Saturday, April 30, 2011

Women's rights Dubai style

I've been saving this topic since I saw a story in Wednesday's Khaleej Times about new money borrowing rights for female Emirati citizens and polygamous men. 

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?section=theuae&xfile=data/theuae/2011/april/theuae_april770.xml

Women Emiratis who are married to foreign nationals can now get access to housing loans meaning they are able to buy their own homes, rather than take their chances in the rental sector like the Sand Warlock and I with the world's most moronic landlord (of which more another day, if I'm feeling a bit ranty).
There are certain parts of Dubai in which only Emirati citizens are permitted to buy homes.  And, as I'm sure you're aware, becoming a citizen is impossible.  Marrying a citizen doesn't entitle you to citizenship and as an Emirati woman who marries a foreign national, your children, yes, you read that your right, your children are not entitled to citizenship.  Residency the children are entitled to, but the many financial and social benefits given to citizens are denied. 

The fact that woman are now allowed to obtain home loans even if they are married to a foreign national is a bit of a step forward. 

However, it's a bit of a case of two steps foward and three steps back in terms of the advancement of women here as at the same time, a decree was announced that men who have more than one wife are entitled to more than one home loan in order to provide equal standard of living for their two, three or four wives.

Whatever your views on polygamy, and I'm assured by guide material here that although it's legal, it is rare, on the surface this seems like a good idea because it allows for the several wives not to all be forced into living in the same house.  They can each have their own home and to an extent, their dignity.

However, the law states that a man who has more than one wife is legally obliged to keep each wife to the same standard.  Ie, there's no question of one wife having a nice house with a big four by four to drive while the other gets left in a dingy flat with a moped.  Polygamy has therefore effectively discouraged, in my relatively ill-informed view, as I would imagine even for the well off Emiratis, it's still relatively hard to buy more than one house, more than one car etc.

This new law has therefore made polygamy easier which in my personal view is not a good thing.  I'm not knocking it for those who are content to practise it and believe in it.  My view of it just happens to be that allowing men to marry more than wife at once and making the ability to do so dependent on a) wealth and b) ability to obtain credit, turns women into a commodity. 

Polygamy is a very tricky subject here.  It must go on as the new decree would have been fairly pointless otherwise but I have yet to see it mentioned in the press.  The National, an Abu Dhabi based paper, published a story on polygamy in Oman highlighting the fact that women there, particularly those with careers and independent means of their own, saw it as a midlife crisis when their husbands took second wives and therefore divorced them.  I can't see anyone describing it in such strong terms here but I can't help but think that there must be women in polygamous marriages here who feel that way.

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