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New Abu Dhabi law allows civil marriage for non-Muslims

The decree from Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan also establishes a court to handle non-Muslim family matters.
AFP via Getty Images

Abu Dhabi’s ruler has issued a decree allowing civil marriage and regulating divorce for non-Muslims in the oil-rich emirate, state news agency WAM reported Sunday. 

The new family law, which was announced by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, will provide “a flexible and advanced judicial mechanism for the determination of personal status disputes for non-Muslims,” according to WAM. 

The law consists of 20 articles covering civil marriage, divorce, joint custody of children, proof of paternity and inheritance among non-Muslim families, the agency reported. 

One provision introduces the concept of shared custody between the parents “to safeguard the family's cohesion after divorce and to preserve the psychological health of the children.” Another provision allows for civil marriage “based on the will of both the husband and wife,” rather than requiring consent from the woman’s guardian. Non-Muslims will no longer need to prove harm was done in the marriage in order to obtain a divorce. The law also addresses inheritance issues and wills for non-Muslims. 

Abu Dhabi will set up a new court for non-Muslim family members, which will hear cases in both Arabic and English to “improve judicial transparency” and accommodate the Gulf state’s large expat population

Describing the decree as the first of its kind in the world, WAM said the move “will enhance the Emirate's position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills.”

Last year, the United Arab Emirates rolled out a series of personal freedoms reforms, including an easing of alcohol restrictions and decriminalization of premarital sex. 

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