x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sharjah police conduct door to door hunt for unwed couples

Man and woman with two children are arrested as officers demand proof of marriage.

SHARJAH // Police are going door-to-door looking for couples living out of wedlock. Officers have already arrested one couple living together in al Qadissiya since the new campaign began on Monday. Police say they will initially target more densely populated residential areas before spreading the net to include the whole emirate. Police are knocking on doors and demanding to see evidence that couples under the same roof are married.

Brig Musa al Naqbi, the head of Sharjah Police CID, said yesterday: "We managed to find one couple, an Arab man and an Asian woman, illegally staying together. The couple also had two children. One was two years old and the other one was four. "This campaign is continuing throughout Sharjah because women and men having children outside wedlock is not allowed in the UAE, as well as being against Islam."

Couples found to be breaking the law will be referred to public prosecutors, and lawyers say they could technically face lashes under the emirate's strict Sharia. Salah Mabrouk, a Dubai based lawyer who regularly handles cases in Sharjah's courts, said: "First of all, we need to know that such cases in this country are not guided by criminal laws but by Sharia law. "In Sharia law the punishment for a fornicator is different to one of an adulterer, a fornicator is lashed 100 lashes while an adulterer is stoned to death."

However, Mr Mabrouk said it was more likely that offenders would face a prison term of less than a year, followed by deportation if they were expatriates. Brig al Naqbi said the couple arrested in al Qadissiya have confessed to cohabiting out of wedlock. One unmarried couple who live together on weekends in Sharjah said they were worried about being caught in the new campaign. "I am afraid to go back to his house, I don't know if the police don't want lovers to meet as well," said the Filipina woman, who works as a sales assistant.

Her partner, an Egyptian Muslim, felt slightly safer because the pair are not together under one roof during the week. "Unless some evil person tips police that she has come, their search would most likely find me alone at home," he said. Under federal law, cohabiting couples face two possible sets of charges depending on their circumstances, according to Jouslin Khairallah, another Dubai-based lawyer whose case load often takes her to Sharjah.

"If you have a flat with a man living in one room and a woman living in another, they would immediately face an unlawful residency charge," she said. However, if it could be proved that the couple were sharing a room, they could be charged under "crimes of honour" legislation that carries a heavier sentence of up to three years in jail. ykakande@thenational.ae