UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a decree this week passing Federal Law No. 7 of 2016, which introduces sweeping reforms to the 1987 penal code. Under the new code, offenders face higher fines and tougher punishments.
Here's what you should know:
1. Domestic violence
The previous penal code had a list of harmful acts that would not be considered criminal if committed in "good faith or through the use of a legal right." This included domestic violence that was carried out within the limits of the country's interpretation of Islamic Sharia. Sharia strictly prohibits hitting the face and causing any scars.
Under the new penal code, wives and children can always take domestic abusers to court, Sharia notwithstanding.
2. Fines are ten times harsher
The National reports that the upper limit of fines have increased from 100,000 dirhams to 1 million dirhams for some crimes and have increased from 30,000 dirhams to 300,000 dirhams for misdemeanors (petty crimes).
Companies or agencies can now be fined up to 500,000 dirhams, compared to the previous 50,000 dirhams maximum fine.
3. Convicted expats
Expatriates found guilty of committing felonies can no longer escape deportation. They must be deported after serving their sentences and judges can no longer rule otherwise. The new laws also allow immediate deportation in some crimes, such as murder and prostitution.
Meanwhile, judges still have the authority to keep expats in the country if found guilty of committing misdemeanors.
4. Community service
According to Gulf News, the UAE has become the first Arab country to move towards restorative justice by replacing imprisonment for minor offences with community service.
Minor offences are now punishable by up to three months of community service instead of six months of jail time or a fine. But, courts can resort to a suitable jail sentence if convicts do not comply with the specified community service.
5. Insulting national icons
Jail terms imposed on people who insult the Emirati president were raised from a maximum of five years to 15 to 25 years.
Meanwhile, insulting the UAE, its flag, national logo, leadership or institutions will carry a jail term ranging between 10 and 25 years and a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams.
Khaleej Times reports that the new code charges gamblers with up to two years of jail or a fine of up to 50,000 dirhams. If the crime is committed in public or in a place designed for gambling, the penalty is raised to three years in jail and a fine.
7. Using religion to incite protest
A minimum penalty of 10 years of jail-time falls on people who use religion to promote sedition.
8. Abusive language
According to the new code, using abusing language against a person is a criminal offense punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams.
The penalty becomes more severe if the language is published or directed at a public officer.
9. Abusing pets
Pet owners who mistreat or neglect their pets face a fine of up to 5,000 dirhams.