Monday, July 22, 2013

Welcome To The 14th Century

By now you've probably heard about Marte Deborah Dalelv, the Norwegian woman who was sentenced to 16 months in prison in Dubai after having gone to the police to report she had been raped by a colleague.

If not, here are the facts - those that can be proven in a court of law, at least: she went out one night with friends and work colleagues, was accompanied to her hotel by a colleague around 3AM, things ensued, she managed to get out of the room she was in when room service came for the wake-up call, called the police to report she had just been raped, then spent four days in jail; her passport was confiscated and never returned.

After four days, the only thing that happened was this:
A piece of paper with Arabic text was handed to her, she said. An Arabic speaker told her it listed two charges against her: one for sex outside of marriage and the other for public consumption of alcohol. Both are violations of the law in the United Arab Emirates.
She claims her colleague raped her that night - and it is (most) probably true.

She was later told by either the police or the person managing her case (who was also her translator, the United Arab Emirates being an Arab country) that she should change her story from ''rape'' to ''consensual sex'' so she could just forget about the ordeal and go back home, and deal with the situation from there.

But as anyone in the right frame of mind would have realized, that would not only be admitting guilt about the two charges against her, it would also add perjury to the mess - and that's what she was found guilty of. Well, that and the other two, of course, which her recant pretty much admitted to:
Dalelv was convicted Tuesday on all three charges and was sentenced to one year in jail for having unlawful sex, three months in jail for making a false statement and one month for illegal consumption of alcohol.
There are three things I want to say about this case. First, it's fucking awful what happened to her, her government should stop at nothing to get her back home safely. And I do mean nothing: money, bribery, sending in the fucking army, getting Bill Clinton to act as negotiator - anything.

Secondly, though, we all need to reflect a bit more before we accept to go into foreign countries, find out what we're getting into before accepting the consequences. Many all over the world are reacting to this particular story and saying the UAE is an ''ass-backwards'' country, where women have no rights, etc. Which is all true. She is not the first woman in this situation. 99% of them know not to go to the police with their story because it'll just make matters worse, but all of those who did got in trouble for it:
In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai. She was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.
In January 2010, a British woman told authorities she was raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.
An Australian woman reported in 2008 that she was drugged and gang-raped. She was convicted of having sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to 11 months in prison.
The men there live in a culture that lets this happen all the time; every time one (or a bunch of them) get away with it, it just reinforces their attitude and almost encourages them to act this way. If 91 women can get raped in merely 4 days in public in Egypt (other reports claim ''at least'' 169 were raped in Tahir Square in the same period, 80 on July third alone), a 'moderate' country which has just discovered democracy, how the fuck do you think they're going to act in one where Sharia Law is in full effect?

Which brings me to #3. I'm all for instituting rules, and protecting people - heck, I've often been quoted as saying many troubles would be saved if all countries pledged that well-being laws would apply to all citizens equally and if there were also a universal minimum wage - which would put an end to child labor and poorly-maintained death/suicide-factories in third world countries.

But one thing we can't do overnight - nor in a few centuries, apparently - is change the mores and customs of folks. Countries are different for a reason, and immigration is massive for another - well, a lot of other reasons, but one of them is that if you don't like where you were born, and it doesn't fit your moral compass, and you do not feel like you can make enough of a difference there to make it more like you'd want it to be, you can leave. You can smuggle yourself out, or you can apply for a visa, for immigration - as a potential resident or refugee. Almost anywhere.

Sure, you can be born into a world where your rights are negated from day one and not even be aware that it's wrong, much less that you can change it. This is particularly true of countries who restrict their citizens' rights and/or access to media and information. But people from the West should know what they're getting into by now when working abroad - especially since most of them are qualified, certified, highly-paid skilled workers, usually very educated. They should refuse at the very first sign of unsettling business.

Now, don't get me wrong: I AM NOT BLAMING THE VICTIM for getting raped. She ''wasn't asking for it'', she was just overpowered by the wrong asshole who happens to have been taking advantage not only of her, but also of the fact that he was in a country that forgives men for those types of actions while it judges women for far simpler transgressions (drinking? really?).

Maybe she knew that those things happened in Dubai, but didn't know how frequent it got, because most of those crimes go unreported, and she wrongly evaluated her chances of it happening to her as being similar to Norway.

We should seriously re-evaluate sending them workers at all, or at the very least make sure they're protected 24 hours a day. Anything else just seems like it would have no effect on how women get treated in the UAE anyway.

Again, my three points:
1. get her back home safely, quickly
2. I don't think we can change the UAE
3. we should stop sending folks there, short of having them be accompanied by a Blackwater commando for protection

Just writing this made me angrier than I was reading the article, because three hours went into it rather than 10 minutes. Now I need to go throw up.

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