The United Arab Emirates said on Saturday that a new penal code would come into force in January in a bid to push through the "most radical" reform in the country's history.
According to state news agency WAM, the government intends to change 40 laws this year, which would affect commercial enterprises, trade and residency, among others.
However, it is not yet known which changes would be new and which had already been reported previously.
Also, another change would be the ratification of a Federal Crime and Punishment Act, which would be effective as of January 2, 2022, and would bring major amendments to the old 1994 law.
The law would be designed to provide greater protection for women, domestic staff and public safety to ensure a drug-free society, according to Reuters.
Hasan Elhais, a legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates, told the Khaleej Times that the centers will provide rehabilitation, sports, vocational training and social integration programs, as well as maintaining total confidentiality for all offenders.
The UAE aims to reform its legal system in order to have a greater competitive advantage compared to its Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia, which has recently been more open to foreign investment and talent.
The main changes that have been made known so far are some such as the decriminalization of alcohol consumption and sexual relations before marriage, among others.
On Saturday, a statement was issued on sex before marriage and children born from this situation, stating that parents are not required to be previously married.
"Any couple conceiving a child out of wedlock must marry or recognize the child individually or jointly and provide identification and travel documents in accordance with the laws of the country of which either is a citizen," said the statement picked up by Reuters.
However, if the parents did not want to recognize or care for the child, a criminal case could be initiated with a punishment of two years' imprisonment.
Another recent change by the United Arab Emirates is the introduction of longer-stay visas as a marketing strategy to attract new businesses and talent and encourage them to settle.
Also, the emirate of Abu Dhabi launched a reform of its own this month, a secular family law aimed at expatriates.
Finally, the UAE added new amendments to the anti-narcotics law, which have to do with the optional deportation of expatriates in drug-related cases, according to Article No. 75 of Decree Law No. 30 of 2021, and increased penalties, such as a jail term of three months or two years, depending on recidivism, or a fine of between Dh20,000 to Dh100,000, for repeat offenders.
However, if the offense committed by the offender results in the death of a victim, the offender may face the death penalty or life imprisonment.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered the release of 870 prisoners on Sunday, ahead of the country's 50th National Day, which falls on Dec. 2, according to state news agency WAM.
The prisoners, who have been convicted of various crimes, will also be paid their debts and penalties.