UAE legal reform sees tougher penalties for family killings of women

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With Dubai's trademark skyscrapers in the background, Muslim women walk past a minaret

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has toughened penalties for the killing of women by family members as part of an overhaul of the country’s Islamic laws.

The UAE’s government said it would repeal a law that allowed judges to issue lenient sentences for such killings.

They usually involve the murder of women perceived to have brought dishonour upon relatives.

Such crimes will be treated like murder from now on, the UAE’s government said.

Human rights groups say that every year thousands of women across the world are killed because they are deemed to have brought shame on their family.

They cite sex outside marriage, even if only alleged, as one common reason for this type of killing.

Murders such as these are sometimes called “honour killings”, but that description has been criticised by those who argue it is an inappropriate way to describe the deaths.

Imposing stricter sentences for such killings showed the UAE’s “solid commitment to protecting women’s rights”, the official WAM news agency reported.

A spectator on a camel watches participants competing during the Aqua Challenge sports event in Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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The amendment to the Gulf state’s legal code was one of a package of reforms approved by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday, WAM said.

One of the reforms will give foreign residents in the country the right to choose their own laws for inheritance and wills. This, the news agency said, will “achieve financial stability for foreign investors in the country”.

The UAE will also decriminalise “acts that do not harm others”, WAM said, without giving further details.

The reforms, WAM said, will “entrench the principles of tolerance in the society”.

The announcement follows a historic US-brokered deal to normalise diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel.

The deal is expected to drive tourism to the UAE, which has built itself into a military power, as well as a place to do business or go on holiday.

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