07/20/2009 11:03 PM | By Sanya Nayeem, Deputy Readers Editor
Dubai: Mistreatment of animals might not instantly land you in jail, but Gulf News readers felt the alternative - community service - may be just as effective.
According to a new proposed law, minor offences in the UAE require offenders to complete up to 240 hours of community service within a maximum period of one year, or attend rehabilitation courses, or both.
Precious Schulze, an American resident in Dubai, commended the authorities for implementing constructive retribution strategies and suggested imposing "a small fine" along with public service to increase the effectiveness of the penalty.
She added: "In the US, community service has been in place for years and is a positive step for all."
As a form of restorative justice, the service demonstrates to the community that it has received something in return for the damage done by the offender.
Rawda, an Abu Dhabi resident, wrote to gulfnews.com: "Offenders can help others see the consequences of breaking such laws."
Currently, 20 minor offences are listed in the draft law, including the mistreatment of animals, violation of the 30 per cent tint rule for car windows, and eating or drinking in public during Ramadan.
Geo Francis, an Indian expatriate residing in Dubai, welcomed the proposal. He said: "The new system will make offenders feel more responsible toward society."
However, Francis said the harassment of women in public should not be considered a minor offence, but should rather "be viewed as a serious crime".
Mark Freiwat, a Palestinian expatriate working as a client service officer, agreed with Francis. He said: "A person who is convicted of harassing women in public should be severely punished, by a jail term of more than a year. This crime is against the law, against humanity, religion, ethics and all human standards."
James Nomis Louie R. Ramos, an Abu Dhabi resident, wrote in with a similar concern about the importance of the rule that prohibits people from eating or drinking in Ramadan: "We should respect the culture of the country... I think this step should have been taken a long time ago. Rehabilitating people through community service should start immediately."
For Aneuradha Abhayarathne, a 28-year-old Sri Lankan expatriate, imposing community service as punishment is "the right way to deal with such offences. I think this is a fantastic move."
According to him, a change in attitude is necessary for people to realise their mistakes and embrace a more responsible way of life. "At the end of the day, people should realise that they are part of the society and not aliens."
Do you think community service is an effective form of penalty? Which offences would you want community service to be a form of punishment?