“We were so full of hope,” said Star, one of those released from Sharjah Central Jail in December 2020 with her 3-month-old daughter. “Then came trouble I didn’t think I’d have the strength to get through.”

Over a dozen unmarried women huddled in a jail cell south of Dubai last year, locked up for the crime of giving birth, when a guard entered and declared them free, AP reports.

The incident, described by one of the women, was among the first concrete signs that the United Arab Emirates had decriminalized premarital sex in an overhaul of its Islamic penal code.

But a year later, these unwed mothers remain trapped in limbo, fighting to obtain birth certificates for babies born in the shadows.

A new law that comes into effect in two weeks still does not offer unmarried women a clear path to acquiring birth certificates for their babies. At the same time, the law criminalizes women lacking such documents.

Although unwed mothers no longer face jail after the UAE legalized premarital sex in November 2020, they now face a maze of red tape.

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