Women in the United Arab Emirates

Women in the United Arab Emirates

What is being done

Women in the United Arab Emirates are second-class citizens compared to their male counterparts. However, some states are more progressive than others are. For example, Dubai boasts a generation of women that are educated and career driven according to BBC. This does not stop the pre-installed misconceptions that women face on a daily. Equality is still very much vacant in much of the UAE. Nonetheless, the tide of change has come in the form of empowerment; Empowerment through change.

Setbacks in Gender Equality


A man in a marriage remains the main controller of the family. Married women in the UAE cannot make their own choices when it comes to their marriage. This makes them dependent on the permission of a male guardian. If the male decides he objectifies to the marriage, than the women can ask a judge to act as her guardian. Men, however, can marry up to four wives with each wife required by law to obey.

Married women can work but if work is taken without the permission of her husband, than it can be deemed disobedient according to Human Rights Watch. A man can leave a divorce without a problem. A woman must apply for a court order divorce, which may be given to her. Khul’ is a form of which a woman can end their marriage by giving up her finacials ties to their dowry.

Domestic violence is not illegal, nor is there any laws targeting it. Sharia law (Based off Islamic law), discriminates a lot against women.

“The UAE has sharia courts but it’s civil and criminal courts also apply elements of sharia, codified into its criminal code and family law, in a way which discriminates against women,” said a spokesman of Human Rights Watch to Telegraph. Under their interpretation it's permissible for a husband to physically chastise his wife and it is a crime for a woman to work without her husband's permission, for example.”

جمیله خرازی
Painting Via (Gulf News)

General laws like Assault can be applied to domestic abuse but UAE law does not implement what police and other government agencies should do when dealing with spousal violence.

A Research done by the Human Rights Watch group found, “three cases in which UK nationals married to Western expatriates said that police discouraged them from reporting domestic violence and failed to properly investigate their complaints. Two subsequently lost cases over which parent the child should live with   in hearings in which the failure to properly investigate their allegations appears to have violated their right to a fair hearing.  Police told one of the women that, “In the UAE husbands are allowed to beat their wives.” In the only case in which the husband was prosecuted and convicted, the wife was also prosecuted and convicted for damaging his door as he assaulted her. The court fined them both the same amount.”


Not everyone shares these backward thoughts. Females are rallying together to fight injustices and better the lives for themselves and future women.

Changing Tides


Free health screenings are being offered in all Majid Al Futtaim shopping malls across the UAE according to The National. These complimentary health tests will last a month thanks to the Fell the Beat regional health awareness campaign. Heath health tests check=ups, blood pressure, blood sugar and Body Mass Index will all be available.

Societe Generale Middle East began a networking and finical literacy club according to The National. This network hopes to empower businesswomen when making finical decisions. In a meeting, together with Dubai Business Women Council, Senior Executives from Societe Generale talked about issues that can improve women in workplaces and the community. Topics discussed ranged from understanding banking, understand broader ideas in Islamic finance, money management and general affairs in the Arabian Gulf.

Women hold “I Love U.A.E” banner Via (Masala!)

“Empowerment through education and knowledge sharing is a key way to have a positive impact on society,” said Richard Soundardjee, the chief executive of Societe Generale Middle East to The National.

The collaboration between the banks and women council hopes to move closer the gender gap in the workplace.

“This collaboration builds on DBWC’s strategic partnerships aimed at providing women in Dubai and the UAE with the best resources to achieve their full potential,” said Raja Al Gurg, the president of DBWC, according to 4-Traders.