Dubai: The United Arab Emirates announced on Saturday a major overhaul of the country's Islamic personal laws, allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, loosening alcohol restrictions and criminalising so-called honour killings.

The broadening of personal freedoms reflects the changing profile of a country that has sought to bill itself as a skyscraper-studded destination for Western tourists, fortune-seekers and businesses despite its legal system based on a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law.

The changes also reflect the efforts of the Emirates' rulers to keep pace with a rapidly changing society at home.

The announcement also follows a historic US-brokered deal to normalise relations between the UAE and Israel, which is expected to bring an influx of Israeli tourists and investment.

Changes include scrapping penalties for alcohol consumption, sales and possession for those 21 and over. The legal reforms were announced on state-run WAM news agency and detailed in state-linked newspaper The National.

Previously, individuals needed a liquor license to purchase, transport or have alcohol in their homes. The new rule would apparently allow Muslims who have been barred from obtaining licenses to drink alcoholic beverages freely.

Another amendment allows for cohabitation of unmarried couples, which has long been a crime in the UAE. Authorities, especially in the more free-wheeling financial hub of Dubai, tend to look the other way when it comes to foreigners, but the threat of punishment still lingered for such behavior.

The government also decided to get rid of laws protecting honour crimes, a widely criticized tribal custom in which a male relative may evade prosecution for assaulting a woman seen as dishonoring a family. The punishment for a crime committed to eradicate a woman's shame," for promiscuity or disobeying religious and cultural strictures, will now be the same for any other kind of assault.

In a country where expatriates outnumber citizens nearly nine to one, the amendments will permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.

The reforms come as the UAE gets ready to host the high-stakes World Expo. The event is planned to bring a flurry of commercial activity and some 25 million visitors to the country, after it was pushed back a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

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Bengaluru, Nov 30: An internal assessment of the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens called 'Sakala' has put Mandya on the top while Bengaluru Urban stood last among the districts in providing services to people within the stipulated time.

Launched in April 2012, there are presently 1025 services related to 98 departments guaranteed under the Sakala scheme which are provided to the applicants within the time limit.

Eight years after the launch of the scheme, the Sakala department carried out the assessment of its performance.

The assessment revealed that 22.92 crore applications were received since the launch of the scheme, out of which 22.85 crore applications were disposed of.

Based on the number of applications received and disposed of, the department came out with the ranking.

Announcing the ranking, Karnataka Minister for Sakala, S Suresh Kumar told reporters on Monday that Mandya, Chikkamagaluru and Chikkaballapura are among the top three districts in providing services under the Sakala scheme within the time limit.

On the other hand, Bengaluru urban, Bidar and Raichur are among the least ranked districts in providing services.

"This assessment provides an opportunity to the respective districts to improve their citizen-oriented services," Kumar, who also holds the primary and secondary education portfolio, said.

The rankings were announced as the state launched the Sakala week during which period, the departments will have to create awareness among masses.

The Minister cited three reasons for the poor performance of Sakala, which are not accepting the applications, rejection of applications and delay in providing the service.

He said people do not know that there are appellants in each department where people can approach and appeal against the rejection and delay in providing services.

Kumar directed the deputy commissioners of the district to conduct a meeting of the Sakala Coordination Committees to analyse the performance of Sakala scheme.