I was raped. No, you had sex says Dubai Government!

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A snapshot of Dubai. (Reuters)

Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world but a recent rape incident involving a Norwegian lady has brought the city into limelight for all the bad reasons. Marte Deborah Dalelv hailing from Norway was sentenced to 16 months in prison by a Dubai based court on account of having extra marital sex. Her sin wasn’t that she voluntarily violated marital sanctities; her sin was that she got raped in an Islamist nation which is supposedly governed by the God-given Sharia law.

In an interview given with the intention of generating support for her cause, Dalelv has claimed that she was raped by a co-worker in March when she had come to attend a business meeting in Dubai. After gaining consciousness, Dalelv fled to the hotel lobby and complained to the hotel authorities about the incident. She urged them to call the police as they nervously inquired from her whether she was sure about taking the case to the police. Dalelv underwent medical examination to confirm that she was raped and simultaneously she was made to go through an alcohol test. She was detained by the local police in custody for four days but eventually Norwegian diplomats managed to secure her release after she called and informed her step dad through a borrowed phone about the mishap that had taken place. Dalelv mentioned in the interview that the man whom she accused of rape was sentenced to 13 months of prison on charges of extra-marital sex and alcohol consumption.

This case has brought before the world the uniqueness of the justice system in Dubai. News reports have suggested that even though alcohol is outlawed, it is consumed on a large scale in the tiny gulf country. Sex outside marriage is a crime but only in certain cases as the law is not enforced strongly in cases of thousands of Westerners who come to Dubai on resident visas. May we ask the Dubai Government or the Federal Government of United Arab Emirates, how do they decide in what cases to enforce the law and when to allow the absconders to go scot free? How do they distinguish between extra-marital sex and rape? If they actually knew the distinction between the two, we would have not heard about this sorry incident. Also, on what notion of justice does the Dubai government hand out disproportionate punishments on charges of the same crime? The sentence which has been handed down to Dalelv amounts to 16 months in prison, 3 months more than the man with whom she had “extra-marital sex” and who was also convicted under the charge of alcohol consumption. Isn’t the judgement a bit misogynistic considering the fact that the lady has been punished more severely?

The problem with religious regimes is that in most of the cases they institutionalize fanaticism in the name of God. The whole purpose of using the name of God is to discourage dissent from people who might see such acts of cruelty with great disbelief. How dare someone raise a finger when the government claims to enforce God’s law? Nobody bothers to ask whose law is it anyway. God of whom? God of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims; the list is endless with scores of faiths being practised in the world. I haven’t had a chance to read the Dubai court’s judgement but I assume the notion of “four eye witnesses” could have been the guiding force behind this madness. Some of the versions of the many versions of the supposedly-divinely ordained Sharia law mention that if a lady comes up with a rape charge, she has to produce four eye witnesses regarding the same. The clerics argue that it is based on the Quran. Their notion is misplaced as “four witnesses” (as per the Quran) are to be produced in cases of adultery and that too by the man and not the woman. It has got no relationship with rape whatsoever. With the advent of modern technology, we are better laced than ever to detect the credibility of charges of sexual assault. Clerics need to realize that being scriptural literalists without understanding the meaning lying behind the verses is of no use. The need to have four witnesses at that time was to be sure of the incident. Today, the society has evolved in a completely different world where medical tests are sufficient to prove charges. Will justice be denied on account of the fact that there were not four witnesses? Will people of different faiths and cultures be willing to be governed by such a law? It is high time that gulf countries give a second thought to realizing the benefits of a secular judicial system.

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