The United Arab Emirates, a Gulf powerhouse home to millions of foreign residents, has revamped an array of laws in a social liberalization drive designed to burnish its progressive brand. The oil-rich Emirates has pushed hard in recent years to boost its soft power, hosting global sports events, launching a successful homegrown space program and opening a nuclear power plant. It even took the historic leap of normalizing ties with long-time Arab foe Israel, after years of signaling the importance of religious co-existence. Now it has turned its attention to conservative local laws, rarely enforced but much discussed among expatriates wary of falling foul of authorities and jeopardizing their jobs and residency. As it takes on a more prominent role in global diplomacy, the UAE is seeking to bolster its image as a safe hub in a region often plagued by extremism. Earlier this month it announced the scrapping of reduced sentences for so-called "honor" killings, most victims of which are women seen as having brought shame on their families. Other sweeping changes flagged in the media include the lifting of a ban on unmarried couples living together, eased restrictions on alcohol consumption, and the decriminalization of suicide. "It's a very smart PR step," said James ...read more...