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United Arab Emirates > Legal Developments > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

What are your legal rights under sexual harassment?

In spite of being illicit for the greater part of a century, inappropriate behaviour or sexual harassment remains today the unavoidable type of violence against women, regularly incorporating different categories of brutality in its ambit.

This obstinate and malignant relies on pervasive behaviour and beliefs embedded in our society supporting maltreatment against women. How does a civilized society condone such behaviour? What can be done to prevent such actions? A lot of theories have been framed to understand the mentality of men who tend to commit such an act. Alike other countries UAE is also facing issues to curb these criminal acts within the country. Nevertheless, UAE has stringent and severe penalties for such criminal and well-framed procedures to seek an adequate remedy which is the main subject matter of this article.

Sexual Harassment in any form of behaviour is unaccepted and unasked for and which tends to humiliate and offend the other person in every way possible. Harassment can be ongoing or can be one such act. It can take any form regardless of the place and the relationship with the person committing it. A behaviour which is freely accepted in a particular society is not considered as harassment. However, if such behaviour is asked to stop as it is no longer acceptable, it must be restricted immediately.

UAE legislators as any other country have strict policies against unwelcoming sexual harassment or hostile behaviour. Sexual harassment at the workplace may include repeated offensive jokes unnecessary comments, unwelcoming touch, intimidation and more. Any offensive behaviour which disturbs the work environment or makes it unhealthy for women to perform her professional duties shall be immediately informed to the police authorities or to a lawyer to take relevant action.

The main aim of this article is to guide women in UAE to be aware of the laws about sexual harassment at the workplace and the procedure to register a complaint about the same. Federal Law Number 3 of 1987, UAE Penal Code criminalizes any indecent or disgraceful behaviour towards women. Article 358 and 359 of the Penal Code punishes by way of imprisonment with a minimum term of 6 months. The law reads as follows:

Article 358: Whosoever publicly or openly commit a disgraceful or indecent act shall be punished by way of detention for a period not less than six months. In addition, any unwelcoming or disgraceful act against a girl below the age of 15 years even if not committed publicly shall be punished with a minimum imprisonment of 1 year.

Article 359: whosoever disgraces women by words or deeds in a public place, or a street shall be punished with imprisonment of a period not more than two years and a maximum fine of AED 10,000. Further, a similar penalty will be imposed on any man who disguises himself in women’s clothing and enters a public place reserved for women. If such man commits a crime in such clothing shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance.”

Furthermore, Article 360 until 370 provides for various categories of sexual harassment at the workplace and the punishment imposed on any man who commits such crimes. Few examples of such behaviour are as follows:

· Anyone who entices passerby on a road or street by way of words or signs to debauchery shall be punished with a minimum term of 6 months;

· Anyone who prompts an act of debauchery by way of song or yelling shall be imprisoned with a term not exceeding six months or fine AED 5,000;

· Imprisonment for a minimum term of 1 year will be imposed on anyone who entices women to do debauchery or prostitution, wherever a punishment not exceeding ten years for those who entice for debauchery by coercion;

· Life imprisonment for those who habitually practice debauchery or prostitution.

Procedure to file a complaint

Any woman harassed in any way shall register a complaint at the nearest police station with the help of a lawyer mentioning the complete details of the act and the details of the harasser along with any evidence (if any). Upon registering the complaint, the public prosecutor will initiate the relevant investigation against the harasser and will draft a criminal report to determine the validity of the complaint and if satisfied will pass on the file to the criminal court for their verdict.

Harassment at the workplace can be avoided or stopped if a woman takes a clear action or inform the employer or other authorities. However, if such person is adamant on his behaviour a prompt legal action is much needed.