Why decriminalising alcohol and ending unmarried couples ban makes economic sense for the UAE

The UAE has announced it will scrap a ban on unmarried couples and decriminalise alcohol. But the reforms may owe less to morality and more to finance, reports Ashleigh Stewart in Dubai

<p>Beachgoers in Dubai</p>

Beachgoers in Dubai

The headlines may have been about morality, but the reason the United Arab Emirates has decriminalised alcohol and scrapped a ban on unmarried couples living together might be more to do with economics.

At the weekend, the oil-rich Arab nation announced a major overhaul of its Islamic personal laws relating to the protection of women, cohabitation, alcohol, suicide, divorce and wills.

While authorities in the UAE had long turned a blind eye to the behaviour of many expats – who account for almost 90 per cent of the population – the reforms signal a commitment by the country to market itself as a beacon of moderate Islam in the Middle East as it seeks out foreign investment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  

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