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Businesswoman visiting Dubai sentenced to jail for reporting own rape

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In yet another case of “Middle East meets West,” a Norwegian woman was summarily tried, convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison for engaging in illicit sex by a Dubai court — for reporting a rape.

When interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv, 42, arrived in Dubai in early March, she thought it would be for a short business trip. She never dreamed she’d still be there as a wanted woman, according to BBC News.

Four days after she reported to police that a colleague had raped her, she was served with an arrest warrant, and her money and passport were confiscated. The charge? Having extramarital sex, drinking alcohol and perjury.

And the rape? A rape conviction requires either a conviction or the eyewitness testimony of four adult males. In this case, her attacker didn’t confess and there were no witnesses. Her attacker received a 13-month sentence for extramarital sex and alcohol consumption.

Dalelv was found guilty on Tuesday, and since then, she’s officially wanted by the authorities.

“I should have been imprisoned since Tuesday,” she told the AFP news agency. “But I have been told they are not searching for me.”

Her conviction is now being appealed. In the meantime, she’s holed up at the Norwegian Seamans’ Centre in Dubai, under arrangements secured by the Norwegian government.

“I am very nervous and tense,” she said. “But I hope for the best, and I take one day at a time. I just have to get through this.”

Dalely has every right to be nervous. She isn’t the first Westerner caught up in an Islamic country’s legal system. The United Arab Emirates’ modern buildings and worldly atmosphere often disguise the deeply conservative religious views of the country, catching Westerners unawares.

The BBC News reported:

A British couple, Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, were jailed for a month in 2010 after they shared what Mr Najafi described as an “innocuous peck on the cheek” in a restaurant. A witness said they had kissed on the mouth.

Another British couple, Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer, were jailed for three months in 2008 for having sex on a public beach – an allegation they denied.

But Dalelv’s case most closely parallels that of Australian Alicia Gali, who was drugged and gang-raped according to Yahoo News. Like Dalelv, when Gali reported the crime, she was charged with having illicit sex outside marriage. Unfortunately, her government wasn’t as supportive as Dalelv’s. According to the Yahoo News account:

She had been savagely raped by three of her colleagues. Alone and frightened, she took herself to hospital. What Alicia didn’t know is that under the UAE’s strict sharia laws, if the perpetrator does not confess, a rape cannot be convicted without four adult Muslim male witnesses. She was charged with having illicit sex outside marriage, and thrown in a filthy jail cell for eight months.

Gali returned to Australia after her release from prison.

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