By Emmanuel Nduka
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday issued its first civil marriage license to a non-Muslim couple.
A Canadian couple were the first to marry under the new law on the personal status of non-Muslims in the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi.
It would be recalled that the UAE in November 202, announced that non-Muslims would be allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi according to a new decree issued by its ruler.
This comes to ease laws in UAE where personal status laws on marriage and divorce had formerly been based on Islamic sharia principles, as in other Gulf States.
This is done by the UAE to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub.
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, who also doubles as President of the UAE federation of seven emirates, said the law covered civil marriage, divorce, alimony, joint child custody and proof of paternity, and inheritance.
He said it aims to enhance “the position and global competitiveness of the emirate as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills.”
According to state news agency WAM, the move “contributes to the consolidation of Abu Dhabi’s position as a world leading destination for skills and expertise from around the world.”
Civil marriage in the Middle-East, the birthplace of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is uncommon and usually conducted under a religious authority of one of the three monotheistic beliefs.
While some countries in the region allow civil unions based on certain conditions, some others only recognize civil marriages conducted abroad.