Not a lot of tourists and expatriates coming to the United Arab Emirates are aware of the fact that it is illegal for unmarried couples to live together in the conservative Islamic country.
However, it is also illegal for individuals for failing to report such couples.
A 19-year-old Sri Lankan expat, identified only as B.K., learned this the hard way when she was sentenced to jail, and later deportation, after she failed to report her roommate, who was living with an unrelated man, to the police.
Court records show the police raided the expat's apartment last year after being informed about the "Asian couple in their twenties." The officers also found "several bottles of alcohol" in the apartment.
It is illegal to consume or even carry alcohol in Sharjah.
The police then learnt B.K. used to live in the same space and that she was aware the couple living with her was not married.
The couple was sentenced to a year in jail and slapped with deportation. They were found guilty of "khulwa," which, as per the U.A.E. penal law, is used to describe the situation when a person is present in the company of a member of the opposite sex, who is unrelated by blood or marriage. It falls under the category of "Crimes that affect religious beliefs and practices." It doesn't matter if the act is committed in private or public.
For example, a man and woman got into trouble in 2015, because they were caught kissing each other in a Dubai mall. More recently, a woman was sentenced to jail because an unrelated man visited her in a hotel room. Sex outside of marriage can result in harsher punishment.
In a recent hearing, B.K. reportedly admitted to failing to report the couple to the authorities.
"She said she was not aware that living in was considered a crime as she was new to the country. She appealed to the court to show mercy on her as she 'had no intention' to commit a crime," Khaleej Times reported.
The Sharjah criminal court has sentenced her to six months in jail in absentia and deportation.
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