‘Indecent’ acts of tourists on beaches and in shopping malls – like wearing short skirts and kissing in public - are not considered criminal offences but as violations of law, according to Brigadier Khalil Al Mansouri, Director-General Department of Criminal Investigation, Dubai Police.
Such cases of misbehaviour should be dealt with in a civilised manner by educating violators about UAE laws and customs. Only if tourists continue to violate the law, will the matter can be reported to police, he said.
“The UAE is a developed country which understands different cultures. People of 203 nationalities live in UAE. Tourists are often unaware of the laws and customs of the country,” he said.
He also said Dubai Police has dealt with a few cases of tourists indulging in acts considered impolite and contrary to public morality.
The statements of Brigadier Al Mansouri came in the Rouh Al Qanoon (Spirit of the Law) programme presented by lawyer Issa bin Haider on Noor Dubai Radio. The programme discussed indecent practices of some foreigners in UAE and how to deal with it.
Al Mansouri also said Dubai Police has set up the Department of Tourism Security which has security officers and people fluent in many languages. Their task includes educating tourists about their rights and duties, laws and customs of UAE and what is allowed and forbidden in the country.
Al Mansouri advised citizens and residents to deal with tourists who dress or behave in ways contrary to public morality in a civilised manner by speaking to them calmly. If tourists do not respond positively, citizens or residents can call police operations room on 999.
Complaints can also be made with police officers in malls and officers on foot patrol on beaches.
Al Mansouri said some single men sometimes harass families and tourists on the beach. They can call the police operations room which will send a patrol to catch the offenders. Police will either warn offenders or make an official report, according to the wishes of complainants.
According to Article 120 of the Federal Penal Code, deportation is mandatory for crimes relating to public morality, such as committing an obscene act but only if the act is accompanied by a crime against honour.
The Dubai Court of Cassation has stipulated that for deportation, the sentence against the offender who behaved indecently should include a punishment restricting his freedom. That means if the penalty is a fine, imprisonment will be dropped.
Many expatriates lack knowledge of UAE
A survey conducted by '999 Magazine' – the official English monthly of the Ministry of Interior – reveals that 7 out of 10 expats lack knowledge of UAE local customs and traditions.
The survey, which asked 2,000 UAE expats about their level of cultural awareness, shows that despite the abundance of learning resources and materials available, a whopping 72 per cent of expats know little about their host country.
Only 28 per cent of respondents had any real knowledge of the country’s local customs and traditions.
Similarly, only a third of the respondents set aside enough time to find out about the UAE’s culture, while the rest were comfortable with occasional glimpses.
In fact, 11 per cent confessed they never really bothered trying.
Lt. Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: “The UAE is home to more than 200 different nationalities and has become known across the world for its low crime, modern outlook and the peaceful co-existence of its people.
“A survey conducted by 999, however, reveals a dismaying fact that many expat residents have a very limited knowledge of the customs, traditions, and heritage of the UAE. We hope that the results of the survey will stimulate people to exert greater efforts in this area.”
The 999 survey, which randomly covered Westerners (39 per cent), Asian (42 per cent), Arabs (15 per cent), Africans and others (4 per cent), revealed a large gap in knowledge about the UAE, despite the fact that most of the people surveyed were not new to the country.
Indeed, 77 per cent of those surveyed had lived in the UAE for more than a year, 34 per cent between two and five years, 22 per cent between five and ten years and 21 per cent of them more than ten years.
Just 23 per cent had spent only one year or less.
Of the 2,000 people questioned about how good their individual knowledge of UAE history, customs and culture was, a huge 60 per cent said they only knew the basics. And a brave 12 per cent admitted to knowing next to nothing.
In response to being asked how often do you try to learn about the UAE’s culture, half said “occasionally” and 16 per cent confessed to it being hardly ever.
This lack of cultural awareness exists despite the fact that a large majority (70 per cent) of the respondents admitted there were enough resources available through which expatriates could learn about the UAE.
One other issue of concern however is the source of the information they actually do have.
Most respondents depended on word-of-mouth for getting any knowledge, increasing the risk of miscommunication or incorrect information being passed on, especially as they tended to ask people who only knew only the basics as well (usually other expats).
The survey is published in the February issue of English 999 magazine, a part of the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of the Interior to provide media coverage for the activities and efforts of the ministry and Abu Dhabi Police. It also aims to encourage the public to contribute to the reduction of crime in the UAE.