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A member of the UAE quasi-parliament, the Federal National Council (FNC) has called for a federal law stating penalties for flouting a proposed dress code and displaying affection in public in order to “protect the local culture and avoid alienating Emiratis in their own land.”

 

Later, UAE Minister of Culture Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais announced his support for the proposed law.

 

A federal law requires the approval of the cabinet.

 

June 9, 2012

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

The proposal itself does not immediately elevate risk levels. However, it is a negative development on both local political as well as economic levels.

 

The public and political discussion of this locally sensitive subject is transforming an issue that has so far been a social one, into a political issue. Some conservative elements within UAE society are unhappy with the perceived over-Westernisation of local society, brought about by the large expatriate communities. The fact that a FNC member has called for this could spark further debate between the conservative and liberal elements of society. Continued debate about the proposed law, and its implementation, risks politically galvanizing conservative elements of society about perceived liberalization of the UAE. This therefore raises the political risk level.

 

In addition to potentially making this issue a political issue, passing dress code rules will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the attractiveness of the country to expatriate tourists, visitors and investors. Although dress codes already exist in parts of the country, such as Sharjah and Dubai, they have not been strictly enforced. A federal law, however, will likely be accompanied by stricter implementation. If passed, there will also be a negative economic impact, although this will largely depend on the details of the proposal and its implementation.