Police in Dubai have arrested at least twelve women for posing nude on a high-rise balcony during the day, citing religious law that forbids public exposure.
The photos of the more than a dozen women were taken as a publicity stunt, and made the rounds on UAE social media this weekend, shocking many.
Now the women, who are not UAE citizens, face potential prison time and monetary fines.
The incident sparked international headlines, prompting debate over Sharia law and whether the punishment for breaking it was just.
Critics ask: why should religion govern what people do with their bodies? Is it fair to arrest someone for not following the edicts of a faith they don't belong to?
Thots and Prayers
Although it is one of the more socially liberal countries in the Middle East, much of the penal code in the United Arab Emirates is based on Sharia law, religious law derived from the Quran, with little exception given to visitors or tourists.
Within hours, Dubai police had arrested the women and their photographer on charges of public debauchery.
In the ultimate ‘photos taken seconds before disaster’, images and video taken from another building shows the nude women lined up on a high-rise balcony in Dubai’s upscale Marina neighborhood, photographed from the side by a male photographer.
Following the arrest of these women for this allegedly lewd act, the police issued a statement that said 'Such unacceptable behaviours... do not reflect the values and ethics of Emirati society.'
Say Dubai to Your Freedoms
Although it is one of the more socially liberal countries in the Middle East, much of the penal code in the United Arab Emirates is still based on religious law derived from the Quran, with little exception given to visitors or tourists.
Everything from public displays of affection to being homosexual can get you arrested in Dubai. Even rude comments made on social media are grounds for detention.
This is also not the first time foreigners have run afoul of the strict Sharia law of the UAE and paid the price for it. In 2019, a British woman, Laleh Shahravesh, was arrested at the Dubai airport for a years-old Facebook post where she called her ex-husband’s new wife a ‘horse.’
While she ultimately was released following a campaign from the group Detained in Dubai, which literally exists ‘to ensure the security of foreign nationals in the Gulf from unjust detention, wrongful prosecution, and all other violations of their human rights.’
Contending With Sharia Law
Sharia law is the code of Islam that many Muslim-majority nations use as their guiding legal principles. Sharia is believed by many Muslims to be divinely ordained and following it a requirement of the faith.
And while some Western-oriented hotels might look the other way, tourists are expected to abide by local law when in public, strict as it may seem.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that women posing nude in broad daylight caused such an uproar in the conservative country.
This is likely not the end of this story. Eleven of the arrested women are Ukrainian, and the Ukrainian consulate is getting in touch with the UAE. The photographer, a Russian man, faces 18 months in prison. With international governments getting involved, the potential is there for this saga to get even messier.
What do you think? Does posing nude in public constitute a jailable offense? Should countries have the right to enforce religious laws on foreigners?