Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 September 2019

Legal Q&As: is it illegal to hold hands in the UAE?

A reader asks if it's illegal for men to have long hair and if anyone has ever been arrested for eating publicly during Ramadan

Is it illegal for men to have long hair in the UAE?

Any personal behaviour is lawful as long as it respects the law, and since there's no legal restriction or provision banning or preventing a man from having long hair, therefore it is absolutely lawful.

Is it actually illegal to hold hands in the UAE, or just rude? And does it matter whether or not you're married?

The society of the UAE is a conservative one and the majority of the inhabitants in the UAE are Muslims and such behaviour is not likeable in general in the Emirati society. However, there is no article in the UAE's laws that forbids hand holding even if the couple are not married, unless the act of hand holding itself developed into a crime such as adultery.

Has anyone ever actually been arrested in the UAE for eating, drinking or smoking in Ramadan in public and under what circumstances this occurred? I have never come across a recorded instance of this happening. So I would not only like to know the law on this but the actual history of its application.

There have been cases where people were either jailed or fined for eating publicly. However, offenders of this law are most often fined, rather than jailed.

The law does not oblige a non-Muslim to fast nor forbids eating during the month of Ramadan. However, it prohibits all citizens and residents from eating in public during fasting time in Ramadan, where article no. 313 of the Penal Code stipulates that:

"Any person who eats food, drinks or takes any other necessities in a public place during the day in Ramadan or forces, incites or assists in such a demonstration, shall be punished by the imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month or a fine not exceeding Dh2,000."

Therefore, some types of individual behaviour such as smoking while driving, drinking or eating in public places during fasting times are deemed to be criminal behaviour by law because it harms the feelings of fasting people and the customs and traditions of the UAE.

Even people who are sick are not legally allowed to eat or drink in public since the law does not exclude any condition.

This also includes all non-Muslim residents who are not allowed to eat during the day in Ramadan in public to avoid being penalised.

If you have a question for our lawyer, please email it to newsdesk@thenational.ae with the subject line “Know the law”.

Updated: June 30, 2018 03:49 PM