United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on October 6, 2004.


Upon ratification, the United Arab Emirates made reservations to articles 2f, 9, 15:2, 16 and 29:1 as described in detail below:

  • Article 2 (f): The United Arab Emirates, being of the opinion that this paragraph violates the rules of inheritance established in accordance with the precepts of the Shariah, makes a reservation thereto and does not consider itself bound by the provisions thereof.
  • Article 9: The United Arab Emirates, considering the acquisition of nationality an internal matter which is governed, and the conditions and controls of which are established, by national legislation makes a reservation to this article and does not consider itself bound by the provisions thereof.
  • Article 15 (2): The United Arab Emirates , considering this paragraph in conflict with the precepts of the Shariah regarding legal capacity, testimony and the right to conclude contracts, makes a reservation to the said paragraph of the said article and does not consider itself bound by the provisions thereof.
  • Article 16: The United Arab Emirates will abide by the provisions of this article insofar as they are not in conflict with the principles of the Shariah. The United Arab Emirates considers that the payment of a dower and of support after divorce is an obligation of the husband, and the husband has the right to divorce, just as the wife has her independent financial security and her full rights to her property and is not required to pay her husband’s or her own expenses out of her own property. The Shariah makes a woman’s right to divorce conditional on a judicial decision, in a case in which she has been harmed.
  • Article 29 (1): The United Arab Emirates appreciates and respects the functions of this article, which provides: “Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the present Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months…the parties are unable…” [any one of those parties] “may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice…” This article, however, violates the general principle that matters are submitted to an arbitration panel by agreement between the parties. In addition, it might provide an opening for certain States to bring other States to trial in defence of their nationals; the case might then be referred to the committee charged with discussing the State reports required by the Convention and a decision might be handed down against the State in question for violating the provisions of the Convention. For these reasons the United Arab Emirates makes a reservation to this article and does not consider itself bound by the provisions thereof.

Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:

The United Arab Emirates has yet to submit their initial periodic report to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”).

Summary of Shadow Reports:

To date, no shadow report has been submitted regarding the application of CEDAW in the United Arab Emirates.

Recent Updates:

In the United Arab Emirates, women’s personal status is governed by Islamic law. Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men and may not leave the country without permission from a male guardian. Although women typically receive child custody in cases of divorce when the children are under seven years old, older children often become the father’s legal charge.

Over the past several decades, women have enjoyed increased access to education, both primary and higher education. Female illiteracy hovers around 20% and approximately 87% of girls are enrolled in primary school. The majority of students enrolled in higher education tend to be women, because men often travel overseas to attend foreign universities while women generally attend national universities. In terms of employment, women comprise approximately 15% of the workforce, and are most prevalent in the fields of education, government and transportation (taxi drivers). Though this number is relatively low, it should be noted that under Islamic law, married women must seek their husband’s permission in order to work outside the home. Women are also seen in the private sector, as they are legally allowed to own businesses.

The government is actively trying to encourage female participation in the workforce, and guarantees public sector employment for all female applicants. However, very few women hold senior government positions, and in November 2004, a female minister was appointed for the first time. The movement to involve women in politics began in 2006 when a woman became the first elected female member of the national parliament. Currently, women occupy 9 seats out of 40 in the parliament.

On April 22, 2009, the Emirates News Agency released an article in which the United Arab Emirates’ Permanent Representative to the UN European Headquarters spoke of the importance of equality, as evidenced by the legal rights provided for in the national constitution as well as the recent accession to CEDAW.

Also on April 22, 2009, the Emirates News Agency reported in an article that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking announced that the United Arab Emirates is committed to combating trafficking, especially among women and children.

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