Legal experts have reminded members of the public that making lewd comments to the opposite sex is against the law and carries potentially heavy penalties.
Police in Dubai arrested 19 suspects in 2018 for harassing individuals in public spaces.
“Harassing community members is irresponsible and a type of behaviour that is alien to UAE culture and traditions,” said Brig Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, director of criminal investigations at Dubai Police.
Prosecutors warned that even calling a stranger in the street “beautiful” could be deemed inappropriate.
Speaking to The National, one Dubai prosecutor, who did not want to be named, outlined the type of behaviour which could result in charges.
“Doing something of a flirty nature that embarrasses [a woman], or saying something that may carry or suggest sexual content, is an offense punishable by law,” he said.
“Saying "hey beauty" to a woman, sending her a flying kiss, handing her a piece of paper with a phone number on it or staring at her in a restaurant and making her feel uncomfortable can all lead to charges.”
Lawyers said existing criminal law meant anyone found guilty of “breaching a woman’s modesty” could be jailed for up to one year and, or, face a fine of Dh10,000.
However, Ahmad El Sayed, a UAE-based senior associate of London law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, claimed cases of lewd behaviour that actually went to court were rare.
But he warned foreign nationals should be especially wary of harassment laws, as deportation was mandatory for anyone found guilty.
“Deportation is mandatory because the charge falls under crimes against honour,” he said. “Chapter 5 of Article 121 mandates the deportation of non-UAE nationals."
Mohamed Alali, an Abu Dhabi lawyer, agreed that disputes were often resolved without having to go to court, with parties usually agreeing on some level of financial compensation.
“Considering our conservative society, the parties involved always prefer to resolve the issue [outside of court],” he said.
“And in my experience, such cases are decreasing as people become more aware of the law.”