H.H. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan – the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) President, recently issued the Decree by Law No. (41) of (2022), concerning the Civil Personal Status Code. The provisions of this Decree shall apply to the non-Muslims in the UAE who are UAE Citizens and to non-Muslim Foreigners residing therein.
The Decree shall come into force from 01 February 2023 though its executive regulations are still awaited.
Some of the salient features of the Decree are highlighted below.
This Decree accords gender equality between men and women vis-à-vis certain rights and duties which are enlisted as follows:
Testimony of men and women is to be given same validation before the court without any discrimination.
- Equality in inheritance between men and women.
- Each of them shall have the right to seek divorce from the Court without any prejudice to their respective rights.
- Men and Women shall have equal rights in the joint custody of their children until the age of 18. Thereafter the child shall have the freedom of choice.
This Decree also regulates the Civil Marriage and set up certain preconditions, such as,
both husband and wife should have attained the age of 21 years;
- the marriage shall not with a brother, son, grandchildren, paternal or maternal uncle or aunt;
- both the spouses must explicitly give their consent to the marriage before the Judge at the competent court and sign the disclosure form. The wife should acknowledge having no existing marital relationship. The husband shall disclose all the relevant details of existing marital relationship, if any.
Chapter 3 of the Decree deals with the divorce and the related procedures. This Decree grants both husband and wife the right for divorce without any justifications or showing the harm or damage or blaming anyone.
Many non-Muslim individuals and investors raise questions about the status of their assets and properties after death and whether the Islamic Shariah law is applicable thereto. Article 11 of the Chapter 5 of the Decree set forth an inheritance order, where the testator shall have the right to make a will for all his/her assets in the UAE to whomever he/she wishes.
In the absence of any will, half of the estate/assets or legacy share goes to the husband, or the wife and the other half shall be equally distributed among the children, irrespective of their gender i.e., whether male or female.
If he/she has no children, the estate share shall devolve equally to the parents of the deceased or half of it to the living parent if the other is dead and the other half to his brothers/sisters in equal proportions.
Further, all inheritance would devolve upon a parent if the other is dead and there is no spouse, child, or brother/sister of the deceased left.
If both the parents are dead and there is no spouse, children left then the estate shall devolve upon his siblings in equal proportions without any gender discrimination i.e., whether brother or sister.
To sum up, issuance of the above Decree is a step in the right direction as it will instill confidence of the non-Muslims in the personal status laws of the land which enunciates gender equality, civil marriage, and divorce provisions, etc. In particular, it is considered as a substantial breakthrough for the non-Muslims vis-à-vis inheritance code as it ensures that their assets shall be either distributed according to their wish or to their near and dear ones if he/she dies intestate. Overall, it will help in providing clarity along with attracting more investment in the region from non-Muslims. Thus, playing a vital role in the region’s economic growth.
If you have any questions about this or any other query related to intellectual property, corporate & commercial, commercial laws and digital assets laws, please get in touch with the author Rajiv Suri directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rajiv Suri is a senior associate in the intellectual property and corporate and commercial team at Alsuwaidi & Company. Rajiv advises clients on strategies involving a wide range of intellectual property and commercial laws including contractual agreements and digital assets. He has been involved in managing corporate portfolios across various industries.