Legal View

UAE: Wife can file criminal complaint against husband if he uses foul language

Ashish Mehta/Dubai
Filed on September 19, 2021
Representational image - Reuters

Expert gives legal advice on what constitutes marital abuse in the country

Question: What constitutes marital ‘abuse’ in the UAE? I have a friend, whose husband uses foul language against her. He takes care of all her needs. However, in fits of anger, he uses words that are downright degrading. Is there any kind of legal intervention that we can seek here? She does not want a divorce but is mentally exhausted from the kind of language he resorts to. She suggested counselling, but he is not ready for it. What legal remedies do we have here?

Answer: Pursuant to your queries, we assume that your friend and her husband are residents of Dubai. Further, as you allege that your friend’s husband is using foul language against her, the Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 on issuance of the Penal Code (Penal Law of UAE) and the Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 on Personal Status (Personal Status Law of UAE) are applicable.

In the UAE, abusing any individual by foul language in the presence of others is the criminal offence. This is in accordance with Article 374 of the Penal Law of UAE, which states: “Shall be sentenced to detention for a maximum period of six months or to a fine not exceeding five thousand dirhams in case the libel or insult takes place through the telephone or facing the victim in the presence of others.

“The penalty shall be fine not exceeding five thousand dirhams if the libel or insult takes place facing the victim without the presence of a third party or in a letter dispatched to him by any means whatsoever...."

Based on the aforementioned provision of law, if your friend’s husband verbally abuses her before any other individuals, then she has the right to file a criminal complaint. Her complaint needs to be supported by a witness statement, who confirms in writing or verbally before the police officer that your friend was verbally abused by her husband. Based on the complaint, the police may call your friend’s husband to the police station to record his statement and to caution him against verbally abusing your friend.

Further, it is the obligation of the husband not to abuse his wife physically or mentally. This is in accordance with Article 55 (5) of the Personal Status Law of UAE, which states: “Rights of the wife towards her husband:

5) Non-infliction of bodily or moral prejudice to her.”

Based on the aforementioned provision of law, your friend may also approach the Personal Status Court of Dubai and open a case at Family Guidance Section. The said section of the court may counsel and caution her husband to stop verbally abusing her. Further, your friend may request the section to settle the matter amicably between her and her husband.

Your friend may approach a legal counsel in the UAE and the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children for further advice on this matter.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.

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