In Depth

Why British woman who reported rape in Dubai could face jail

Alleged victim was arrested and had passport confiscated in UAE where extramarital sex is illegal

A British woman has been charged with having sex outside marriage in Dubai after she reported being raped by two men from Birmingham.

The alleged victim has been released on bail, but her family says she needs £24,000 for legal fees. Her passport has been confiscated and she is prohibited from leaving the country.

"She went to the police as the victim of one of the worst ordeals imaginable, but she is being treated as the criminal," a family friend told The Sun.

Shortly after the alleged attack, two men were arrested at Dubai airport, reports The Guardian. They have been named as Thai boxer David Butlin, 22, and footballer Louis Harris, 24. They have both been bailed and also remain in the country.

"Incidences like this are not uncommon in the Gulf," says Radha Stirling, founder of legal advice group Detained in Dubai.

"Recent cases show that it is still not safe for victims to report these crimes to the police without the risk of suffering a double punishment."

What does the law say?

In the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most populated city, it is illegal for couples to have sex outside wedlock. It is also against the law for a single person to have sex with someone who is married.

The Foreign Office has previously said that Britons are more likely to be arrested in the United Arab Emirates than any other foreign country in the world.

How common is this?

In 2008, an Australian woman, Alicia Gali, was jailed for eight months in Fujairah for having an illicit sexual relationship after she reported being drugged and raped by three co-workers.

In 2009, South African national Roxanne Hillier was jailed for seven months after it was alleged that she spent time alone with her male employer. Despite medical reports that the pair had not engaged in sexual intercourse, she was still sentenced.

"Dubai struggles to maintain its promoted reputation of being tolerant, modern, progressive and focused on happiness and positivity," says Stirling, "while it regularly victimises women for reporting crime."

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