The definition of what constitutes “beating” one’s family members is now a bit clearer in the United Arab Emirates. According to the country’s Supreme Court, a man has the right to discipline his wife and kids—as long as he does not leave his mark.
The judgment was made in the case of an unnamed man from Sharjah, the third-largest emirate of the U.A.E. He had beaten his daughter and slapped his wife, leaving bruises and minor injuries. (One U.A.E. expert on sharia says a husband can resort to violence as a form of punishment for an action that threatens the unity of his family, only if other options—like admonishments or abstaining from sex with his wife—do not achieve the desired result.) The highest court in the U.A.E. upheld the man’s right to discipline his family, but it decided his use of force was too severe and put him in breach of the law. Also, in the case of his 23-year-old daughter, the court declared that she was too old for such a punishment. “Although the [law] permits the husband to use his right [to discipline],” the ruling said, “he has to abide by the limits of this right.” In other words, the man could beat his wife and daughter—as long as he did so softly and within the legal age limit.