DUBAI // High-profile court cases in which expatriates have been prosecuted for public displays of affection have created uncertainty about what constitutes unacceptable behaviour in the UAE.
But according to KK Sarachandra Bose, a lawyer, there is no excuse for such confusion because the rules are clearly written down.
"The code of conduct published by the Executive Council, Government of Dubai, clearly specifies acceptable behaviour in Dubai," he said in an interview with the Ministry of Interior's 999 Magazine.
“A similar code of conduct is applicable throughout the UAE with slight variations.”
One of the most widely reported cases involved two Britons, Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi, who were jailed for a month after an Emirati woman complained they had kissed in public in Dubai.
The code says displays of affection between couples – whether married or not – in public places does not fit local customs and culture.
“Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offence to public decency,” it adds.
“Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places, is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.”
Mr Bose, a partner at the Dubai-based law firm Dar Al Adalah, said: “The code of behaviour basically reflects the Islamic traditions of the country. Public decency and morality laws throughout the UAE are very strict.
“While dancing with a few friends after a night out may not be considered offensive in several countries, dancing in public is considered indecent here.
“Unmarried couples are not permitted to live together or share a room in the UAE.”
The code of conduct also sets out styles of dress deemed acceptable.
“In public places such as streets, shopping malls and restaurants, shorts and skirts shall be of appropriate length,” it states.
“Clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.
“Swimwear shall not be worn outside the beach, as decent dress is the rule in the rest of the city.
“Nudity is strictly forbidden in every part of the city and is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.”
The code says respect must be shown to the country’s leaders, flag and national emblem, and abuse of any of these is a crime.
Swearing is also illegal. “All kinds of aggressive or offensive gestures are considered a public offence,” the code says.
Mr Bose said foreign embassies and the UAE authorities should provide more information to help expatriates stay out of jail.