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United Arab Emirates: Legal overhaul on alcohol, cohabitation and family rights

The UAE has announced landmark reforms that cover inheritance, unmarried couples, women’s safety, alcohol use, suicide, and Good Samaritans. These changes will make it easier for expatriates to resolve disputes and promote multiculturalism.

On the wills and inheritance of expatriates

With these changes, non-Emiratis can now use the laws of their home country to deal with matters like inheritance. Upon the death of an expatriate, wills and estates can be managed according to the personal status law of his country of nationality. However, if a will is already in place, it must be followed and respected.

On alcohol

Alcohol consumption is no longer criminalized. Anyone who consumes, possesses or sells alcoholic beverages in licensed areas without an alcohol license will no longer face penalties.

A person must still be at least 21 years of age to legally drink in the UAE and it is prohibited to sell alcohol to minors.

Alcohol may only be consumed in private or in authorized public places.

There will no longer be a need for a license to buy alcohol in the emirates.

Cohabitation for unmarried couples

For the first time, the law will allow legal cohabitation of unmarried couples. Until now, it has been illegal for an unmarried couple, or even unrelated roommates, to share a house in the UAE.

On harassment

A number of amendments seek to protect the rights of women.

There will be tougher penalties for men who subject women to harassment of any kind.

On suicide and the good Samaritans

Suicide attempts and self-harm are generally punishable by law. Now, under the changes, people who have harmed themselves must be referred for mental health treatment.

People, who have tried to help others but instead inflicted unintentional harm, will not be held accountable under the new changes.

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