The constitution of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) officially recognizes different rights and freedoms which its citizens and foreigners are entitled to. In contrast to its neighbors, it is believed to be one of the most liberal nations in the region.
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In this century, the country has transformed from a traditional, homogenous society to a contemporary, multicultural one. Concurrently, various laws have been enacted to reflect this transformation.
However, despite its remarkable development, human rights progress in the country is still experiencing problems.
Even though the country’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech and the press, the government restricts these rights.
The government licenses all publications regulates press content reviews all imported printed materials, and the local media practices self-censorship to desist from criticizing the government. Freedom of association is also strictly controlled by the government.
The Emirates Human Rights Association is the only human rights group in the country, and its followers face constant harassment, including criminal charges. Government policy provides for freedom of religion in the country about the established customs.
Islam is officially recognized as the state religion. Although there have been no major discriminatory practices based on religious belief, some reports concerning forced conversions to Islam and blockage of anti-Islam websites have occurred.
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Under the country’s constitution, both men and women enjoy equal rights. The law allows women to have the same legal status, equal access to employment opportunities and will enable them to inherit property as their male counterparts.
The majority of the country’s population (about eighty percent) is composed of foreign workers. They also account for about ninety percent of the country’s private-sector workforce.
Immigration sponsorship regulations provide companies with too much authority concerning the obligations of foreign employees. Regulations that have been enacted as well as those that are about to be adopted fail to recognize the rights of workers.
Employees are not allowed to organize themselves and complain as a group, striking employees are liable for punishment, rights of domestic workers are not recognized, and there is no provision for a minimum wage.
There are reports that some employers confiscate their employees’ legal documents to prevent them from changing jobs. Although the UAE has different types of labor laws, they mostly favor employers and rarely recognize the rights of the workers.
The country is contravening some fundamental human rights practices, for example, it lacks democratically elected institutions, and citizens are not allowed to change their government or hold political views contrary to that of the government of the day.
The people who have violated these have been abused in prisons and denied the opportunity for a fair trial. The country is not a signatory to the majority of international human rights and labor rights accords.
Some of these are the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Because the economy of the country is largely based on tourism and trade, human trafficking and prostitution, although against the law, are industries that are thriving in the country.
Even though the government has been trying to curb this problem, well-organized prostitution and human trafficking network are still present in the country.
Recently, the UAE government has stepped up efforts of enhancing the protection of human rights in the country.
These efforts include, but not limited to, updating the country’s laws and systems, providing a framework that preserves the dignity and rights of workers, confronting human trafficking by embracing the best international practices and increasing the empowerment of women in the society.
The U.A.E government has also signed bilateral agreements with nations where most expatriates come from, such as the U.S.
Consequently, the country has enjoyed friendly relations with the U.S. that include, but not limited to, private commercial ties, particularly in petroleum, security cooperation, and formal diplomatic relations.