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Why Consensual Sex Before Marriage in Dubai is No Longer Illegal


— May 17, 2021

This development is in reflection of UAE/Dubai’s present society. Not everyone who visits Dubai or resides there is a Muslim or Emirati and so most of them aren’t used to such an austere law; hence, this inclusive law.


Some decades ago, Dubai was hardly a developed city much less a futuristic one. Then, the UAE city was a small and simple settlement of fishers and traders. Today, you still see their legacies, the dhow and the souks. Also, the Arabian city was predominantly Emiratis and Muslims as the status quo.

Today, Dubai is one of the most diverse cities in the world which means it’s now a veritable cosmopolis housing people of different races and religions. When Dubai and all of UAE was still homogeneous, it made the law that there must be no sex before marriage and in fact that unmarried couples couldn’t live together, whether it’s a hotel or a private house or apartment. With this background established, let’s bring to foreground again the purpose of this article, namely, “Why consensual sex before marriage in Dubai is no longer illegal”.

Upon the discovery of crude oil in Dubai at the offshore Fateh field in 1966 and upon the export of it which started in 1969 with good leadership, Dubai quickly metamorphosed from that small settlement for fishers and traders to a clean and futuristic world-class destination. With this development, not only tourists but also investors and expats started to visit Dubai from virtually every country in the world, making the city a truly cosmopolitan one.

Dubai has welcomed everyone, although many of its guests have been in trouble over its no-cohabitation law. A British woman and a Pakistani man in 2017 were found to have had sex were consequently arrested and tried. Though they pleaded not guilty, they got sentenced. Another couple who were British and bore the names Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer were in 2008 sentenced on jail terms over having extra-marital sex in public on a Dubai beach.

Image by Annete Sousa, via Unsplash.com.
Image by Annete Sousa, via Unsplash.com.

They made an appeal and their terms were consequently suspended on the clause that they’d get married when they returned to England but they didn’t do that as the man had a wife already. There are much more cases even until 2020 when a stop was put to the prohibition on consensual sex between unmarried couples.

In November 2020, the UAE put a stop to the criminalization of sex out of wedlock, which means sex outside marriage is no longer illegal. It also means unmarried couples can now live together in the same house or room, because, before the law update, that wasn’t possible. This development is in reflection of UAE/Dubai’s present society. Not everyone who visits Dubai or resides there is a Muslim or Emirati and so most of them aren’t used to such an austere law; hence, this inclusive law.

Commenting on the law update, the government said the legal reforms were to improve legislation in the country and its investment climate, and to consolidate “tolerance principles”.

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