Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

United Arab Emirates: Extent of honour crimes; state protection and services available for victims of domestic violence

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 9 February 2010
Citation / Document Symbol ARE103392.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, United Arab Emirates: Extent of honour crimes; state protection and services available for victims of domestic violence, 9 February 2010, ARE103392.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Honour crimes

The United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 indicates that there were no official reports of honour crimes in 2008, but that there were rumours within the Muslim expatriate population that honour crimes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) occurred (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5).

Two UAE media sources, Gulf News and Emirates Business, report cases where women were beaten or murdered by family members (Gulf News 19 Feb. 2008; ibid. 14 June 2007; ibid. 17 Oct. 2006; Emirates Business 1 Feb. 2010). In 2006, Gulf News reported on a case in which a 50-year-old UAE man stabbed his third wife, a 28-year-old Egyptian woman, in an attempted honour killing because he suspected that she was having an affair (17 Oct. 2006). In 2007, Gulf News reported on a case where two brothers battered and locked up their 35-year-old sister (14 June 2007). According to the defendants' lawyer, the sister stayed at the house of an unknown man and the brothers acted to defend the family's honour (Gulf News 14 June 2007). In 2008, Gulf News reported on a case where a man, who beat his sister to death because he disapproved of her choice of husband, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment (19 Feb. 2008). In 2010, Emirates Business reported a case where a Pakistani resident of Dubai beat his wife to death for disobeying him (3 Feb. 2010). Corroborating information about each of these incidents could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Amnesty International (AI) reported on a case in which a UAE woman who married a man abroad without her family's permission was detained when she returned to the UAE in November 2007 (2009). According to AI, she was detained for eight months, was mistreated in prison, and was threatened with prosecution for adultery, which can be punished with the death penalty (2009). She was later released and left the UAE (AI 2009).

According to Gulf News, the Federal Supreme Court reduced the sentence of a man who killed his wife's uncle to three years' imprisonment and a fine (1 May 2006). According to the article, the uncle had had an affair with the man's wife and he killed the uncle to "uphold his honour" (Gulf News 1 May 2006). He was originally sentenced to death (ibid.).

Domestic violence

Sources indicate that domestic violence is a "pervasive problem" in the UAE (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; SIGI n.d.; Freedom House 2009). According to Country Reports 2008, the penal code allows men to use violence against female and minor family members, at the men's discretion (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). A report by the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), a study led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), similarly notes that UAE laws which protect against violence and verbal abuse do not apply in the home (n.d.). However, Country Reports 2008 notes that some incidents of domestic violence can be prosecuted as "assault without intent to kill," which is punishable by 10 years' imprisonment if death occurs, 7 years' imprisonment for causing a permanent disability and 1 year imprisonment for causing a temporary disability (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). According to SIGI, spousal rape is not recognized as a crime in the UAE (n.d.). Freedom House reports that rape victims are reluctant to go to the police for fear that they will be charged with adultery, suffer social stigma or be disowned by their families (Freedom House 2009).

Country Reports 2008 indicates that the Dubai police processed 126 cases of spousal abuse and 200 non-physical domestic violence cases in 2007 (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Sources indicate that the police in the UAE sometimes refuse to protect women who are being abused (ibid.; The New York Times 23 Mar. 2008). In a case reported by The New York Times, one victim claimed that the police made her husband sign a pledge not to beat her, but they did not take any action when her husband repeatedly broke his promise, even after he broke into a house where she was seeking refuge and raped her (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2008, rather than provide protection, the police sometimes contacted the alleged abusers in order to have them drive their wives home (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Sources indicate that many women in the UAE do not report their abusers (ibid.; SIGI n.d.).

SIGI notes that a woman's ability to access rights depends, in part, on her status in the UAE; only 20 percent of the population are UAE citizens, while many of the other women are temporary residents with employment contracts, women employed in the informal sector or the wives of temporary foreign workers (n.d.). Freedom House notes that victims of abuse who are not citizens are sometimes reluctant to report rape and assault for fear that they might risk deportation (ibid.).

Support Services

Sources report that in 2007, the government-funded Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) opened a shelter for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; DFWAC n.d.a; Plus News Pakistan 19 Jan. 2010). According to information from their website, the DFWAC offers a 24-hour telephone hotline, family counselling and support groups, male support programs, and emergency and temporary housing for women and children exposed to violence (DFWAC n.d.b). A Pakistani media source reports that the DFWAC has provided shelter for more than 200 people between July 2007 and January 2010 (Plus News Pakistan 19 Jan. 2010) and the hotline received nearly 250 calls in the first half of 2009 (ibid. 22 Dec. 2009). DFWAC's admission policy states that their services are free of charge and "are available to women and children victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking residing in Dubai regardless of race, nationality, class, ethnicity, religion or legal status" (DFWAC n.d.b). In addition, sources indicate that the DFWAC provides community awareness and educational outreach programs (ibid.; Plus News Pakistan 22 Dec. 2009; ibid. 19 Jan. 2010).

The non-governmental organization (NGO) United Hope also provides services to victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of discrimination and exploitation (United Hope n.d.a). According to their website, United Hope provides individual and group counselling (ibid. n.d.b), pro bono legal support (ibid. n.d.c), and confidential shelter services to victims of abuse (ibid. n.d.d). Sources report that Sharla Musabih, an American married to a UAE national and one of United Hope's board members (ibid. n.d.e), opened the first shelter "City of Hope" in Dubai (The New York Times 23 Mar. 2008; US 10 May 2007; Aljazeera 10 Nov. 2007; New Internationalist Nov. 2006). According to two media sources, the shelter was established in 2001; prior to that time Musabih provided shelter to abuse victims in her own home (ibid.; The New York Times 23 Mar. 2008).

Freedom House notes that the Women's Federation provides legal counsel to women who cannot afford a lawyer, but that the organization generally does not address the issue of violence against women (2009).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Aljazeera [Doha]. 10 November 2007. Ayman Mohyeldin. "'Hope' for Dubai's Abused Women." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

Amnesty International (AI). 2009. "United Arab Emirates." [Accessed 9 Feb. 2010]

Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC). N.d.a. "Who Are We?" [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "Programs and Services." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

Emirates Business [Dubai]. 1 February 2010. "Wife Beaten to Death for 'Disobedience'." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2010]

Freedom House. 2009. Serra Kirdar. " United Arab Emirates." Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa. <<> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2010]

Gulf News. 19 February 2008. Fuad Ali. "Six-Year Jail Term for Man Who Killed Sister Upheld." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2010]

_____. 14 June 2007. Bassam Za'za'. "Brothers 'Lock Sister Up'." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2010]

_____. 17 October 2006. Bassma Al Jandaly. "Husband Arrested Over Attempted Honour Killing." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2010]

_____. 1 May 2006. Mohammad Shamseddine. "Court Commutes Sentence of Man Involved in 'Honour' Killing." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2010]

New Internationalist [UK]. November 2006. Alasdair Soussi. "Interview with Sharla Musabih as she Builds the City of Hope." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

The New York Times. 23 March 2008. "Advocate for Abused Women in Dubai has Enemies in Emirate." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

Plus New Pakistan. 19 January 2010. "UAE: Campaign on Violence Against Women and Children Tackles Taboos." (Factiva)

_____. 22 December 2009. "Dubai: Help is a Call Away." (Factiva)

Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). N.d. "Gender Equality and Social Institutions in United Arab Emirates." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

United Hope. N.d.a. "Our Beginning." [Accessed 8 Feb. 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "Counseling." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d.c. "Legal Support." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d.d. "Housing." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

_____. N.d.e. "Board Members." [Accessed 8 Feb. 2010]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "United Arab Emirates." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2010]

_____. 10 May 2007. Department of State. "U.S. Woman, United Arab Emirates Partner to Protect Abused Women - Musabih's 'City of Hope' Shelter Also Finds Women Medical, Legal Aid." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to reach representatives of United Hope, and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: The Advocates for Human Rights, European Country of Origin Information Network (, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) RefWorld, UN Secretary-General's Database on Violence Against Women.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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