Pattie, not her real name, was working as a waitress in an upscale restaurant in Dubai in 2015. Then she fell in love with a Jordanian co-worker and got pregnant. For fear of being jailed and deported, she hid her pregnancy from her friends and employer until she gave birth. Her son was born in a clandestine apartment in another emirate of Sharjah, practically hiding from authorities.
Then the pandemic came, and just like a lot of overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), she was given the pink slip. In order to be repatriated to the Philippines, she had to bring her son with her, report his birth and face the consequence of being jailed and permanently barred from the United Arab Emirates.
Now, Pattie can heave a sigh of relief as the UAE passed a new law decriminalizing consensual relationships which had children born out of wedlock.
This means that if children were born in UAE by couples who are not married, the couple can remain in the country without being deported on condition that both couples acknowledged the child and commit to take care of their children.
OFWs in the UAE hailed the new criminal code, ratified by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently.
“Any couple conceiving a child out of wedlock will be required to marry or singly or jointly acknowledge the child and provide identification papers and travel documents in accordance with the laws of the country of which either is a national, considering the applicable laws of that nation,” the state-owned Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
However, if couples fail to comply with these conditions, they would still be charged criminally and face a two-year imprisonment.
The law will come into effect on January 2, 2022.
The so-called “love crimes” are one of the top crimes committed by Filipinos in the UAE.
Jenny Gonzales, a former expat in Dubai and undersecretary of Commission on Filipinos Overseas, welcomed this new law. She recalled how it broke her heart whenever she saw Filipino children at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Dubai. Most of them had fathers who wouldn’t recognize them.
But she takes this new law with a grain of salt.
“Maybe this is good for not-so-complicated cases like both couples who are single and are legal workers/residents. But how about if either or both are/is married, or worst, illegal?
“So my advice for OFWs is, do not enter into a relationship that you would regret later,” Gonzales told the BusinessMirror.