UPDATE – November 7, 2020: There’s been an update regarding the rules for unmarried couples as the UAE announced that it now allows unmarried couples to cohabitate. This is one of the major points for expats as part of the law reforms of the country to strengthen the country’s position as a preferred destination for expats
Below are some posts regarding these new updates:
Cohabitation of unmarried couples law and judiciary procedures are also amended: pic.twitter.com/OVPO0U2IYk
— حسن سجواني 🇦🇪 Hassan Sajwani (@HSajwanization) November 7, 2020
— WAM English (@WAMNEWS_ENG) November 7, 2020
Is it alright for unmarried couples to live together under the same roof in Dubai? This is a common question we get from readers of our page and we’d like to share some insights about this topic. As a city that’s part of a Muslim country, Dubai follows the Sharia law, which prescribes guidelines for proper conduct and behavior. When it comes to relationships and living together, a couple shouldn’t encounter any problems — as long as they are legally married.
But what if a man and a woman live together even if they are not married? Under the Sharia law, this is considered illegal. If they get into trouble or catch the attention of the police, they run the risk of getting arrested, imprisoned, and/or deported.
Disclaimer: Information posted here is based on collective stories and experience of fellow OFWs. Let this post act as a guide to help you become informed and understand the rules and guidelines towards being an educated expat in the UAE. Let’s all be aware and respect the customs of the country. We hope you find the points stated useful.
Rules on Couples Living Together in Dubai
Dubai is an open city and is tolerant in terms of people hanging out together, consuming pork or alcohol, practicing your religion or beliefs, etc. but it is also important that we are aware of certain rules that are being implemented. The Sharia law is practiced all over the UAE. Dubai is not as restrictive as the other emirates, but it still helps to know the following rules on living together as a couple:
- It is illegal to live with a member of the opposite sex if the person is not your spouse or a family member. This is based on the “Al Khilwa Al Muharama Clause.”
- It is illegal to stay in a private room (e.g. hotel room) with a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse or family member. This is based on the “Tajawed Clause.” Thus, do not be surprised if you get asked for your passport or other identification when checking into a hotel.
- In certain states (like Sharjah), it is not unusual for the police to knock on a couple’s door and ask for their marriage certificate. When someone reports that a man and a woman are “living in,” the police may also come and investigate.
- If a person is caught or convicted of engaging in consensual sex outside marriage, he or she could go to jail and be deported. This is based on Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code.
Factors to Consider When Living Together
Aside from knowing the rules, couples should also be aware of the following factors:
Getting in trouble. The Dubai police may conduct random checks to verify if people are married. However, if you get in trouble for other things — getting drunk in public, for example — then they just might check your marital status.
Extramarital affairs. If the person you live with is already married to someone else, your case becomes even more problematic. The legal spouse could file a complaint; hence, the police will definitely come to investigate.
Employers. The employer is also a factor, particularly if you work for the government or a conservative employer. If they discover that you are in a “live-in” relationship, they could report you to the authorities.
Pregnancy. If a woman gets pregnant outside marriage, she and her partner could get imprisoned and deported. This is because doctors may ask for a marriage certificate during medical check-ups.
Displays of affection. For married couples, kissing (on the cheek), hugging, and other public displays of affection are acceptable but to a certain extent. It’s advised that you do this in a respectable manner. The same cannot be said for unmarried couples, however. They could get reported to the police, who will investigate the matter.
These are some points that all Dubai residents should live by. They may not be the same as the laws and practices in your home country, but it is important to follow them just the same — to avoid any serious problems.
For added information, here are some other useful articles posted about this topic: