Emirates Leaks

International organization: UAE discriminates against women and does not protect them from violence

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Human Rights Watch attacked the United Arab Emirates and its discrimination against women and not providing protection for them from violence.

In a report, the international organization highlighted the case of Hind Albolooki, who recently fled the UAE after receiving threats from her family members, because she asked for a divorce from her abusive husband.

“I am a mother of four children,” Hind Albolooki says. “No mother would leave her children just like this. But I had to leave my kids. I had no other choice.” Her decision to flee the UAE shows much about lack of protection for women in the country.

Hind asked for asylum in northern Macedonia, but the authorities refused her request. She is now in the immigration detention center, begging not to be deported to the UAE, but, instead, to be allowed to seek asylum elsewhere.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) banned her deportation during the consideration of her case. But it is not clear whether the Macedonian authorities will return her to the UAE or comply with the ECHR decision.

If you believe the rhetoric of the UAE about women’s rights, it may be hard to understand why women like Hind believe that to leave an abusive husband they have no choice but to flee the UAE. In fact, in response on Hind situation, Ahmed Al Mulla, Deputy Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Rome, said: “Domestic violence is a serious crime and has no place in the UAE. Emirati women derive their protection and power from UAE laws.”

However, these words ring hollow. Laws in the UAE discriminate against women in several key ways and fail to provide protection for them from violence. Personal status laws in the UAE deny women the right to make autonomous decisions about their marriage. A woman can only get married if her male guardian signed off on her marriage contract. And once she is married, she is required to “obey” her husband. A woman may be considered disobedient if she works without her husband’s consent. She can lose her right to financial support if she refuses to have sex with her husband without a lawful excuse. If a woman decides to divorce her husband, she has to apply for a court order while men have the right to unilaterally divorce their wives.

The UAE also does not have a specific law on domestic violence. In fact, its laws allow such violence. In 2010, the Federal Supreme Court of the UAE issued a provision allowing husbands to beat their wives and inflict other forms of punishment or coercion on them, on condition of not leaving physical marks. Marital rape is also not a crime.

If the UAE authorities were truly committed to ending violence and discrimination against women in law and practice, women like Hind would no longer feel that their only choice was to flee the country and leave children and loved ones behind.