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Domestic violence is a pervasive and deeply concerning issue that transcends national borders, impacting individuals and families worldwide. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is no exception, and it has taken significant steps to address this problem through legal means.
In 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took a significant step towards fostering stronger social bonds and nurturing cohesive families and communities by launching the Family Protection Policy. This comprehensive policy initiative represents a pivotal moment in the UAE’s commitment to addressing family and domestic violence, aiming to protect the rights and well-being of its citizens.
At its core, the policy defines and addresses various forms of domestic violence, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding individuals against physical and psychological harm. This article delves into the key provisions of the Family Protection Policy, its definition of domestic violence, and the six forms of domestic violence it encompasses.
Defining Domestic Violence under Federal Decree Law no. 10/2019
Central to the Family Protection Policy is a precise and comprehensive definition of domestic violence. Under this policy, domestic violence is defined as any abuse, violence, or threat perpetrated by one family member against another family member or any individual that exceeds the perpetrator’s guardianship, jurisdiction, authority, or responsibility. This definition recognizes the nuanced nature of familial relationships and their potential for both physical and psychological harm.
A fundamental aspect of combating domestic violence in the UAE is establishing a clear and comprehensive definition of the term. Under Article 3 of Federal Decree Law no. 10/2019, domestic violence is defined as any action, utterance, abuse, mischief, or threat committed by a family member against another family member. This definition explicitly encompasses situations where the perpetrator exceeds their custody, guardianship, support, power, or responsibility, and such actions may result in physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm or abuse.
Types of Domestic Violence in UAE
The UAE legal framework further delineates the types of actions that constitute domestic violence:
The Family Protection Policy is a multifaceted approach to combating domestic violence, recognizing that such abuse can manifest in various forms. To ensure comprehensive protection, the policy specifically identifies and addresses six distinct forms of domestic violence:
Physical Abuse: This form of domestic violence encompasses any deliberate act resulting in physical harm to a family member or individual within the family unit. It acknowledges that physical violence is a grave violation of one’s bodily integrity and safety.
Verbal Abuse: The policy acknowledges that words can also be wielded as weapons. Verbal abuse includes any form of harmful or demeaning communication that inflicts emotional or psychological distress upon a family member or individual.
Psychological/Mental Abuse: Recognizing the profound impact of psychological and mental abuse, the policy addresses this form of violence. It encompasses actions that cause emotional trauma, anxiety, or mental anguish, emphasizing the importance of mental well-being within families.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse within the family unit is an especially sensitive and distressing form of violence. The Family Protection Policy explicitly condemns any actions that constitute sexual abuse or exploitation, affirming the necessity of safeguarding individuals’ sexual rights and dignity.
Economic/Financial Abuse: Economic or financial abuse is another dimension of domestic violence covered by the policy. This includes actions taken by a family member to exert control over another’s financial resources or deprive them of their economic independence, recognizing the significance of financial autonomy.
Negligence: Neglect within a family setting can lead to serious harm, especially for vulnerable individuals such as children and the elderly. The policy underlines the importance of providing care, support, and protection for all family members, emphasizing the duty of guardianship and responsibility.
The Family Protection Policy underscores that these six forms of domestic violence are not only detrimental to individuals but also pose a threat to the social fabric of the UAE’s communities and families. It reinforces the nation’s commitment to ensuring that every individual, regardless of their role within the family unit, is entitled to live free from fear, violence, and abuse.
Legal Rights of Victims of Domestic Violence
The UAE legal system ensures that victims of domestic violence have specific rights and avenues for seeking protection and justice:
Filing a Complaint: Victims have the right to report incidents of domestic violence to the police. The UAE’s criminal procedure law allows victims to file criminal complaints against their abusers. Law enforcement agencies are then obligated to investigate the matter and take appropriate actions to safeguard the victim’s safety and rights.
Protective Orders: Victims can seek protection orders from the court. These legal documents prohibit the abuser from contacting or approaching the victim. Under Federal Decree Law no. 10/2019, Article 6, the Public Prosecution may issue a protection order automatically or upon the victim’s application, which can include various provisions such as preventing harm, approaching specified locations, or protecting personal property.
Medical Care and Counseling: Victims of domestic violence have the right to access medical care and counseling services. In the UAE, hospitals and clinics offer medical care to victims, and counseling services can be sought from various sources, including the police, the courts, and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). This recognizes the importance of both physical and psychological well-being.
Legal Representation: If a victim decides to pursue legal action against the abuser, they have the right to legal representation. The UAE constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial, including the right to legal counsel. Victims may choose to retain their own lawyer to advocate on their behalf during legal proceedings.
Compensation: Victims of domestic violence have a right to seek compensation for any damages they have suffered as a result of the abuse. This may include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other tangible losses resulting from the violence.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenders
Article 9 (1) of UAE’s Federal Law No.10 of 2019 outlines the penalties for domestic violence offenders. If an individual is convicted of domestic violence, they may face the following consequences:
- A jail sentence of up to six months: Offenders can be imprisoned for a maximum period of six months as part of their punishment.
- A fine of up to Dh5,000: In addition to the jail sentence, offenders may be fined up to Dh5,000.
Second Offense Penalties
For individuals found guilty of a second offense of domestic violence, the law prescribes more severe penalties. Specifically, the penalties for a second offense are twice as stringent as those for a first offense. This increased punishment serves as a deterrent and emphasizes the gravity of repeated acts of domestic violence.
Consequences for Violating Restraining Orders
Restraining orders are a crucial tool in protecting victims of domestic violence. Violating a restraining order is considered a serious offense in the UAE, and those who breach such orders face legal consequences. According to the law:
- Three-month imprisonment: Anyone who violates or breaches a restraining order can be sentenced to a period of three months in jail.
- A fine ranging from Dh1000 to Dh10,000: In addition to imprisonment, violators may be fined, with the amount varying between Dh1000 and Dh10,000.
Enhanced Penalties for Violent Breaches
When a breach of a restraining order involves violence or physical harm, the court has the discretion to impose even more severe penalties. This recognizes the heightened danger and harm caused when a restraining order is violated through violent means.
Procedure for Issuing Restraining Orders
Under UAE law, a prosecutor can initiate the issuance of a restraining order either independently or at the request of the victim. The initial restraining order has a duration of 30 days. This can be extended twice, leading to a cumulative duration of up to 90 days. After this period, should the victim require further protection, they must petition the court for an additional extension, which can last up to six months.
Challenging Restraining Orders
The legal framework allows both the victim and the alleged offender up to seven days to petition against a restraining order after it has been issued. This provision ensures that due process is followed and that individuals have the opportunity to contest the order if they believe it has been unjustly issued.
In conclusion, the United Arab Emirates has taken substantial steps to protect victims of domestic violence and provide them with a comprehensive set of legal rights. These rights include the ability to report abuse to the police, seek protection orders from the court, access medical care and counseling services, obtain legal representation, and claim compensation for damages.
It is imperative that victims of domestic abuse are aware of their rights under the UAE’s legal framework and are encouraged to seek assistance and support when experiencing domestic violence. By upholding these legal protections and ensuring their effective implementation, the UAE continues to make progress in combating domestic violence and promoting the well-being of its citizens.