The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has arrested a South African-Ukrainian engaged couple on “adultery” charges after a doctor discovered the bride-to-be was pregnant.
As reported by the UK Independent:
The South African man and his Ukranian fiancee were reportedly arrested after a doctor in Abu Dhabi who treated Ms Nohai for stomach cramps discovered she was pregnant.
Emlyn Culverwell‚ 29, and Iryna Nohai, 27, have not yet been charged by authorities in the Islamic country, who are reportedly still investigating.
South Africa’s foreign ministry said it was unable to help the couple as it is a matter of domestic UAE law, the South African News24 website reports.
Mr Culverwell’s mother, Linda, said she was unable to get any answers from either the authorities in Abu Dhabi, the South African Embassy in the UAE or the South African consulate there.
The company Culverwell works for informed his family that Nohai would have to undergo further testing before charges were filed, to determine precisely how long she has been sexually active. This prompted Culverwell’s mother to exclaim, “For heaven’s sake, how can they supposedly determine that?”
The Independent explains that all sex outside marriage is technically illegal in the UAE, but normally the law is not vigorously enforced against Western couples who live together. Such couples do, however, run into trouble if an unmarried woman gives birth, or even if a married woman has a baby that appears to have been conceived before the date on her marriage certificate.
Unmarried sex is considered adultery in the Emirates and carries a penalty of at least one year in prison. Custody of children can be removed from women found to have engaged in adulterous relationships.
In one of the more notorious cases, a British woman who reported she had been raped by two men in Dubai was charged with illegal extramarital sex, but the charges were dropped after an international outcry. A 2015 report by the BBC found that hundreds of women are imprisoned in the UAE after being accused of extramarital sex, including migrant workers who have been sexually abused. Some of them were sentenced to flogging as well as prison time, although the BBC found no evidence that the floggings were actually carried out.