The UAE is nowadays among the leaders of international community in terms of economic development. However, it should be stressed that the country is ranked low by the leading human rights protection institutions.
Revenues accrued by international oil conglomerates are allotted for a variety of financial initiatives, including improvement of healthcare, educational, and other sectors. Most notably, the country currently discriminates people based on their ethical origin, hence stipulating that those who are eligible for Emirate’s citizenship enjoy wider spectrum of rights and privileges. Although this rule is a dogmatic one, it is particularly reflective in the ways how children and women are treated by the United Arab Emirates society. The objective of this paper is to analyze human rights problems that are currently encountered by women and children due to the methods, which are currently used by this country in its announced campaign to eradicate the alleged numerous violations.
Legally, all matrimonial issues of the United Arab Emirates are governed by the Federal Law number 28, also known as “Matters of Personal Status”. The law provides that it is applicable for Muslim population of the United Arab Emirates and can be exceptionally applied by the citizens of other religious affiliation upon personal request. In order to register a matrimony, the wife is expected to undergo medical examination in order to confirm her virginity and good physical health. One of the most problematic issues is validation of marriage, which should be approved and witnessed by two reputable Muslim males in order to become enforceable.
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Most importantly, the law prohibits Muslim woman to get married with non-Muslim men. In order to become an eligible wife or husband, the one with different religious affiliation should embrace the corresponding religion. This practice is considered to be one of the most flagrant violations of the international human rights law. Adultery in the United Arab Emirates is classified as a criminally punishable offense, which constituents a flagrant conflict with international human rights law in general. Moreover, it also violates United Nations’ convention against torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, although the latter has not been ratified by the Emirates.
Woman Trafficking Operations
One of the most common violations of international human rights law is the practice where women from India, Pakistan, and some African countries are invited to work in the United Arab Emirates as domestic servants. However, after arrival, they are virtually converted into slaves who are not paid any money, whose passports are confiscated as a restrictive measure by their employers, and who are constantly subjected to the most severe forms of sexual and labor abuse. Coercion to become prostitutes is another popular practice, which reportedly takes place in the United Arab Emirates.
Sometimes, other countries are used as transit points for the subsequent traffic of women to Oman and other Arabian countries, where they are forcibly coerced to work in the agricultural or sexual sectors of the economy.
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International observation groups indicate that another important issue that should be addressed by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates is treatment of victims of sexual
slavery or forced labor since it is very difficult for enforcement authorities to distinguish between the victims and those, who voluntarily violated the law arriving as an illegal immigrant or working as a prostitute voluntarily. The United Arab Emirates launched a campaign targeting this issue. In particular, the Ministry of Labor has established special shelters for the victims, where they reside before repatriation.
Woman, Labor, and Economics
In order to increase participation of woman in country’s economic and financial processes, General’s Union has been established by the wife of the president. In contrast to the majority of countries governed by the Sharia law, the presence of woman in the labor sector of United Arab Emirates is reported to be significant. In accordance with 2008 report of the United Nations development program, the country occupied 29’s position, hereby suggesting that measures aimed at women empowerment are being successfully implemented. Moreover, in the light of the United Arab Emirates reluctance to sign and ratify international human rights treaties, the country willingly acceded the Millennium Declaration, which inter alia prioritizes promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women in the economy. Overall, the country can be perceived as a leader of the Arab world in terms of gender equality enhancement.
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Nowadays, Arabs constitute 35% of the entire national labor workforce. Nevertheless, the number of Arabs in the top executives list remains insignificant, making only 2% nationwide. However, 20% of all administrative positions are currently occupied by females. Although historically and culturally the most prestigious professions have been dominated by males, nowadays it is not unusual to see a female lawyer, accountant, or public governor. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates is the first country to give the ministerial position to a lady.
In accordance with the recent findings, the progress in terms of increasing women’s participation in the educational sector has become evident. Currently, the literacy level in the country is reported to be 90% among female population, making it one of the local leaders in the entire Arabic world. During the period between 1990 and 2005, a number of female students engaged in higher education has doubled, while figures indicate that more than a half of them seek employment opportunities upon their graduation. Clearly, this achievement enormously contributes to the improvement of international image of the United Arab Emirates, making the country more attractive for investment and international financial cooperation.
Educational process is intensified by the fact that recently United Arab Emirates signed the United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
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Numerous children-related abuses have become a real problem in the United Arab Emirates. The country fell into international disrepute due to the fact that cases of violence and abuse of children are often reported in the country. Despite the fact that the country has established a foundation for woman and child protection, no significant results were reported so far. Statistically, it is assumed that approximately 2 million children are abused annually in this country, while approximately 90% of those children are subjected to some forms of mental or physical violence.
Legally, criminal responsibility is explicitly prescribed for an improper treatment of juniors, including putting them in danger, causing bodily damages, mental damages, and other types of child privacy violation.
Despite the fact that the campaign for promotion and further solidification of children’s right is nowadays actively promoted by Arab Emirates officials, viable results are still far away. The most infamous problem of the country is a practice of camel jockeying. The children are selected as jockeys because of their light weight, and the traumas and disorders they get are hardly curable because falling off a running camel is very dangerous for a child.
Children and Their Rights
The rights of children are regulated by the complex plethora of international conventions and domestic legislation adopted and ratified by the United Arab Emirates. The children enjoy their right to childhood and the respective provisions, including the right to education, parental maintenance and guidance, state protection in case their parents are missing and other typical rights.
In this regard, however, it is important to highlight that while the rights of children are ubiquitously recognized by state officials of the country, the problem of enforcement remains relevant. In particular, it is not explicitly stipulated how the right to childhood should be enforced, and how the concept of childhood should be interpreted by status authorities and courts. Moreover, currently there is no unified authority in the United Arab Emirates that can automatically grant protection to a child, handle complains about the wrong treatment received from his parents, employers, or otherwise. Currently, they should report directly to police departments, while traditionally regard such situations as family matters.
It is recognized by various domestic and international human rights organizations that the citizens of the United Arab Emirates routinely abuse children by using them as child jockeys and for camel racing in this way committing egregious legal violations. These statements have been confirmed by the recent findings of the antislavery international organization, documenting that the problem is indeed pandemic in the country despite the official ban imposed by public authorities in 2002.
Statistically, it is reported that around 27, 000 child camel jockeys have been imported to the country from the countries of Persian Gulf. The practice started about 20 years ago despite the existing legal prohibition is flourishing nowadays. As far as the age of the imported persons is concerned, it should be noted that the youngest child was documented to be two years of age. About 1000 children are imported from other countries to be exploited in sexual and labor industries.
Moreover, it is reported that only 55% of the children who reported to have been abused by the parents or employers receive adequate legal and psychological support. Problems of repatriation result in almost 91% of children perpetrated to their home countries where they have no parents and no means to support themselves. Hereby, this practice of the United Arab Emirates can hypothetically aggravate criminal statistics of Oman and the neighboring countries.
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Regardless of public concerns and official governmental positions that have been expressed, the United Arab Emirates failed to achieve significant results yet. Nongovernmental organizations are reported to have a solid position in the country, being recognized by state officials and community groups as important determinants of the state social and economic development.
Dubai foundation for the protection of women and children is known to be the leading institution in this sphere. The objective for establishment of this organization is the regular provision of support and help for women and children who suffered from unlawful actions.
The General’s Union has been established at the federal and local levels with an aim to coordinate and manage the activities conducted by various nongovernmental organizations, , which prioritize and promote more active participation of women and children in social and economic lives of the community. One of the most fundamental goals of this organization is to combat and prevent human trafficking as well as campaign against sexual slavery and gender discrimination in labor and educational sectors of the economy.