Marte Deborah Dalelv, an interior designer working in Qatar, reported being raped last year while on a business trip to Dubai. Although her alleged attacker was arrested and jailed, so was she. A court sentenced her to 16 months in prison for having unlawful sex.
World outrage at the Kafkaesque situation apparently provoked the Dubai potentate Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to “pardon” Dalelv. She gets her passport back and is free to go home. She told reporters in Dubai she planned to get out soon.
The incident should be a wake-up call for any woman, and any man who cares about women, working in or doing business with the petro-cash soaked Gulf States.
It is a reminder to us that no matter how many glittery skyscrapers they build, no matter how many jewels of Western culture they attract — the Sorbonne, Guggenheim and NYU in the United Arab Emirates, for example — their laws are stacked against women. To convict a rapist in the United Arab Emirates, he must confess or at least four Muslim men who witnessed the rape must come forward.
Norway’s government helped negotiate Dalelv’s release, perhaps motivated by the 72,000 signatures collected by outraged Facebookers. That is not always the case. In 2008, an Australian woman who reported being gang-raped served eight months in jail.
In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai and was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.
In January 2010, a British woman reported being raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.
Davelv thanked the emir for pardoning her (for what, exactly?), but royal forgiveness of a rape victim is not enough.
We ought to be pressuring the leaders of Dubai, and other Gulf States, all the time, and not just when foreign women are victims.
The U.S., incredibly, has had three female secretaries of state in a row who never put this issue on the table despite many meetings with kings and princes. We should be applying much more political and diplomatic pressure on these countries to give women their basic human rights.
We should also be supporting the brave women in these countries fighting for change.
A slender young Saudi woman named Manal al Sharif has been courageously fighting for women’s right to drive in the Kingdom. She’s been jailed. The rich and powerful nation where she lives and works forbids women from driving by refusing to grant them driver’s licenses and arrests those who do drive.