Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Raped in Dubai

In the Gulf and especially Dubai, prostitution is available everywhere. Online, at clubs and bars, in private parties. Young girls locked up or seemingly free; Asian, African, Eastern European. My experience is that prostitution is so common and accepted it’s hardly attached to any stigma for the buyers (“Why should I visit a whore?” a man once told me. “I get lots of women, I don’t have to pay!”). For being an Islamic country, this exception seems to exist within any moral remorses with the leadership.

So what’s the deal if you are forced to have sex against your will, if you get raped? The same legal system that overlooks the brutal sex trafficking will most likely confine you for having sex outside the institution of marriage and punish you as the victim instead. This goes for men and women, underage as well as adults.

This week the news broke that the Norwegian woman in Dubai, Marte Deborah Dalelv, who had been accused of premarital sex after reporting a rape to the authorities, was being “pardoned” and did not have to do her previously sentenced punishment in jail. Throughout the process she had been hiding in a Norwegian church in Dubai and international media had monitored the case over the past year. Now would a woman who was not white, westerner and with huge international support have been “pardoned” from the sentence? Probably not. And what else is, Marte’s rapist was pardoned at the same time.

Now many other countries have increased their legal support for victims of violence and sexual violence; in 2011 Iraqi Kurdistan passed a law that forbade domestic violence and in for example Lebanon there is a big network of women’s shelters with legal and social support for victims. Despite their financial lead, Dubai is still many years behind.

4 thoughts on “Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Raped in Dubai

  1. We shouldn’t let the modern skyscrapers fool us, according to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights,

    “In order to gain a conviction of rape the law requires either a confession or four adult male witnesses to testify. Indeed, when victims are unable to meet the requirements for a conviction they are often prosecuted by the law prohibiting sex outside marriage. When combined with society’s stigma that women who have been raped are somehow unpure, victims of sexual violence are very often put off from reporting crimes.”

    The global outrage helped in this case. Others were not so fortunate. I hope the laws are redrafted to match the changing times.


  2. wow. I have this idea from looking at photos of Dubai as a modern place … then looked at the comment above mine and said omg the skyscrapers are a façade. It’s hard to accept that the old ways are more acceptable than being humane , or the act of compassion and or common sense


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