Hefty fine, imprisonment for staring at women, catcalling in UAE

Published: May 1, 2019
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A Dubai police car on patrol in Dubai .PHOTO: REUTERS

A Dubai police car on patrol in Dubai .PHOTO: REUTERS

Any gesture that makes a woman feel violated and uncomfortable – from catcalls to long stares and dropping phone numbers – can get you jailed and fined in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The police on Wednesday reiterated the warning as they announced that off late 19 people were arrested after they were found ‘harassing and eve-teasing’ women on beaches and roads, Khaleej Times reported.

Eve-teasing, a common euphemism, is an act where women face sexual aggression ranging from sexually suggestive remarks, catcalls and, sometimes, outright groping.

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In the UAE, such a harassment also covers staring at women, winking at them, blowing kisses and commenting on her body. Taking photos of women without their consent is also a crime.

Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation, said that all women have the right to feel safe, secure and protected. “And such crimes of harassment are alien to the culture and traditions of the UAE,” he added.

According to Article 359 of the UAE’s penal code, a person shall be sentenced to detention for a maximum period of one year or to a fine not exceeding Dh10,000 – or both – if he molests a woman through words or acts in a public or a frequented place.

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Ahmad Al Sayyed, senior associate of the London-based law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said such an offence – although considered a misdemeanour – can also get a convicted expatriate deported.

Beaches are some of the most common places where harassment takes place.

In fact, a total of 1,725 people were arrested for committing various offences on Dubai beaches in 2018 – 289 of which involved people taking photos of women without their consent; 743 were found disturbing beachgoers; and 256 were nabbed for swimming in their underwear.

The story originally appeared in Khaleej Times

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