Any gesture that makes a woman feel violated and uncomfortable – from catcalls to long stares and dropping phone numbers – can get one jailed and fined in the UAE, Dubai Police have said.
According to Khaleej Times, the Dubai Police restated the law as they announced the arrest of 19 people ‘harassing and eve-teasing’ women on beaches and roads.
Eleven were caught in Jumeirah, five in Al Mamzar, two on Al Khawaneej roads and one on Commercial Centre Street, the newspaper reported.
Eve-teasing, a common euphemism, is an act where women face sexual aggression ranging from sexually suggestive remarks, catcalls and, sometimes, outright groping.
In the UAE, such a harassment also covers staring at women, winking at them, blowing kisses and commenting on her body. Taking photos of women without their consent is also a crime.
Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation, said all women have the right to feel safe, secure and protected. And such crimes of harassment are “alien to the culture and traditions of the UAE”, he said.
According to Article 359 of the UAE’s penal code, a person shall be sentenced to detention for a maximum period of one year or to a fine not exceeding Dh10,000 – or both – if he molests a woman through words or acts in a public or a frequented place.
Ahmad Al Sayyed, senior associate of the London-based law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said such an offence – although considered a misdemeanour – can also get a convicted expatriate deported.
“Deportation, in this case, is mandatory because the charge falls under crimes against honour, Chapter 5 of Article 121, which mandates the deportation of non-UAE nationals,” Al Sayyed said.
He also urged all women to report any incident that made her feel harassed and violated.
Beaches are some of the most common places where harassments take place. In fact, a total of 1,725 people were arrested for committing various offences on Dubai beaches in 2018 – 289 of which involved people taking photos of women without their consent; 743 were found disturbing beachgoers; and 256 were nabbed for swimming in their underwear.
Officers in plain clothes and patrols are deployed across the emirate, especially on public beaches like Jumeirah Open Beach, Umm Suqeim Beach, JBR and Al Mamzar Beach Park. Security cameras are also installed in certain areas.
“Our aim is to make beachgoers feel safe and protected,” he said.