For example, are you aware that in 2012, Dubai introduced a strict cybercrime law to discourage the misuse of social media? Scott Richards unexpectedly found himself on the wrong side of the law in late July after using his Facebook page as a vehicle to promote a charity drive to buy blankets and tarpaulins for refugees in Afghanistan. He was held for 22 days, and subsequently charged for fundraising without permission; a reminder that social media users in the UAE should think carefully before pressing the ‘post’ button and launching their message into cyberspace.
You may be familiar with Dubai’s strict policy against insults, swearing and profanities. Even aggressive or offensive gestures are considered a public offence, and may lead to fines or imprisonment. However, did you know that this policy could even extend to how you comport yourself when using the messenger app WhatsApp? In 2015, a man who was convicted of swearing at a colleague over the app was ordered to be re-trialled after the US $800 fine issued was deemed too lenient a punishment.
With much press attention, one particularly notorious Dubai law is that against public displays of affection, which are considered socially unacceptable and may lead to a warning or a fine, or even jail and/or deportation if considered a severe breach. In 2010, a British man and woman were jailed in Dubai for kissing in public. The Foreign Office reminds travellers that ‘public displays of affection are frowned upon’ (including holding hands) and warns ‘there have been several arrests for kissing in public’.
Dubai law also stipulates that dancing in public is prohibited. According to advice from the Foreign Office, ‘dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs’. However, dancing and loud music in public spaces such as beaches and parks is deemed ‘indecent and provocative’. The Foreign Office also reminds people that all sex outside of marriage is illegal and sharing a hotel room with somebody of the opposite sex is not allowed unless you are either married or closely related. Other laws surround: photographing women, bringing some medicines into the country, committing to cycle paths, queuing and rumours.