Rights abuse

UAE is locking up rape victims under “extramarital sex” laws

A man walks with a woman in Dubai. According to Human Rights Watch, women in the UAE can be jailed for indecency, illicit sexual relations, or even acts of public affection. REUTERS/Philip Brown

A BBC Arabic investigation has revealed that hundreds of women in the UAE are jailed under laws that prohibit “Zina” or sex outside marriage, several of them pregnant or domestic servants who have been raped. “Because the UAE authorities have not clarified what they mean by indecency, the judges can use their culture and customs and Sharia ultimately to broaden out that definition and convict people for illicit sexual relations or even acts of public affection,” Rothna Begum of Human Rights Watch said. While there are no official numbers on women incarcerated under the law each year, they are estimated to be in the hundreds. Pregnancy is often used as “proof” of the crime, leaving female migrant domestic workers particularly vulnerable, and according to Drewery Dyke, an Amnesty International researcher, it is not uncommon that rape victims would be  accused of engaging in illicit sexual relations, while the actual rape allegations are left uninvestigated. Human rights organizations have argued that the extramarital sex law (which exists in several other muslim countries) violates international human rights law: “They need to decriminalize consensual sexual relations. This would then lift off the possibility that victims could be prosecuted,” said Begum.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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