Make sure you know what is and is NOT acceptable while living in Dubai and the UAE
11 July 2018| Last updated on 31 March 2019
The one thing every single expat in Dubai and the UAE should know is the country's stance on the matters of public decency.
We're all very aware that Dubai and the UAE overall has strict laws in place to ensure all behave respectfully themselves, others around them and the nation in which they now live.
However, while the laws on drug use, having intercourse in public and even drinking alcohol in public are common knowledge, there are some things that can land you in jail that you may not have known.
When it comes to public decency however, the laws are very crystal clear. Here's what the UAE's law says about what is and is not acceptable in Dubai and the UAE...
Article 358 of the UAE Penal Code
Under section two of the UAE's Penal Code, as part of 'Flagrannt Indecent Acts', the law and Article 358 states:
Anyone who breaks the law regarding public decency, shall be sentenced to detention for a minimum term or six months, whoever has flagrantly committed an indecent act.
What can you wear in public in Dubai?
Unbeknown to a small population of expatriates and tourists visiting Dubai, there is actually a dress code in place that should be followed at all times in public.
Dubai's dress code - which some will argue isn't enforced harshly enough - and the UAE's law specifies that in general, clothes should not be sexually provocative, too tight, or too revealing.
You can find the full set of rules for Dubai's dress code here, but here's a short overview for you now:
- Ensure you have everything from your shoulders to knees covered
- Tight clothing or see-through items are forbidden
- The dress code applies in public places like malls, markets, cinemas, on the street, supermarkets, in your car, hotels etc.
- You can wear what you want in your own home
- At pools or beaches, swimsuits should be worn - but you should cover when exiting their facilities
- After the gym, ensure you're fully dressed again
- Underwear should be covered at all times
What are the penalties for public nudity in Dubai?
The penalties for indecent exposure under the UAE's law are governed by Article 358 of the UAE Penal Code, as stated above.
Public nudity in Dubai or any part of the UAE is a complete violation of public conduct, which everyone must respect regardless of who they are, where they are or what circumstance they are in.
Any person who commits a lewd act in violation of public decency - like stripping naked in a public bar - can be punished by a jail term of no less than six months.
Did you know? If a girl or boy below the age of 15 is involved in the act, whether in public or not, the punishment term becomes no less than one year for the person responsible.
Simply put: public nudity in Dubai and the UAE is punishable by a jail sentence.
What does the UAE law say about public displays of affection?
There's a grey area when it comes to Dubai and the UAE's laws regarding acts of affection in public between a couple. If you're not entirely comfortable at all, we advise to refrain from doing any PDAs with your partner in public.
However, it is fine to walk hand in hand or with an arm over a shoulder in the UAE, but what is not allowed is indulging in sexual behaviour.
If your holding hands leads to more, we strongly urge you to take it home and not continue in public - or else risk jail time for breaking the UAE's laws on public decency.
Can married couples hold hands in Dubai?
The law does not distinguish between whether a couple are married or unmarried when it comes to the laws on public decency and displays of affection. As we've said, holding hands is fine, but if that leads to anything more - take it home.
Can you have sex in public in Dubai?
Simply put: NO.
There have been cases of couples being arrested, fined and jailed for having sexual intercourse in a public place in Dubai in the past. While the thought might occur to some couples, the punishments far outweigh the appeal. So, please, just DON'T.
Are public displays of affection okay in Dubai bars and clubs?
There is a huge difference between public and private places when it comes to the UAE's laws on public displays of affections.
While bars and clubs are the environment where PDAs might occur, it is generally assumed to be okay as the behaviour is far from society and others outside the venue. Saying that, it is still a public place and the law will treat it as such if you happen to cause offence to someone.