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Norwegian Woman Sent to Prison in UAE for Being Raped

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A Norwegian woman was sentenced more than a year in prison in the United Arab Emirates after she reported being raped to local police. As reported by the Daily Mail, Marte Deborah Dalelv, 25, was raped in Dubai while on a business trip in March, and went to the police to report the sexual assault.

While at the police, she was accused of lying and forbidden to make a phone call. Her passport was confiscated, and she was thrown into jail. Dalelv was later convicted of perjury and consumption of alcohol and sentenced to 16 months in prison. Her attacker received a 13-month sentence.

Sexual relations outside of marriage are illegal in the UAE, which has led to multiple instances of foreigners — unaware of the law — being prosecuted when reporting rapes.

"This verdict flies in the face of our notion of justice," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. "It appears very odd that a person who reports rape is convicted for crimes that in our part of the world are not considered crimes." 

"Additionally, this verdict is highly problematic from a human rights perspective," Eide added. 

"She called after four days in jail and told me that she had been raped and was in jail. I was totally shocked," her father Stefar Toregier Furesund told the NRK news network.  

"In my view, this is completely absurd. It's a natural reaction to go to the police when you have been raped. You don't expect to be sent to jail yourself," he said after the verdict was handed down.

Gisle Meling, the priest at the Norwegian Sailors' Church (where Dalelv had been staying before the sentencing), said, "It is a terrible situation she is in. We are very surprised and had hoped it would go another way, but we live in a country which has a justice system which draws its conclusions with the help of Sharia law."

The Daily Mail reported that under UAE law, "Rapists can only be convicted if either the perpetrator confesses or if four adult Muslim males witness the crime. Under the Sharia-influenced laws, sex before marriage is completely forbidden and an unmarried couple holding hands in public can be jailed."

Update: After an international outcry, the UAE has "pardoned" Dalelv and her alleged rapist. Click here the read the update on this story.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org