Understanding Laws, Culture and Public Behavior on Kissing in UAE

The United Arab Emirates is a country with a more conservative culture. In this country, sex outside marriage is considered an illegal activity regardless of age. For instance, an adult who engages in a sexual activity with a minor (those below 18 years old) could be charged of statutory rape even if the minor voluntarily engaged in the sexual activity.

On the other hand, the minor can also be charged of consensual sex. Another act, Public displays of affection (PDA) is also a behavior that disgusts people in UAE as this is against the Islamic culture. This is especially true in Sharjah and during the Holy Ramadan season. Examples of acts considered as public displays of affection include holding hands, kissing specifically between people of the opposite sex, and other romantic behaviors.

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Things Understood as Illegal and Considered Crime in UAE
There are certain acts that are considered illegal in UAE and must be avoided by expats in order to spare them from getting into trouble. These include the following:

  • Public Displays of Affection (PDA). PDA is considered illegal in UAE, not to mention if the couple is not married.
  • Indecent Behavior. This includes kissing someone of the opposite sex, dancing, holding hands and petting in public places, disrespecting other nationalities and emblems, and other behaviors that are against the Islamic culture. For example, being with someone of the opposite sex (whom one is not married or related to) in private; having sex outside marriage; and nudity, especially when done in public is considered illegal.
  • Indecent attire. This could simply mean wearing a shirt with an offensive slogan or wearing clothes not covering the shoulders or legs. This is especially true in Sharjah. Bikinis in beaches are allowed, but being topless is not allowed.
  • Sending indecent photos (such as nude photos) or messages (through text or email)

Punishments for Such Crimes
Engaging in acts considered illegal in UAE are considered crimes and are therefore, punishable depending upon the severity and extent of the crime. Some of the punishments include the following:

  • Kissing in public. Two British nationals were sentenced to prison and subsequently deported after reportedly kissing inside a Dubai restaurant.
  • Having sex outside marriage. This act may result in imprisonment and/or deportation.
  • Nudity. This act is punishable by either imprisonment or deportation.
  • Public Display of Affection. Punishment includes imprisonment of approximately a month or so, or can be deported depending upon the court’s decision on the case.
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