It’s a commonly known fact that public displays of affection are frowned upon in the Muslim community throughout the United Arab Emirates.
Hand holding, kissing, over-amorous hugging are all subject to interpretation and subsequent involvement of the law should the aforementioned affectionate display be deemed inappropriate. When married this may not altogether seem like a show-stopper as marriage is widely known to stunt private displays of affection not to mind public displays of affection. However for singles out there, particularly those coming from more liberal western societies these laws can be very restrictive when attempting to carry out the age-old mating ritual we’ve learned to know and accept as par.
Every Saturday night across Ireland thousands of singletons hit the streets looking for a good night out with their friends, with the assistance of copious amounts of inhibition loosening liquor they may hope to choose a mate and share a taxi home together. Sounds like an ok plan to me, the couple may have kiss and cuddle in the back of cab and after brief words with the taxi driver over having a beer bottle in his cab, the couple exit the taxi and all ends well.
However, a simple scenario like this could have legal implications in Dubai. Firstly it is illegal to be in an intimate environment with a male outside of your husband or family members. (while the back of a taxi may not constitute a romantic surrounding it could be deemed an intimate one after fourteen bottles of Budweiser). Secondly it is illegal to be drunk public and it is also illegal for a taxi driver to carry alcohol in the car. It is illegal to kiss or hold hands, even with one’s spouse, in a public place, a taxi is legally accepted as being a public place. The general rule of ladies having to keep their knees and shoulders covered also stands.
Being married and happily living in the Middle East one just learns to accept these rules that incidentally have little or no effect on the life of a married couple whose most frequent passionate interaction in the back of a taxi involves a heated discussion over how much to pay the babysitter, the husband wanting to pay her enough for the night and the wife eager to her pay enough to ensure she returns.
So midst a similar domestic discussion you can imagine my shock when I pick up the newspaper to read that a couple, Irish man and English woman have been sentenced to two months in behind bars in Dubai after being charged with, “breach of honor with consent” ( sex in the back of a taxi), after a day of binge drinking. Not being a legal eagle but having a marginal understanding of the English language, I wasn’t aware that , “breach” and “consent” could feature in the same short sentence and constitute a criminal act. The couple also faced two other charges of “committing an indecent act in a taxi” and “the consumption of alcohol in a public place” the later which the couple pleaded guilty. The English woman and Irish man stiffly denied accusations of the indecent act. Despite there being no physical evidence to support the accusation, the duo’s appeal to overturn the jail sentence was declined.
Disbelief and anguish coursed through my veins as I read the expose. Was this really happening in Dubai?, just a stone’s throw from my doorstep!. I was under the assumption that all expats in Dubai were either busy doing school runs or visa runs, I never considered the single community Carefree day-long booze binges followed by even the suspicion of sex in a taxi seemed like a million miles away from my own act of “breach of honor with consent” , scoffing down a Big Mac during stage 1 of the Dukan Diet. The scales were the jury that week, but I thoroughly enjoyed the burger.
So what a pity for couple to now have to do the time without enjoying the crime. It has to be a lesson for all the single community in Dubai, that dare to run the risk of prosecution and deportation, if willing to skate on the thin ice of the stringent Muslim social laws, may as well dance!.