The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has on Monday issued its first civil marriage licence to a non-Muslim couple.
UAE in November 2021 had announced that non-muslims would be allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi according to a new decree issued by its ruler.
The latest step is coming in the United Arab Emirates where personal status laws on marriage and divorce had formerly been based on Islamic sharia principles, as in other Gulf states.
This is done by the UAE to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub.
The decree from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who is also president of the UAE federation of seven emirates, said the law covered civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance.
It aims to “enhance the position and global competitiveness of the emirate as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills.”
However, a Canadian couple were the first to marry under the new law on the personal status of non-Muslims in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.
According to state news agency WAM, the move “contributes to the consolidation of Abu Dhabi’s position as a world leading destination for skills and expertise from around the world.”
Civil marriage in the Middle-East, the birthplace of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is uncommon and usually conducted under a religious authority of one of the three monotheistic beliefs.
While some countries in the region allow civil unions based on certain conditions, some only recognise civil marriages conducted abroad and others not at all.