Dubai, United Arab Emirates — A British woman on vacation in Dubai has been arrested for extra-marital sex after being gang raped.
The rape occurred in October 2016 after she was enticed into a hotel room by two men who are also British. They are alleged to have filmed the attack as they raped her.
After reporting what would be a crime in most parts of the world, the 25-year-old woman was arrested for having sex outside of marriage, which is forbidden under Muslim Sharia law.
Islam is the state religion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of which Dubai is the most populous city. It is also the world’s seventh most-visited destination based on air traffic and is a holiday resort for more than 15 million tourists annually.
The rape victim is now out on bail but is forbidden to leave the UAE until the case is settled. Her attackers were released and flew home to the U.K. just hours after the crime was reported. The names of the woman and her attackers are not being released to the public.
A friend of the woman’s family reports,
“She went to the police as the victim of one of the worst ordeals imaginable, but she is being treated as the criminal.”
The friend went on to say,
“They have taken her passport as lawyers thrash it out.”
The woman may face prison for her supposed offense, and her legal fees are expected to cost as much as $30,000. The friend notes,
“She is staying with an English family, but she is absolutely terrified.”
The UAE is known for strict Muslim Sharia laws prohibiting extramarital sex, homosexuality, and other supposed “crimes.” For example, an unmarried pregnant woman and her partner can be sent to jail. Even public kissing is a crime, and a kiss can result in deportation.
Penalties are so harsh that the organization Detained in Dubai was established to help victims of UAE laws navigate the country’s complicated and harsh Sharia legal system.
The British rape victim’s case has been brought to the attention of Radha Stirling, Anglo-American founder and director of Detained in Dubai. Stirling calls the case a “tremendously disturbing“ example of what can happen in the UAE to innocent tourists from other countries.
“Police regularly fail to differentiate between consensual intercourse and violent rape,”
“Victims go to them expecting justice, and end up being prosecuted. They not only invalidate their victimization, they actually punish them for it.”
The current case is nothing new for the organization. Stirling says,
“We have been involved with several cases in the past where this has happened, and we work with the lawyers and families and have campaigned to change attitudes in the police and judiciary.”
“The horrible case at hand shows that it is still not safe for victims to report these crimes to the police without the risk of suffering a double punishment.”
Samer Muscati, a senior researcher in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, agrees,
“In the UAE, there have been multiple cases over the past few years where the state has charged women with criminal offences after they have reported rape.”
“When it comes to seeking justice for sexual violence, women in the UAE still face formidable and often insurmountable barriers.”