For nearly three years, the United Arab Emirates has been desperately trying to differentiate itself from its ultraconservative Islamic neighbors in the Persian Gulf, by coming up with entirely separate ministries for happiness and tolerance, for instance.
However, some of the country's draconian laws pertaining to religious morality are still failing people, especially women, as Human Rights Watch stated in a 2015 report.
For example, a woman in Sharjah was sentenced in absentia for three months in jail.
A man, who wasn't related to the woman, visited her in a hotel room.
The act, as innocuous as it is, can lead to a brush with the law in the UAE. In fact, in Arabic, there's a term, "khulwa," which 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.
The incident occurred on Feb. 1. when the police raided the hotel room and arrested the woman without obtaining a legal warrant. They had reportedly received a tip, the details of which have not been disclosed.
The woman has only been described as a Moroccan national married to an Emirati man and a mother of two.
She was charged with khulwa, aka "beautifying sin," as per the UAE penal law. It falls under the category of "Crimes that affect religious beliefs and practices." It doesn't matter if it's committed in public or not, if found guilty of committing the offense, the person can be slapped with a minimum one year in jail or a hefty fine.
The woman's lawyer argued her client was arrested and humiliated even though she had not done anything wrong. The man was visiting her to "complete the process of selling a car to him."
"The accused, who was married to UAE national, fell in tears and pleaded not guilty, when grilled by the presiding judge at the Sharjah Misdemeanor Court," Khaleej Times reported.
The woman was also made to go through a forensic examination. The results proved she had not committed any acts that could be considered illegal or immoral.
It's not known if the man was also ordered to undergo any medical examination.
She was granted bail after her lawyer requested her client was the mother of two Emirati nationals and her daughter was suffering from a renal failure.
A similarly bizarre incident was reported in January when an unmarried couple in Abu Dhabi was fined and sent to jail for a month, in a reduced sentence, for posting photos of themselves on social media.
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