LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The family of a British woman arrested in Dubai for reporting her own rape has launched an online appeal, urging the public and the UK government to help negotiate her release.
The British woman was charged for having extramarital sex after she reported her own rape to police, according to UK-based legal advocacy group Detained in Dubai.
The case has revealed a persistent and deep-rooted prejudice against women in the Gulf state, rights groups say.
“The authorities continue to fail survivors of such violence by treating women who have been raped as criminals, instead of investigating and prosecuting suspected perpetrators,” Drewery Dyke, UAE researcher at Amnesty International said on Friday.
He urged authorities to do more to eliminate violence against women across the United Arab Emirates, including among tourists and migrant workers.
The news has made the front pages and raised questions about the judicial system in the Gulf state, which lures large numbers of expatriates and tourists with a Western lifestyle.
“Victims go to (the police) expecting justice, and end up being prosecuted. They not only invalidate their victimisation, they actually punish them for it,” said Radha Stirling, founder and director of Detained in Dubai in a statement.
The woman’s passport has been confiscated, Stirling said, and she may face trial where punishments can include imprisonment and flogging.
The woman’s family said she was on holiday at the time and was planning to travel to Australia when she was reportedly raped by two British men in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
“Please help my daughter, she is being held in a prison cell in a foreign country for up to one year if we can’t bail her out,” the family wrote on a fundraising website after seeking to raise 25,000 pounds ($31,000) to cover the woman’s legal costs.
As of Friday, the family had raised more than 13,700 pounds ($17,000).
In a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed the incident and said they are “supporting a British woman in relation to this case and will remain in contact with her family.”
Stirling said the alleged attackers have since returned to the UK without any charges.