independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Gang-raped woman prosecuted for drinking in Dubai

A WOMAN who was allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped by three men in Dubai has been prosecuted for drinking without a licence.

The case has thrown a spotlight on the United Arab Emirates' archaic legal system, which rights groups say does not do enough to protect victims of sexual assault.

The British woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims she was raped repeatedly by the three men who filmed the attack after they lured her into their car as she returned from a night out with friends.

After reporting her ordeal to the police the 28-year-old found herself in the dock because she admitted she had been drinking earlier that night.

Human Rights Watch called on the UAE to improve its judicial practices for rape victims, saying those reporting crimes too often end up being charged themselves.

Lulled into a false sense of security by the drinking culture encouraged in the five-star hotels that line the shores of the oil-rich Emirate, expatriates often find themselves on the wrong side of the country's strict alcohol laws.

However, the legal system's treatment of victims of sexual crimes has drawn particular condemnation.

"In the UAE, there have been multiple cases over the past few years where the state has charged women with criminal offences after they have reported rape," said Samer Muscati, of Human Rights Watch.

In 2010, an 18-year-old Emirati was sentenced to a year in prison for illicit sex after she reported that she had been gang raped by six men – drawing international outrage.

Dr Rima Al Sabban, an assistant professor at Zayed University who specialises in women's issues, said that the system can discourage women from reporting rape.

"Potential rapists can take advantage of this, knowing that the woman is in a weak position and might be afraid of being prosecuted," she said. "Women become double victims."

The woman in this latest case had been drinking for six hours at the Rock Bottom Cafe, a local bar known for its cheap drinks with its own kebab kiosk for exiting revellers.

A taxi driver who picked the woman up at 3am testified that she was "totally drunk" and fell asleep on the back seat. The woman, who works in a managerial position, asked to stop at a cash point, but after failing to withdraw money she was unable to pay the fare when she reached her flat in the upscale waterfront community of Jumeirah Beach Residence.

The taxi driver said a red Hyundai then pulled up, and two men got out. They said they knew the woman and paid the fare.

"I saw her sitting in the front seat next to the driver. After that I drove away," he was reported as saying.

The women says she was then taken to an apartment where the men repeatedly raped her, dragging her back as she tried to escape.

"I noticed one of them filming me and I begged them to let me go but they ignored my pleas and laughed at me," she told the court, according to 'The National' newspaper.

The victim's 26-year-old flatmate said the woman returned home at around 8.30am and appeared "confused".

She took her to a police station to report the assault.

Two 20-year-old Iranian men are currently on trial for the assault, while the third has not been traced.

Both men deny the charges. The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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