December 22, 2021 - 10:35 am

UAE Ends Cinema Censorship 

    The United Arab Emirates has announced the addition of a new over-21 age classification to its motion picture rating system that could become a milestone in using the needle against censorship across West Asia. The new rating will allow uncut versions of international movies to be shown in UAE cinemas, though details remain vague. Currently, across a large portion of the region, which is also known as the Middle East, movies concerning or containing sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut to comply with censorship due to cultural constraints, or banned outright.

    The moves to stop censoring is important for the country as it tries to diversify its economy by reducing dependence on oil and attracting foreign investment. Recently, it has also carried out some social or "secular-learning reforms" which include decriminalising the consumption of alcohol and allowing out-of-marriage cohabation. Earlier this month, the country announced that government offices will be adapting to a four-and-a-half workday week, which will treat Saturdays and Sundays as weekends from 2020, an attempt to align with typical western work weeks.

     Recent examples of Hollywood films banned in parts of the region are Marvel's "Externals", featuring the first MCU gay superhero and Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story," which has a transgender character named anybody’s. Yet, while "West Side Story" is not currently playing in the UAE, "Externals" was not banned there, though some scenes were cut. The UAE is now generally considered the country that is pushing the censorship envelope the furthest in the region.

    Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the federation of 7 Sheikhdoms. The diversity of culture and religion in the tourism-dependent country has at times been at odds with its Islamic laws and traditions. But that's changing as the nation promotes its socially liberal environment to lure international workers. The UAE has gradually been stepping towards liberalization which is good for her in dynamic geo-political region. It's a demand of the time in changing world.