A couple accused of committing “a lewd act in public” in the U.A.E. tied the knot in hopes of escaping possible jail time.
The story emerged in May when a shopper spotted an Iranian man and South African woman exchanging kisses at a shopping mall in Bur Dubai and informed the police.
Since the Gulf country has strict rules and regulations pertaining to public display of affection, especially when it comes to unmarried couples, the two face prosecuted.
“We did not kiss on the lips, we just pecked cheeks,” the man told the Dubai Appeal Court, where he has entered a not guilty plea, according to Gulf News. The couple has also provided a copy of their marriage certificate to avoid a jail sentence.
Such instances are not rare in the U.A.E. or most of the Gulf countries for that matter.
One of the most high profile cases made headlines in 2010 when two British nationals, Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi, were jailed for a month after a local woman complained they had kissed in a restaurant in Dubai. They were convicted of indecency and illegal drinking and given a one-month jail sentence.
“Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offense to public decency,” according to the code of conduct published by the Government of Dubai. “Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places, is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.”
The U.A.E. is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations. As per a report released in May, a total of 13.2 million tourists traveled to Dubai in 2014 alone, with most of the visitors coming from countries like Brazil, China, Australia, as well as several East European nations.
However, foreigners often face difficulties because they are usually unaware of the unique cultural and legal practices of the country.