[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday condemned [press release] a ruling by the UAE Federal Supreme Court affirming a “husband[‘s] right to discipline his wife” as a violation of UAE treaty obligations. The ruling upheld a man’s right to discipline his children and wife as long as he leaves no physical marks. The case involved a man who was fined for beating his wife and adult daughter. The court held that the man’s conviction was appropriate because it exceeded the limits of discipline by leaving physical marks of the abuse on his wife and because only minor children can be disciplined under UAE law. According to HRW, this violates the rights of women and children under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [texts], which have both been ratified by the UAE. HRW researcher Nadya Khalife stated:
This ruling … is evidence that the authorities consider violence against women and children to be completely acceptable. Domestic violence should never be tolerated under any circumstances. These provisions are blatantly demeaning to women and pose serious risks to their well-being. The … ruling lets stand a law that is degrading, discriminatory, and outright dangerous for women and children. The UAE needs to come to grips with reality of domestic violence, repeal all discriminatory provisions sanctioning violence against women and children, enact laws that criminalize such behavior, and provide appropriate services to victims.
Humaid al-Muhairi, a UAE Justice Ministry official, responded by emphasizing that the government does not condone domestic violence [WP report], and, although not a widespread problem in the UAE, it still poses a great concern for government officials.
In the last few decades, the UAE has experienced dramatic changes with the influx of many foreigners whose population has recently superseded the native population, challenging many legal traditions influenced by Islamic law. The changes, consistent with those many countries of the Middle East, have furthered human rights [JURIST report] in the areas of employment, education and political participation, especially concerning women, according to a Freedom House [advocacy website] report released in March. Despite this, the report noted that women in these countries still face many obstacles in achieving equality, and, despite the progress, women in the region still have little recourse for domestic violence and face discrimination in employment, education and politics.