U.A.E.: Rape Victim Convicted of Consensual Sex and Jailed
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 2:50 PM

The Criminal Court of Abu Dhabi convicted an 18-year-old Emirati woman who accused six men of raping her of consensual sex and has sentenced her to one-year in prison. On May 2, the woman went for a car ride with one of the defendants, an Emirati military police officer. She had accepted the man’s offer of 10,000 dirhams ($2,722.61) for sex. The woman alleges that the police officer invited five of his friends to follow in a second car and the men later alternated raping her for several hours. Forensic teams confirmed the woman had bruising from two separate attacks – one of which the woman states she received from her brother after admitting she was the victim of a gang-rape.
The 18-year-old made the rape allegations and was then imprisoned herself under charges of extra-marital consensual sex. All the accused denied the rape charges. Upon discovering that she herself may be punished by up to 100 lashes or a minimum of three years in prison, the woman attempted to recant her accusations on May 24, claiming she did not have sexual relations with any of the accused men. The court did not accept her retraction and went forward with prosecution. The prosecution claimed she had consensual sex with the police officer before the rape. Further, prosecutors interpreted her action of entering the police officer’s car alone as partial sexual consent.  
Although the defendants were granted legal counsel, the plaintiff was not permitted an attorney. The court isolated the survivor during the trial, refusing to allow her family members to be with her during the process. The defendants’ attorney claimed the medical examination did not support the plaintiff’s allegation.
None of the accused rapists were convicted of rape; all were acquitted. Of the six defendants, one will serve one year in prison for extramarital sex. Two were convicted of being in the company of a non-familial woman and will serve three months. For violating public decency, two must pay 5,000 dirhams ($1,361.50). The sixth defendant had his charges dropped entirely.
Nadya Khalife, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East North Africa researcher, states that the country’s beliefs and the court’s firm stance against extramarital sex create a culture of silence and criminalization for female rape victims. Women will remain quiet about sexual crimes in order to avoid a potential punishment. "Consensual sex is criminalized," Khalife states. "This makes it very difficult for women to prove that they were in fact raped because the attention is deflected from rape and assault and the concentration now lies on an act that was committed outside of marriage."
Oppressive gender stereotypes are still pervasive in the U.A.E. and often negatively affect women's safety. Conservative and traditional values influence women's inferior social status. These values also stigmatize sexuality. Issues regarding sexuality are considered private or family matters. Kalife explains, “Some women are afraid of tarnishing their family’s name if they were raped because in most societies in the Middle East, a woman’s honor is highly valuable. A rape victim may be pressured by her own family to not report a crime or press charges against the perpetrator, or even be forced to marry the same man who raped her."