Amendments to the UAE Criminal Law Code (2022)

The UAE government issued Federal Decree Law no. 31 of 2021 amending the country’s criminal law code, with major amendments to the prior code, Federal Law no. 3 of 1987. The new law amended three major provisions of the existing Code. First, it expands the scope of the laws of rape and sexual assault by raising the age limit for statutory rape from 14 to 18, in which anyone under the age of 18 is now considered a minor, and introducing a penalty of life imprisonment for rape that may increase to capital punishment if the case matches any of the conditions outlined by the law. Second, the law partially decriminalizes out-of-wedlock sexual relationships, by reducing the penalty from one year to six months if a complaint is filed by a relative or woman’s guardian. Third, the law introduces provisions for out-of-wedlock parenting in which anyone who has a child out-of-wedlock can avoid the default minimum sentence of two years’ imprisonment if they marry, acknowledge parenthood of the child (either jointly or separately), and provide formal issuance of the baby's identification documents.

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