Navigating the UAE's Anti-Discrimination Law: Key Changes and Implications

  • Market Insight 2024年1月10日 2024年1月10日
  • 中东

  • 劳动、养老金和移民

The UAE has taken a significant step forward in its commitment to fostering tolerance, harmony, and societal cohesion with the introduction of Law No. 34/2023 on combating discrimination, hatred, and extremism (2023 Law).

The 2023 Law, which came into force on 29 October 2023, replaces Law No. 2/2015 and its amendments (2015 Law), addressing and enhancing measures against discrimination, hatred, and extremism. While the core provisions of the law remain largely the same, there have been some key changes under the 2023 Law.


The 2023 Law continues to prohibit any type of discrimination rooted in religion, belief, rite, community, sect, race, colour, ethnic origin, gender or race, collectively referred to as "Protected Classes." Notably, the term "religions" is specifically defined as encompassing the divine religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Consequently, the legal provisions do not extend to discriminatory actions targeting individuals based on any other religious affiliations.

Key Provisions

  1. Broad Application: The law applies broadly, covering discriminatory conduct expressed through various means of expression (speech, writing, drawing, photography, acting) and channels (network information, communication, websites, IT, and any readable, audible, or visual means).
  2. Corporate Accountability: Article 17 continues to hold company representatives, managers, or agents accountable for offenses committed by company personnel, imposing penalties as if the representative committed the offense, where it is proven that the representative was aware of the offence.
  3. Penalties: Article 6 stipulates imprisonment of not less than 1 year and/or fines ranging from AED 500,000 to AED 1,000,000 for acts of discrimination. Similar penalties apply to discriminatory acts committed by public employees in the course of their duties.
  4. Prohibited Actions: The law prohibits various actions, including producing, promoting, or selling materials involving religious contempt, discrimination, or hatred speech. Additionally, forming or participating in groups for such purposes, organising conferences promoting discrimination, and providing financial support for prohibited acts are prohibited.

Key Changes under the 2023 Law

Definition of Extremism Expanded

One notable amendment is the expanded definition of 'Extremism.' Under the new law, extremism is defined as "any act carried out by one or more persons or a group based on ideas, ideologies, values, or principles that affect public order, lead to the defamation of religions, or provoke hate speech." This broader definition provides a more comprehensive framework for identifying and addressing extremist activities.

Measures Against Extremism

The 2023 law introduces measures to address individuals involved in extremist activities. If a person is found to be adopting extremist ideologies, the court, upon the public prosecutor's request, may place them at a counselling centre. The counselling centre is mandated to provide quarterly reports, and additional measures such as travel bans, surveillance, or restrictions on residence may be imposed by the court. Breach of these measures may result in a custodial sentence of up to one year.

Establishment of Lists of Extremists

The Council of Ministers is empowered to establish lists of individuals or organisations deemed as extremists posing a threat to the State. Individuals or organisations listed have the right to file grievances. This measure enhances the government's ability to proactively identify and address potential threats to national security.

Reporting of Offenses

A slight shift is seen in the treatment of individuals reporting offenses. Individuals reporting information about a potential offense, resulting in its detection, prevention, or the arrest of offenders before it occurs, will be absolved from penalties. If the reporting occurs after the offense has been committed, the individual may still be exempt or may receive a reduced sentence, particularly if it leads to the apprehension of remaining offenders. In contrast, the 2015 Law granted exemption for pre-discovery reporting without additional conditions, and exemption might have been granted for post-offense reporting if it led to the detention of other perpetrators.

Such provision encourages proactive reporting, contributing to the prevention and control of extremist activities.

Penalty Adjustments

Several amendments have been made to the penalties for offenses under the 2023 Law. We set out below the position under both the 2015 Law and the 2023 Law to demonstrate how the penalties have been adjusted. 

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