New UAE (United Arab Emirates) Civil Liberty Reforms. The Answer, Of Course, Is “Money”

New UAE (United Arab Emirates) Civil Liberty Reforms. The Answer, Of Course, Is “Money”

Deep in the recesses of her mind, probably crammed somewhere in between the flawed limb-control center that’s always misplacing her car keys and the part of her brain that for some reason permanently stores the melodies of commercial jingles from the 70s, Calico maintains a list of places she’d love to visit, but for a variety of reasons, also should never visit.

Typically, the reason Calico should never visit these places has something to do with a conflict between Calico’s hobbies/habits and local laws/policies. For example, any place where you might get arrested for displaying terrible fashion sense is labeled as strictly off-limits on Calico’s leave-out-of-the-bucket list.

Every so often, places come off Calico’s list. This rarely happens because of some change on Calico’s part, because she’s simultaneously immune to the maturation process and suffers a severe allergy to self-improvement. More often, places come off Calico’s no-go list due to changes in the place itself.

Calico’s latest place to reconsider is the UAE, a place she knows is filled with lovely people, but who live with governmental policies that are not so lovely, as well as being very much in conflict with Calico’s favorite recreational activities.

What has changed in the UAE? Perhaps more importantly, why has it changed? Is it worse to be killed for a specific reason than an arbitrary one? Does CBD stand for “Central Business District”? According to the title of Calico’s latest post… The Answer, Of Course, Is “Money”

– Calico Rudasill, Erotic Movies

Sey UAE Prince


I’m generally in favor of governments making changes that increase liberty and reduce oppression, regardless of the impetus behind the change. 

Sometimes governments only change their policies and/or laws under when put under immense social pressure to do, so it’s hard to give them much credit for ‘doing the right thing’ or being ‘forward-thinking’ – but assuming the changes are real and lead to an improvement in the quality of life for that government’s citizens, I’m all for progress, whatever may be driving it.

Other times, I hear about changes a government is making and the cynic in me immediately furrows her brow and begins looking for the catch.

OK, So Maybe the Third Box isn’t All That Small

Along these lines, I’ve been reading recently that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of semiautonomous states with the national capital of Abu Dhabi, is in the process of relaxing some of its laws and policies that are aimed at areas near and dear to my heart – like sex, drugs and booze, for example. 

“The country is overhauling laws that affect how it regulates a wide array of business, cultural and social norms,” NPR reports in the article linked above. 

That’s good news, right? Well…

“On paper, it makes the UAE one of the most progressive countries in the region, though critics say the reality remains much more complex.”

Yeah, I had a feeling that the reality might remain much more complex, mostly because reality has an irritating tendency to be nuanced and to resist my attempts to cram it into the neat little boxes in which I try to place all things in life, neat little boxes labeled “Good”, “Bad” and “Bad, But Also Edible.”

The Salient Question: Can I Open a TGIF in UAE?

My first question, knowing one or two facts about UAE (but, honestly, probably no more than one or two facts), is: “Do these changes apply to non-citizens, too?”

The reason I ask this is that in the UAE, only about 11% of residents are citizens, according to the U.S. State Department

Happily, NPR reports, “most of the new laws apply to both Emiratis and foreigners.” 

“They decriminalize consensual premarital sex and allow unmarried couples to live together,” NPR adds. Not so happily, the new laws also “appear to apply only to heterosexual couples; same-sex couples have been subject to punishment.”

And there you have it: As usual, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

So, Can I Drink While They Torture Me Now, or…?

Of course, it’s also true that whatever changes the UAE might be making to its laws and however much it may be relaxing its position on life’s little pleasures enjoyed by its many resident non-citizens and visitors, the UAE has larger, more fundamental issues when it comes to civil liberties.

As observed in the same State Department report linked above, “significant human rights issues” present in the UAE include “torture in detention; arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention, by government agents; political prisoners; government interference with privacy rights; undue restrictions on free expression and the press, including criminalization of libel, censorship, and Internet site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of expression and association; the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections.”

On the bright side, in the year that report pertained to (2020), “there were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.” I’m going to be charitable and assume this means the government’s agents also committed no killings that were arbitrary and unlawful, as well, not just killings that were strictly one or the other.

Hey, no matter how you slice it (and no, that’s not a reference to beheadings – what a terrible inference for you to make!), it’s good news any time government agencies aren’t running around unlawfully and/or arbitrarily killing people.

On the other hand, the report also notes that “public prosecutors may order detainees held as long as 30 days without charge and this can be extended by court order…. Judges may not grant an extension of more than 30 days of detention without charge; however, with charge, they may renew 30-day extensions indefinitely.”

So, while the UAE authorities most likely won’t arbitrarily kill you for no good reason, they might just lock you up without telling you why for 30 days… or maybe 60 days… or perhaps 90 days, or some other multiple of 30 days.

I Know it’s a Hard Sell, but Just Hear Me Out Here: “Abu Disney”

Back to the question underpinning this whole rambling post: Why is the UAE making these changes? 

Does this all represent an inexorable, if somewhat ponderous, march of progress? Have other nations applied pressure on UAE to change its ways? Do other nations still do that sort of thing? Is Abu Dhabi getting ready for the grand opening a sex-and-CBD theme park? 

“This is also widely seen as an attempt by the UAE to burnish its international image as it competes with Saudi Arabia to attract foreign investors and remain a leading international financial hub for the region,” NPR reports. 

Gosh, you mean this whole legal, regulatory and cultural shift in the UAE might be largely about money? Color me shocked.


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