The UAE is strengthening its fight against domestic abuse, a prevalent problem in the country — and ultimately in the Arab region, too.

On Monday, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the launch of a family protection policy aimed at tackling domestic violence. He made the announcement while chairing a meeting of the UAE Cabinet, emphasizing that it's a crucial step needed to "safeguard all sections of society."

"Today, we have approved the family protection policy, and measures of security, intervention and prevention of all kinds of family violence," Sheikh Mohammed wrote in a statement on the matter.

"In the UAE, we do not tolerate any kind of harm against children, elderly or vulnerable women," he added. 

The newly passed directive "is expected to help strengthen family ties, increase awareness of domestic abuse and train staff to detect potential dangers and intervene more efficiently," according to The National

It will allow for the creation of a database featuring all local institutions working to help protect victims of domestic violence across the country. This step aims to boost the safety of people at risk of being abused by making it easier for national centers to share information and collaborate. 

Under the plan, the country is set to create a standardized system through which cases of domestic abuse can be reported. 

Domestic violence is often underreported in the UAE

Many cases of domestic violence often go unreported in the country due to social norms and stigmas. However, more women have been taking action against their abusers in recent months. 

Earlier this year, a report published by the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) revealed that 1,027 cases of abuse were reported in 2018 within a single shelter center. 

The figures involved victims of "domestic violence, child abuse, violence against women and human trafficking." 

The number of cases reported by the organization last year saw a drop when compared to 2017 figures, which stood at 1,433 reported cases. 

UAE domestic violence laws at a glance

The UAE has no specific anti-domestic violence law in place but that is all set to change under the newly passed plan. Under it, the government is expected to pass legislation targeting the issue. 

At this point, the country's legal system does protect women against violence but under a series of legislations rather than one domestic protection law. 

According to Hassan Mohsen Elhais, a senior partner at Legal Consultants and Al Rowaad Advocates, some of the country's laws clearly state that physical violence isn't acceptable. 

"No slapping, no beating, no boxing. These are all crimes. If there is any mark for any length of time – even a few minutes – the woman has the right to get a divorce, custody of her children, expenses, compensation, everything. This is something every woman should know," Elhais said

A victim of domestic violence can, therefore, sue an abusive husband or partner but must provide evidence of the abuse to win the case. Victims are also encouraged to immediately file a report with police when an assault occurs.