Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Dubai authorities have arrested a group of women and sent them behind bars over a widely shared video that shows them posing naked for a photo shoot in broad daylight on a balcony in the city.
According to reports from Dubai Police, on Sunday 4 April 2021, authorities intervened to make the arrest on charges of public debauchery after being informed of a “group of people who appeared in an indecent video”.
Footage of the naked women happened to be captured by a resident in a neighbouring building in Dubai’s upscale Marina region.
In the footage, over a dozen unclothed women can be seen lined up on the skyscraper balcony being filmed by a man.
In a matter of hours, the video had splashed across social media, reaching the public at large.
The incident comes as a shock against the laws of the United Arab Emirates, which are based on Islamic Law, or Sharia, and uphold that nudity and other “lewd behaviour” are an offence.
In fact, such violations of the country’s public decency law carry harsh penalties of up to six-months in prison and 5000 Dirham (approximately $1,820AUD) fine.
This is in line with Article 361 of the country’s Federal Penal Code, which states, “Whoever publicly appeals, sings or engages in lewd speech, and whoever seduces others publicly into debauchery in any manner whatsoever, shall be punished by detention for at most six months and by a fine not exceeding Dh5,000, or by either of these two penalties”.
The sharing of pornographic material is also punishable under the country’s laws, with prison time and substantial fines in place for any such offence.
This is reflected in Article 17 of the United Arab Emirates Cybercrime which outlines that anyone who produces, transmits, publishes and exploits through an electronic site gambling and/or pornographic material or any other material that may prejudice public morals shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not exceeding Dh500,000.
Dubai Police said in a statement the arrested women had been referred to public prosecutors.
“Such unacceptable behaviours… do not reflect the values and ethics of Emirati society,” the police statement said.
Meanwhile, state-linked newspaper, The National, reported the incident seemed to be a “publicity stunt”.
They did not elaborate further on the matter.
How Strict Laws on Decency Regulate Behaviour in the United Arab Emirates
Although somewhat liberal in many ways compared with its Middle Eastern neighbours, the United Arab Emirates maintains strict laws governing expression.
In fact, tamer behaviour – such as kissing in public or drinking alcohol without a licence – has landed citizens in jail, while it is understood the country’s majority state-owned telecom companies block access to the main pornographic websites.
Tight laws also regulate social media usage.
Specifically, it an offence to insult others or even use language where people feel insulted, which has seen many citizens jailed for their comments and videos online.
The country’s laws also forbid anything “defamatory” against the United Arab Emirates.
This can even include the reporting of certain news articles.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates also enforces strict dress codes.
Clothing must be worn that covers the shoulders and knees.
Attire must be modest, especially in the Emirates of Sharjah and Ajman, where Islamic law is stringently enforced.
Every country or state will have their own laws around indecency, and these are usually determined in line with the contemporary standards of decency upheld there.
Generally speaking, obscene exposure refers to behaviour that offends or disrupts those standards of decency at the time.
Depending on where in the world you are, this may include engaging in sexual activity in public, walking around your neighbourhood naked, or even wearing a skimpy outfit where people can see you.
While in Australia, legislation associated with obscene exposure is not as strict as that in the United Arab Emirates, laws and respective penalties still do apply.
Specially, if you are in NSW, it is against the law to for a person to, in or within view from, a public place or school wilfully and obscenely expose themselves.
This is outlined in section 5 of the Summary Offences Act 1988, which advises a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail, or a fine of $1,100, or both, for any such offence.
A person does not have to have witnessed the act for it to be deemed as obscene exposure.
Have a question? Contact our criminal lawyers Parramatta branch today.