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United Arab Emirates[1] [print]

Last edited: November 2005


Summary and Analysis


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is constructed as a loose federation of seven emirates, and thus generalizations about the status of children across the nation are difficult.  The UAE acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in January of 1997. It is unclear what force in the law, if any, the CRC carries.


There are no provisions in the law for the opportunity for children to be heard in proceedings affecting them, whether criminal or civil.  Legislation affecting children's rights remains underdeveloped.  More generally, however, some infrastructure does exist to deal with the issue of child abuse.  The United Arab Emirates “Women's Da'waa Administration” recently established a telephone hotline for women and children, which has direct access to the Dubai Police if necessary and is open to requests for assistance from women.


It is generally the case that family law – which is not a part of the federal system – is ruled by Shari'a courts, over which each emirate administers.  The Federal Supreme Court in Dubai has a special Shi'a council to act on matters pertaining to Shi'a family law (for Shiite Muslims as opposed to the majority Sunni Muslims).  From our research, however, it is unclear if child protective proceedings are handled through this system or if such proceedings even exist.  Some proceedings, such as custody decisions, which are handled through this system, are based on the child's age, therefore not leaving much room to take into account the child's wishes.  Women are automatically granted custody of female children until they reach the age of maturity, and are granted temporary custody of male children until they reach the age of 12 (or 13, depending on the source).  If the mother is deemed unfit, custody reverts to the next able female relative on the mother's side.  A woman who remarries may forfeit her right to the custody of children from a previous marriage.[2]  Like other Islamic countries, the UAE has reservations with respect to Article 21 of the CRC, as Islamic law does not allow for adoption. 


Related Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)




Constitution of the United Arab Emirates[3]


Article 1

The family is the basis of society which shall be responsible for protecting childhood and motherhood.  Laws shall be formulated in all fields to observe this protection and care in a way which safeguards the dignity of women, preserves their identity and secures for them the conditions appropriate for a prosperous life and suitable work which is in accordance with their nature and capabilities as mothers and wives and as workers.


Article 15

The family, sustained by religion, morality and patriotism, shall constitute the cornerstone of society.  The law shall guarantee the integrity of the family and shall safeguard and protect it against corruption.


Article 16

Society shall cater for the welfare of mothers and children and shall protect minors and other persons who are unable to care for themselves for reasons such as sickness, infirmity, old age or involuntary unemployment.  It shall assist and rehabilitate such persons for their benefit and for that of society.




Criminal Code


Article 350 of the Criminal Code[4]


Stipulates that anyone who places a child in danger in a public place, either acting directly or through other persons, shall be liable to imprisonment and a fine.  Most of the regulations, however, deal with child labor and child trafficking, which in the UAE is a large problem relating to the use of children as camel jockeys.


Local Contact Information


R Ravi
Legal Consultant
Emirates Advocates & Legal Consultants
Po Box : 9055
Emirates Towers-14th level
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai, UAE
Tel : +971 4 3304343
Fax: +971 4 3303993
Mobile: +971 50 316 99 33
E-mail: ravi@emiratesadvocates.com




[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] United Arab Emirates Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2002, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 31, 2003, http://www.nationbynation.com/Unites%20Arab%20E/Human.html.

[3] Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, available at http://www.uae.gov.ae/moca/dostur/selection.html.

[4]  Eleventh periodic reports of States parties due in 1995: United Arab Emirates, CERD/C/279/Add.1. (State Party Report) (August 05, 1995), available at http://www.arabhumanrights.org/countries/uae/cerd/cerd-c279-add1-95e.pdf, and also as .pdf Document.


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