As more and more couples in the GCC are testing the waters before jumping head first into the sea of marriage, XPRESS explores the dangers lurking behind live-in relationships.
You may be doing it to save money, you may be doing it out of love, or blindly and unknowingly… whatever the reason, sharing a roof with an unrelated person of the opposite sex can spell disaster in the GCC.
With a Sharia law that strictly punishes unmarried people living in the same house, and an international population used to living as per the rules in their own countries, the blend of different traditions and cultures often leads to uninformed decisions, some of which end in tears and tribulation.
The Sharia law prohibits two unmarried and unrelated persons from the opposite sex living together.
1. Living Together while Unmarried in Qatar
2. Living Together in Dubai
3. Living Together in Saudi Arabia
4. Punishment for adultery in Qatar
5. Living Together in Kuwait
1. LIVING TOGETHER WHILE UNMARRIED IN QATAR
While many unmarried couples do live together in QATAR, this is technically against the law as it is a Muslim country. Men and women are not permitted to share a home unless they are legally married or are related to each other. This applies to friends, house or flat mates as well and not just couples.
Unless you are being investigated for another crime or your neighbours call the police because of your rowdy house party, it is probably unlikely that the police would arrest you for ‘living in sin’ in Qatar.
If your housing is being provided by your employer, they may not look too favourably upon unwed couples living together since as your sponsors, they are legally responsible for your being here in QATAR. You may want to keep this in mind before inviting your boyfriend to live with you.
Be especially careful about co-habiting, whether in a romantic or roommate capacity, with anyone of the opposite gender if they are separated, but not legally divorced. In the eyes of the law, they are still married and they could be charged with adultery which is a much higher offense in QATAR.
Although we enjoy many freedoms in QATAR, we should not lose sight of the fact that we are living in a Muslim country and we should try to respect their culture and laws.
2. LIVING TOGETHER IN DUBAI
In a live-in relationship, a man and a woman live together under a single roof as couples, without being legally married to each other. Dubai, being a Muslim state, is strict in its moral and ethical code. The laws here are very different from those in western countries, and if you wish to live and work in UAE, you need to be very careful when it comes to your behaviour.
Dubai follows the Sharia Law, which governs the social activities and lives of people. Here, living together or live-in relationship is against law, and hence cannot be practiced by anybody. In other words, you cannot live in with your so called partner, without marriage, and if you want to live together as a couple, you have to get married first. But, if you do not do so, it is considered ‘illegal’ and against the law.
But, on the other hand, there are cases of unmarried couples living together in Dubai, i.e., it is possible, but not permitted, and you may do so at your own risk. Some unmarried couples do live together in Dubai without landing in trouble with the authorities, but, arrests can happen, if the couples get into trouble with the law, usually if they have done something to draw the attention of police.
Usually western couples are often confused about the perspective of Dubai about a live-in relationship. The following laws are applicable in Dubai, although the rules in other emirates of UAE are different.
- In the UAE and Dubai, it is against the Sharia law to live together with someone you are not married to. You can only live together with a member of the opposite sex if you are married to them, or if they are your family member.
- The Dubai police may not verify each apartment complex or hotel, knock on doors and verify marriage certificates, unlike in Sharjah or in Saudi Arabia, but, if someone complains about an illegal activity, or if you are caught by the police for some other issue, then the police may be obliged to investigate.
- In fact, it is illegal to stay in a private room or even in a car, for that matter, with an unrelated member of opposite sex, and this is applicable to Dubai hotel rooms too. This rule is referred to as the ‘Tawajed Clause’.
- Another description is the Al Khilwa Al Muharama Clause, which stipulates that two people of opposite sex who are unmarried and unrelated are not allowed to live together.
- Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code states that anyone convicted of engaging in consensual sex outside of marriage, and if caught under such circumstances, you are likely to be punished with a jail sentence, followed by deportation.
- However, in reality, the police will not make a random check to find out if you are sharing a car with someone of the opposite sex who is unrelated to you. If there is a problem, it is more likely for other reasons, for instance, the police thinks an illegal taxi service is going on, or if involved in an accident or if you happen to break the traffic rule.
- A lot depends on your employer too. If residing in company provided accommodation, a conservative employer or a government employer may not favour a live-in relationship.
- It is also to be noted that obtaining a residence visa is possible for spouse, but, when unmarried couples plan to live together, this is not possible.
- The risk is higher, if your live-in partner is already married to someone else. If their spouse files a complaint with the police about their husband or wife in an illicit relationship, then police investigation is inevitable.
- The UAE law mandates a new tenancy contract in your name to obtain a visa. As per the laws, you are not permitted to live with someone who is not your relative or family. So if you plan to share your home with an unrelated live-in partner, you would need two tenancy contracts.
- If you happen to live in an expat community and keep all to yourself and remain as an expat who respects the fact that this is a Muslim country, and stick to the laws here, without disturbing your neighbours or the members of your community, you can avoid police verifications to a great extent.
- Dubai is a country that operates and practices Sharia Law, and it is therefore obvious that expats residing in Dubai are also bound by the law of the country they are in. It is important to understand that Sharia is also a code of conduct in the country.
3.UNMARRIED COUPLE SHARING HOTEL ROOMS
In Dubai, it is presumed that hotel rooms are shared only by married couples. Hotels do not ask for a marriage certificate, and they usually want to see only a passport. However, even if both passports are shown, the different surnames may not pose a problem, as in the UAE, Arab women continue to keep their own surnames even after marriage.
Most hotels in Dubai, particularly the luxury hotels, do not enforce the “only married couples” rule. So, chances are you won’t have trouble booking a room. At check-in, you may be required to show only your passport. Once you have checked into a hotel, refer to each other as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, rather than referring to your partner as ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘fiance’, as this may help prevent potential problems.
However, as mentioned earlier, if caught in any scandal, or for any misbehaviour at the hotel, police verification will follow, and if discovered you are not married, you may land yourself into legal trouble.
UNMARRIED COUPLE SHARING COMMON ACCOMMODATION
It is illegal to stay with your live-in partner of opposite sex in a private room, if the two of you are not related to each other. This is also the case if caught in a similar situation when driving your car. The Muslim Law clearly stipulates that if you are caught under such circumstances, you are likely to face punishment under article 356 of UAE Penal Code.
When sharing apartments and villas, it is sometimes noticed that groups of people with mixed gender share a common accommodation in Dubai. But again, they are likely to run into trouble not because of shared accommodation, but, for other reasons such as for annoying neighbours, who in-turn would have complained to Police.
On the whole, couples living together in an apartment or villa in Dubai may not run into problems, provided, they do not draw attention to themselves so as to make the police get involved. It is also suggested that you may refer to your partner as your wife/husband when introducing them to non-westerners, as the whole concept of living together is not acceptable in Dubai or UAE or in many non-western cultures. Saying so may however, only save you from any immediate trouble. You are unlikely to get away with that when you land in situations where the authorities seek to verify your relationship.
ROLE OF POLICE IN SUCH ACTIVITIES
This entirely depends on the reason why you had invited Police attention in the first place. As mentioned earlier, the Police personnel in Dubai do not go out to every apartment or hotel room to check if there are unmarried couples living together. A lot of it also depends on your relationship with neighbours, say, somebody having hinted to the police about a couple living together.
Else, they take action when couples are caught flouting rules in public, or when someone from the public complains about illegal activities happening there. Public displays of affection are not well-tolerated in Dubai. Holding hands is fine for married couples, but, kissing or hugging in public, are not acceptable. But, in the case of unmarried couples, even holding hands in public is not permitted, and you might run into trouble if you are stopped by the police in a public place like restaurant, or shopping centre. So, it is important to be aware of your surroundings.
As said, if caught, the next course action would be a thorough investigation, followed by a one year jail term and deportation.
On the whole, stick to the laws as far as possible, stay safe, and live a life of dignity even when in an unknown land far away from your home country. In extreme cases, even if opting to live together, beware of all the consequences and know your limits.
4. LIVING TOGETHER IN SAUDI ARABIA
It’s time for another basic read again that will enlighten you about more and more laws and regulations that are followed in the Islamic countries of the world. Today I’ve picked up a very common issue and something one will observe every day in the western states but rarely in the Islamic ones. Today I’ll be communicating to you regarding the issue of unmarried couples living together and whether it is allowed in the Islamic countries or not. Well frankly it isn’t, but the bigger issue to bring and talk about is whether it’s happening in those states or not!
For most people who visit the Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia have to live a very restricted life even if they are married. They cannot hold hands or kiss in public. Other countries like the United Arabia Emirates have a bit of leniency. However they are still a bit keen to observe whether or whether not married couples are allowed to live on their life in public. Now coming towards the main part, how do unmarried couples live in the Islamic countries? They don’t. One cannot think about being unmarried and sharing rooms or living under a single home. It is FORBIDDEN. And those of who do try to break this law have to compensate for it with prison. Two people who have had sex and are unmarried are stoned to death if found by the authorities. In the United Arab Emirates however there is a bit more leniency towards this since usual most of the people who arrive in the states are tourists. Every hotel does not ask whether they are married or unmarried. And not every single person is concerned with their lives. All what is important is that they do not cross certain limits. Legally living under the same roof in Dubai is not allowed but you can hold hands or hug one another in public, unlike in Saudi Arabia.
My Major thought that needs to deliver to you all is that when visiting certain countries it’s best to make sure that you abide by the laws of the particular state because if caught for doing illegal acts you may be punished. For instance if unmarried and having sex a couple is caught in UAE they may be imprisoned for a year and then they have to be deported from the country. In United Arabia Emirates usually tourists that arrive do not need to give in their proper details that whether they are single or married. They will simply take down their names. However if Muslims a lot of care has to be taken because then they are subjected to the Sharia Law effectively! In such situations is best to make sure that some women who keep on their family surname even after marriage must carry along their marriage certificate for proof. It’s always best to be on the safe side rather then get into trouble. Right?
I don’t have much to guide you on. Living together and being unmarried is a common sight to see in the Western Countries and Regions but here in Islamic countries it a huge matter of pride and dignity. The laws have to be abided to and everything unmarried or married couples do must be in certain limits that others who may be watching do not complain against you!
5. PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY IN QATAR
The punishment for crimes varies according to the diversity and difference of interests that the law wants to protect. If the interest protected by the law is that of an individual, then he has freedom to claim his right or not to claim, and if the interest protected by law relates to the community, the public prosecution will act on behalf of the community in the criminal lawsuit against the perpetrator to punish him, and this right is called “the public right”. The observed and assessed punishment for the crime of adultery is considered among the sanctions that aim at protecting the interests of society as well as the protection of victims. The Criminal Code prescribed severe penalties for this crime that reaches death penalty, in order to maintain the fabric of society and so that the legal marriage would be the right way for engagement of men and women to form a family and to be the nucleus of the community. There is no doubt that the protection of women is of public interests and maintained by the community so that she will not be trafficked.
The Penal Code No. 11 of 2004 deals with the crime of adultery, that anyone who indulges in sex with a female against her will shall be punished by death or life imprisonment, whether under duress or threat or deception, the penalty is death if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of her and her education or one who has authority over her or a servant of her or of the mentioned persons.
As the person shall be punished with imprisonment for life who indulges in sex with a female without force, threat, or deception knowing that she is mad or cranky or she is not sixteen years old yet, and the penalty will be death if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of her and her education or one who has authority over her or a servant of her or of the mentioned persons.
The law did not fail to accept the female’s role imposing her with the same penalty as the main perpetrator of the crime, where the Criminal Code refers that every one shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding seven years, who indulges in this illegal act with a female without force, threat, or deception when she has completed sixteen years of her age, and the female who has accepted the same for her will be punished with the same penalty, and the penalty will be life imprisonment or not more than fifteen years if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of her and her education or one who has authority over her or a servant of her or of the mentioned persons.
The crime of adultery is not limited to the woman only, that’s why the law mentioned a penalty when a male indulges in sexual intercourse with another male, as the Criminal Code indicates that he shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than fifteen years who intercourses with a male against his will whether under duress or threat or deception, the penalty is death if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of him and his education or one who has authority over him or a servant of him or of the mentioned persons.
As the person shall be punished by imprisonment for life who intercourses with a male without coerce, threat, or deception knowing that he is mad or he is not sixteen years old yet, and the penalty will be death if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of him and his education or one who has authority over him or a servant of him or of the mentioned persons.
The law mentioned that everyone shall be punished by imprisonment term not exceeding seven years who intercourses with a male without force, threat, or deception when he has completed sixteen years of his age, and the male who has accepted the same for him will be punished with the same penalty, and the penalty will be life imprisonment or not more than fifteen years if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of him and his education or one who has authority over him or a servant of him or of the mentioned persons.
We note here that the law has provided two models for the crime of adultery, the first model is when the victim is female and the second is when the victim is male, in both models the criminal and offender is male, while comparing the penalty in both of models we find that it would be hard in case when the victim is female, and it is because she is weaker than the man in defending herself, that’s why the penalty reaches to death or life imprisonment in case when it was done against her will, while the imprisonment does not exceed fifteen years if the victim is male and it was done against the will of victim.
The law has stressed the penalty when the male victim or the female victim is not aware, like being insane or young if they are not sixteen years old of age and it is for both sexes, and the penalty reaches to death if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of her and her education or one who has authority over her or a servant of her or of the mentioned persons, This is because the offender become among the persons those are entrusted to the victim.
Every one shall be punished by imprisonment term not exceeding fifteen years, who intercourses with a female without force, threat, or deception when she has completed sixteen years of her age, and she is forbidden to him for temporary or permanent basis while he knows that, and the female who has agreed for the person will be punished with the same penalty, and the penalty will be life imprisonment or not more than fifteen years if the offender is one of the victim’s origins or one who took care of her and her education or one who has authority over her or a servant of her or of the mentioned persons.
And this term will be applied to the accused “offender” if he is Muslim, as it has been mentioned exclusively in Holy Quran and Hadith (it is a long explanation we will prefer to take this in a separate article). The intended forbidden women according to the text of Holy Quran in chapter Al-Nisa are: “ Prohibited to you (For marriage) are: your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters; foster-mothers (who gave you suck), foster-sisters; your wives’ mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful, also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess.
And Allah says in chapter Al-baqara: “and do not marry idolatresses till they convert to Islam.”
6. LIVING TOGETHER IN KUWAIT
The Kuwaitis are friendly people who show tolerance and an open-minded approach to visitors in their country; but their culture and values should always be respected. The culture and laws in Kuwait are designed to ensure that everyone is respectful of each other regardless of their faith and nationality. Visitors and residents alike should avoid types of improper conduct and behaviour which can otherwise lead to fines, imprisonment and deportation.
Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK or elsewhere. Cohabiting, including in hotels is also illegal. If you become pregnant outside of marriage, both you and your partner face the possibility of imprisonment. There are also legal ramifications when registering the birth with the local authorities. Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency. Open displays of affection are generally not tolerated.
Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home, but dancing in public is classed as indecent and provocative.
Sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public, or taking their photos without permission, is strictly frowned upon.
Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation. This includes road rage.
Kuwaiti’s dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values. In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave. Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing.