Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

New law guarantees equal death compensation payments for families of men and women

The move is hailed as a step forward for equality by legal experts in the Emirates

A new federal law will ensure equal blood money payments to families of men and women who are unlawfully killed. AFP
A new federal law will ensure equal blood money payments to families of men and women who are unlawfully killed. AFP

A new federal law ensuring the families of both men and women who are unlawfully killed receive the same amount of compensation has been hailed as a significant step forward for equality in the UAE.

A directive issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa ordered that so-called blood money - a financial sum to be paid to families of victims by those responsible for their deaths - be set at Dh200,000, regardless of gender, in criminal courts across the Emirates.

Legal experts said the ambiguous wording of the previous law, which refers only to the deceased and not to a specific sex, had left rulings open to the interpretation of judges.

As a result, it was common practice in many courts for the families of female victims to receive only half of the Dh200,000 given to those related to deceased males.

The law covers compensation awarded in cases where the person has not been intentionally killed, such as road crashes and fatal accidents at work.

“The old law, Federal Law No. 17 on determining a legitimate blood money amount in its first article, used the word “deceased” without any reference to gender,” said Ali Al Hammadi, an Abu Dhabi-based lawyer.

He said that it was a court’s practice to award women victims’ families less that Dh200,000.

Mr Al Hammadi believes the overhauled law is a right step in the right direction, and proof of the country’s commitment to bringing about equality.

“Women are no longer just housewives, mothers, or sisters sitting home and only raising children. They have become partners and equals to men, they are out there working and earning and financially supporting their families,” he said.

Judge Issa Mohammed Sharif, chief justice of Dubai’s Court of Appeal, said that some courts previously interpreted the word “deceased” mentioned in the previous law, to refer only to a male victim and made the decision to award only half of the blood money amount in cases involving the deaths of women.

He said Dubai's Court of Cassation - the highest judicial court in the emirate - had not followed this interpretation of the law.

Lawyer Ali Al Hammadi said the amendment to the law is testament to a woman's right to be considered an equal partner in Emirati society. 
Lawyer Ali Al Hammadi said the amendment to the law is testament to a woman's right to be considered an equal partner in Emirati society. 

“Since Dubai’s Cassation Court did not follow that same interpretation of the word “deceased” and considered it to refer to both men and women, we have always rewarded families of female victims the same amount of blood money as men,” he said.

“But now this new law being clear and precise leaves no room for any interpretations and all courts across the country will implement it,” said the judge.

Emirati lawyer Mohammed bin Suwaidan has also backed the landmark legal move.

“The decision is in place as women also have financial responsibilities just like men, moreover a woman killed by mistake may have children who would be in need for an adequate amount of blood money,” he said.

Blood money - also referred to as diyyah - has long been a source of debate in the UAE.

Back in 2009, the country's top judges called for the payment to be equalised in cases involving both women, putting forward such a recommendation to the Judicial Coordination Council, which oversees the judicial systems at local and federal levels and resolves any disputes or problems between them.

Updated: October 10, 2019 03:14 PM

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