Alwaght – The human rights condition in the UAE has constantly been subject to criticism coming from various international rights groups and organizations. The citizens in the United Arab Emirates are granted no rights for voting, electing their government, or joining a political party. The Persian Gulf emirate held parliamentary elections in 2006, the first election since its foundation nearly half a century ago, during which the voters, including a selected few citizens, elected half of the seats of the Federal National Council, a 40-member advisory body that holds no powers to pass bills.
Having an unchallenged hand in meddling in private affairs of the citizens, the Emirati regime considerably restricts freedom of speech, press, demonstration, and political activism. Some organizations regularly publish reports of official corruption and blame the regime for lack of transparency on the case. The UAE is a country where the domestic abuse against the women remains an unsolved problem. The prevalent abuses include that against the foreign and even local servants. There are voices that also blame the police for facilitation of such abuses. The human trafficking is another issue, not to mention the discriminatory measures taken against the foreign women and nationals.
Human trafficking to UAE for sex purposes has been one of the major issues drawing attention in past few years. This trade makes the UAE top on the list among other countries. The law in the wealthy Arab sheikhdom bans all types of the human trafficking, however, the issue remains a serious challenge to the regime. Reports suggest that beside women trafficking, foreign children are also smuggled to the Arab state for sports tournaments, including the camel racing events that result in sexual dysfunction in adulthood.
Women from such countries as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines enthusiastically travel to the UAE for working as private servants, but are surprised by forced labor conditions like low-paid overwork as well as sexual, physical, and verbal abuses. The same plight is suffered by the men from these countries who are hired for construction work in the small Persian Gulf emirate and are sometimes put to serving labor that amounts to slavery.
Many of victims are deprived of the insurance and healthcare services. Many others fail to testify against their abusers. According to some foreign embassies familiar with the abuses in the UAE, the police pressure the workers who seek filing complaints against their employers for rights violations. Many workers are deported to their home countries by police forces before the legal processes against the abusive employers are officially launched.
Anti-women abusive acts are a flagrant issue in the UAE. The country’s disciplinary law allows men to use capital punishment against the women or the junior members of the family if they see that necessary. Some forms of domestic violence include physical attacks, though without intention to kill.
Despite the progress made towards improvement of the women conditions in past decade, the Arab monarchy is still a traditional nation ruled by patriarchal principles. Gender segregation remains a firm tradition inside and outside the family. For example, even in familial parties the women and men are separated. Domestic violence keep presenting itself as serious challenges to the Emirati women who are banned from marrying non-Emirati men, and at best can only marry men from other Persian Gulf Arab states by a court authorization. They cannot transfer their nationality to their children who are result of marriage to non-Emirati men.
Foreign workers work in tough conditions, with their salary low and their legal rights restricted, though under international rights organizations’ pressures and the workers’ protests the regime has taken some steps towards reforms. The Emirati law bans workers from joining unions which do not exist in the country at all. Some professional organizations like the lawyers association are active in the UAE but they need the regime’s permission for their international relations.
The law does not openly outlaw private sector workers’ strike, but it allows the employers to suspend workers if the need arises. The regime can withdraw a worker’s leave and dismiss him for being absent for more than a week without reason. It also has the authority to bar people from working for a period of a year. It, additionally, declines to authorize state workers’ striking, citing national security-related drives behind the ban.
The construction workers, especially the foreigners, are not paid for long time. There is a mandatory system under which all expatriate employees must be sponsored by a local UAE entity for UAE work permit and residency visa purposes. The system is blamed as adding to the plight of the foreign employees by complicating the conditions of their absorption to the job market.
This mandatory system by itself can be abusive and lead to systematic exploitation of the migrant workers. Under this system, the employers ordinarily violate their rights but their only resort is standing the ruthless conditions to avoid deportation.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has a long list of conventions and protocols not ratified by the UAE yet including:
– Freedom of association and protection of the right to organize convention
– Right to organize and collective bargaining convention
– Employment policy convention
– Labor inspection convention
– Weekly rest convention
– Medical examination of young persons convention
– Protection of wages convention
– Social security convention
– Equality of treatment convention
– Hygiene convention
– Employment injury benefits convention
The above-mentioned cases are just part of a litany of conventions the UAE has so far declined to ratify.