Home inContext Sharia Law and Gender Equality in the UAE

Sharia Law and Gender Equality in the UAE

Samara Greenberg

The Federal Supreme Court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ruled that a husband can beat his wife and young children as long as no marks are left. “Although the [law] permits the husband to use his right [to discipline], he has to abide by the limits of this right,” Chief Justice Falah al-Hajeri wrote in a ruling released in a court document Sunday. The limit, according to the court, is physical evidence of a beating.

The judgement was made during a case in which a man slapped and kicked his daughter and slapped his wife. While the wife sustained injuries to her lower lip and teeth, the 23-year-old daughter suffered bruises on her hand and knee. The court ruled against the defendant, saying he crossed the line under Sharia law because his daughter was no longer a minor and his wife had visible injuries.

Emirati women wearing traditional abayas

According to Islamic law, a man has the “right to discipline” his wife and children, which includes beating them after he has exhausted two other options: admonition and then abstaining from sleeping with his wife. “If a wife committed something wrong, a husband can report her to police,” Dr. Ahmed al-Kubaisi, head of Sharia Studies at UAE University and Baghdad University, said. “But sometimes she does not do a serious thing or he does not want to let others know; when it is not good for the family. In this case, hitting is a better option.”


Meanwhile, earlier this month the UAE took the top spot among 14 Arab countries for reducing the gender gap, according to the 2010 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Indeed, while the UAE is less conservative than some Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, where women cannot travel without a male guardian’s permission, Sharia law remains a part of the country’s legal framework.

No matter what Sharia law holds, disgraceful rulings that allow men to beat their wives as long as he doesn’t leave proof must be challenged and dismantled.