Conditions of Women
Women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have gained access to higher education. Moreover, women were recently encouraged to participate in the formal economy and were given limited access to participate in government decision making. There are no laws preventing women from holding senior government positions, but very few women have done so. On November 1, 2004, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has appointed a woman in a ministerial position for the first time in its history. The late Sheikh Zayed passed a federal decree appointing Sheikhah Lubna Al-Qasimi as minister of economy and trade. The tendency to involve women in the political process was enhanced in 2006 when a woman, Mrs. Amal Al-Qaisi became the first elected female member of the Federal National Council (parliament) and the rulers of the various emirates appointed 8 other women to the FNC as part of their jurisdiction to nominate 20 appointed members. Thus, the current FNC includes 9 women out of its 40 members.
Men and women have the same opportunities for education in the UAE. Adult male illiteracy exceeded female illiteracy 25 percent to 21 percent in 2000. An estimated 86 percent of boys and 87 percent of girls were enrolled in primary education in 2000. Seventy-five percent of the student body at the National University in Al-Ain is female. More women are enrolled in higher education in the UAE partly because men tend to travel oversees to foreign universities. The government provides equal educational opportunities and economic support to men and women; in 2000, 95 percent of high school graduates continued on to a university.
Law of Personal Status
The personal status of women in the UAE is determined by Islamic law. The UAE’s interpretation of Islam prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. Muslim men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women. In 1998, 28 percent of marriages in the UAE were between Muslim men and foreign women. Muslim women are prohibited from leaving the country without permission from a male guardian. In cases of divorce, custody of children seven and younger is granted to the mother, while older children become the father’s legal responsibility.
The UAE has actively promoted the presence of women in the workplace. Women comprised 15 percent of the labor force in 2000. Under Islamic law, married women must receive their husband’s permission to be employed outside the home. To encourage employment, the government guarantees public sector employment for all women who apply. In education and health care, women are the majority of public employees. In 2000, one hundred percent of nursery school teachers, 74 percent of primary school teachers, and 54 percent of secondary school teachers are women. Overall, 39.8 percent of government workers are female. In recent years, the government has encouraged women to become police officers and volunteers in the military. The first female taxi drivers in the gulf region began service in the UAE in 2000. Female citizens are able to fully own private businesses in the country, a fact that facilitated their visible participation in the private sector.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
The UAE has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).