Abu Dhabi Adopts Expatriate Secular Law Reforms
11/19/2021 United Arab Emirates (International Christian Concern) – Abu Dhabi recently announced legal reforms to provide a more secular framework to appeal to foreigners, which will take effect in December. The reforms were brought about for the UAE to become more attractive to outsiders, hoping that other emirates will follow suit, and to compete against Saudi Arabia for talent.
The new secular law allows for non-Muslim judges in family court, birth certificates for children of unmarried parents so long as the father acknowledges paternity, equality of men and women as witnesses, and updated alimony and inheritance laws. The law introduces civil marriage, no-fault divorce, and joint child custody. Gender equality is also promoted as two female witnesses used to equal one male witness’ testimony. Many of the updated laws come with some caveats, but the steps towards a secular system allows for greater equality and even religious freedom for non-Muslims residing in the UAE. Foreigners account for some 88% of the nation’s population, largely coming from South Asia, Egypt, and the Philippines.
One shortfall of the Family Law for Non-Muslim Expatriates in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is that it is an optional system. Meaning that if a husband decided to move into the Sharia law courts, the new reforms would not change anything. The law also only applies to expatriates living within its borders and does not provide options for natives to Abu Dhabi.
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