ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE

ICFUAE | International Campaign For Freedom in the UAE
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Women's rights in the United Arab Emirates

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Women's rights in the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is a country where basic women's and human rights are abused by the authorities. Women are particularly vulnerable due to the strict Sharia laws of the country. The following are all violations of international human rights laws.


Freedom of expression

Women, like men, can be arrested if they speak out against the authorities. Harsh cybercrime laws allow the authorities to censor online content and punish citizens and noncitizens alike for simple comments on social media.

  • Along with her sister and two brothers, Amina Abdouli was arrested for her critical comments about the government and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The siblings were initially held in secret location for six months.


Enforced disappearances

Enforced disappearances are a common way for government critics to be arrested and questioned without public scrutiny. Their families are usually not told of their whereabouts and they are denied access to a lawyer.

  • On 15 February 2015, sisters Dr Alyaziyah, Asma and Mariam Khalifa al-Suwaidi were forcibly disappeared for three months after campaigning against the imprisonment of their brother, a prisoner of conscience.



There have been widespread reports of torture by Emirati prison officials, who use it as a way to force false confessions. Torture of women is not as widely reported, however the case of an Australian woman in 2015 proves its existence.

  • Jodi Magi spent 53 hours in custody for a critical post she published on Facebook. She claims she was shackled at the ankles, strip-searched, forced to sleep on concrete and not given toilet paper or eating utensils.


Citizenship revocation

Authorities have revoked the citizenship of female civil society activists and members of their families. They have targeted those who call for political reforms and wish to see a government in which officials are elected democratically.

  • In 2012 Mohammed Abdulrazzaq al-Siddiq was jailed as part of the "UAE94" for calling for democratic reforms. Four years later, his daughters Asma, Doa'a and son Omar had their citizenships revoked without explanation. This meant losing their health insurance, credit cards, driving licence, and all other documents.


Laws permitting gender inequality

Emirati laws are prejudiced against women who report domestic violence and rape. They make it difficult for women to file for divorce and even to go into employment without consent from their husbands.

  • In November 2016, a British woman who reported being raped in the UAE, was charged with extramarital sex and had her passport confiscated. Her abusers were found not guilty.


Migrant domestic workers

At least 146,000 female migrant domestic workers are currently employed in the UAE, many of whom have claimed to be abused by their employees both physically and financially.

  • Sadiyah A., a domestic worker, told Human Rights Watch: “I didn’t have a day off, I couldn’t sleep until they [the employers] go to bed, and they didn’t give me my salary”.

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