Family Protection Policy is a progressive move from the government, which will help root out and curb incidences of abuse suffered by vulnerable segments of the population.

The Background

Domestic violence, and familial violence is not a problem restricted to the UAE and is an unfortunate reality in many regions of the world. In addition, incidences of domestic violence, or even sexual violence against women, often go unreported not only within the UAE, but throughout the Middle East and even wider Asia. This is usually because of the fear of a potential backlash from society or a spouse. This can be fear of social isolation or further violence from an unrelenting abuser. In addition, women from families with fewer financial resources may not have the ability to live independently and may also fear financial insecurity if they speak out. As the UAE is now a global hub for international commerce, and its community is diverse, a universal domestic violence policy is a progressive step towards addressing economic and social factors which may prolong and exacerbate instances of domestic violence.


The Family Protection Policy

The Policy’s official aims are to encourage familial and social cohesion, provide education on positive social and familial dynamics, and integrate roles played by national institutions combatting domestic violence. The scheme will be implemented in full over the next three years, and includes bolstering domestic laws against abuse, laws protecting children in foster homes as well as laws protecting children with parents who have different religious backgrounds. The policy will also facilitate the construction of more shelters for the victims of abuse. Victims of abuse include those who have been trafficked, along with children, the elderly and other vulnerable segments of the population.

On the institutional level, the policy mandates the creation of a shared database for all institutions working against domestic abuse in the country. This will facilitate collaboration between national centers and allow for better protections for the abused. National institutions will have access to information pertinent to abuse victims, allowing for more easy identification, and targeted service delivery. For example, a shelter could get access to a report from a health center to determine what treatment or counseling an abuse victim requires to recover from their ordeal. A standardized system of abuse reporting will also be created, making it easier for sufferers of abuse to report incidents. A similar reporting system is in place for workers who suffer harassment or workplace abuse, and it is likely that the reporting system will allow victims to access instant help via a telephone hotline or online.


The Current Framework

The UAE already has a number of shelters housing and supporting victims of abuse, and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWC) regularly studies and monitors the number of cases received at such shelters. In addition, domestic and all other forms of abuse are severely penalized under the UAE’s laws, through a series of legislations. For example, physical abuse (i.e. beating or slapping) is generally impermissible in a marital relationship, and if there is any “mark” of the abuse, even for a few minutes, married women are eligible to ask for a divorce while receiving custody of children, financial support and compensation by default in many cases. Evidence of the abuse must be provided to the authorities as well. It also goes without saying that verbal and physical assault are heavily penalized under the UAE Penal Code.


The Expected Outcome

In Dubai, individuals can report cases of abuse and violence by going to their nearest police station and submitting their information, whereby the police will contact the victim for more details to begin an investigation or the abused victim may contact the relevant authorities through their emergency hotlines by visiting the Ministry of Community Development at https://www.mocd.gov.ae/en/contact-us/family-violence-complaints.aspx for the relevant numbers. A government can only do so much to prevent the occurrence of domestic abuse, however, a no tolerance approach will certainly assist in enforcing the law against offenders deterring them from committing such offences. In consequence, greater access to justice and remedies will be brought to those suffering from difficult familial situations.