The BBC talked to the Norwegian woman punished for being raped in Dubai. She is Marte Deborah Dalelv.

Ms Dalelv says she had been on a night out with colleagues on 6 March when the rape took place.

She reported it to the police, who proceeded to confiscate her passport and seize her money. She was charged four days later on three counts, including having sex outside marriage.

That certainly strikes an outsider as a very odd criminal justice system – one that grabs the passport and money of a foreign woman who reports being raped.

Her alleged attacker, she said, received a 13-month sentence for extra-marital
sex and alcohol consumption.

No no no, try to focus. The issue isn’t marital or non-marital, the issue is rape. Forcible sex, sex without consent, assault.

According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, UAE law states a rape conviction can only be secured after a confession or as the result of testimony from four adult male witnesses to the crime.

In other words, only in accordance with stupid fucking sharia.

Dubai has undergone a rapid transformation in recent years, emerging as a five-star trade and tourism destination with its tax-free salaries and year-round sunshine.

It is now one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities with foreign workers and visitors greatly outnumbering the local population.

But it remains a deeply conservative region, and its strict laws have caught out foreigners in the past.

Or to put it another way – stay the fuck out of Dubai.


  1. says

    I just read an article on leadership changes at the Cleveland Clinic including a woman who is leaving a leadership role here to have one at their facility at Dubai. I thought of this and wondered if she was told that as an employee of the CCF would she be immune to such problems due to their business influence? Did she not discuss it? Did she ask and they just blow smoke up her ass or is she fully aware of the dangers but wants the job regardless? It’s her decision, but I am curious how one makes such a decision and what kinds of discussions were had.

    Then I thought about companies who have corporate ladders that extend into places like Dubai or elsewhere where people of certain ethnicities, sexualities, genders, etc. literally have to give up human rights to take that promotion. How is that fair?

  2. Sili says

    Until Dubai & al. get their shit sorted, women need to be issued diplomatic passports.

  3. says

    Tim: Yes, of course the Norwegian government is powerless. Dubai is a sovereign state, you know.

    However, there is diplomacy. And in this case, diplomacy has worked: After a meeting today involving Marte Dalselv, her lawyer, some high ranking official of Dubai, and the Norwegian ambassador to the UAE, it has been announced that and is free to leave.

  4. says

    I was going to include a link in my previous post, but the preview showed the link formatted with huge font and floating left. Weird. So I cut it out. Let me try it again: she has been pardoned (link in Norwegian, but try google translate). Now checking the preview again … same thing happens, but let me post anyway and see if it comes out more sensibly. At least, the link should work.

  5. says

    Sorry, I just revealed my ignorance there. Dubai is of course a city within the United Arab Emirates, not a sovereign state of its own. Well, it is also one of the emirates within the UAE, so I can perhaps claim a glimmer of truth inside the big mistake.

  6. says

    Money quote from Norwegian foreign minister Espen Barth Eide, according to the article I linked:

    It is my clear impression that Dubai has not experienced this case as positive for the emirate’s reputation.

    Clearly not. Their way of “justice” is obviously badly broken, and this pardon does not change that.

  7. Cullen Tillotson says

    I’d argue this is an extreme case, but I would also be loathe to tar the whole region with the crimes of the few. The Emirates are the most advanced and liberal of any of the Arab states, and getting more so all the time, and most of the high-visibility arrests and imprisonments of Westerners were usually down to the Westerners behaving like assholes after repeated warnings which they ignored.

    My father-in-law lived in Dubai for years, and I’ve visited several times with my whole family and loved it. If you don’t try to treat it like a western playground (don’t drink in public, don’t wear bikinis off the beach, don’t have sex in public) and don’t try to enforce western views on the locals, it’s a lovely, family-friendly place. I spent Christmas and New Year’s there two years ago (for 2 weeks) and had a fantastic time.

    Yeah, they have some problems, and arguably treat their migrant laborers like slaves on a pretty large scale, but they are better than a lot of other Gulf states in lots and lots of ways.

  8. says

    Cullen, that’s all very nice, but what does it have to do with this case? Are you claiming that Dalelv treated Dubai “like a western playground” by drinking in public (at a bar, presumably, which is there for the purpose, presumably)? Are you saying she treated Dubai “like a western playground” and thus kind of sort of deserved to be charged with a crime after she was raped?

  9. Cullen TIllotson says

    Ophelia – no, I am not saying any of those things and not saying that she did anything wrong and am relieved that a) her rapist has also been convicted, and b) she is going free but it’s awful nice of you to go straight to accusing me of slut shaming. Yes, she was drinking, but that was not the cause of her getting raped and in no way justified her punishment by the Emirati authorities.

    I did, in fact, say that this was an aberration, not the norm for Dubai. In fact it was the very first sentence in my post, but I can see how that might have been missed. Yes, Dubai has Islamic law. Yes, lots of things that won’t get a look in Western countries will get you thrown in jail or worse in Dubai. Yes, sometimes they have some fucked up responses to sex and women. But they have a rule of law, they generally punish criminality equally for foreigners and locals, and they are the most “civilised” of Islamic countries with some of the most liberal laws in the area. Rather than write off the whole society for a single incident, I’d rather focus on what they’re doing well and try to encourage more of that.

    I was referring to many highly publicised incidents of people getting charged with extramarital sex that were actually the result of drunken stupidity (some examples being the British couple who had sex on a beach after profuse drinking and ignoring multiple warnings from Emirati police – after their arrest they were given the choice of getting married or going to prison so they go married then had it annulled as soon as they got back to England; another woman kicked out of Dubai entirely for refusing to stop having sex in a taxi cab after a night drinking with an Emirati man; there are loads more stories like these of Westerners behaving badly and expecting preferential treatment just because they’re Western).

    The ‘family friendly’ bit is not a myth. I’ve taken my young children there (9 months and 2 years at the time), and found Dubai very safe, the Emiratis to be charming and lovely to my children, helpful and respectful to my wife, and kind and welcoming to me. Maybe because we respected their culture and treated them with respect rather than treating them as little more than barbarians. I’ve travelled there solo and had a similar experience.

  10. says

    Actually, if I understood it right, her rapist was also pardoned. Apparently, they have a rule that if one defendant in a criminal case is pardoned, then so are all of them. And given that he was not sentenced for rape, only for extramarital sex, just as she was, there is some logic to that.

  11. says

    Cullen – excuse me – you said

    If you don’t try to treat it like a western playground (don’t drink in public, don’t wear bikinis off the beach, don’t have sex in public) and don’t try to enforce western views on the locals, it’s a lovely, family-friendly place.

    It obviously was not a lovely place for Dalelv (and by the way how “family-friendly” it is is beside the point when the victim is an individual traveling on her own) so I wanted to know which item on your list explained why it wasn’t.

    I didn’t say ‘family friendly’ bit was a myth. On the other hand I don’t see why you even bring it up. Dubai can be the most family-friendly place on earth; that doesn’t make it ok for Dubai to prosecute women reporting rape.

  12. Cullen Tillotson says

    I said, explicitly, it wasn’t her fault and she did nothing wrong and punishing her for being raped was wrong. But go ahead and ignore that and keep on with your assumptions.

    You did say ‘stay the fuck out of Dubai’ so please do so. I find it’s a great place.

  13. says

    Cullen – that’s nice for you, but it’s not strictly relevant, is it. The fact that you like it there doesn’t negate Marte Dalelv’s reasons for not liking it there, does it. Saying three times that you like Dubai when you are immune to the kind of thing that happened to Marte Dalelv is just smug.

  14. Cullen Tillotson says

    OK, so I was wrong. It turns out there are many more cases than I was aware of with women, Western or not, being charged with extramarital sex after being raped. The other incidents I was aware of (Westerners behaving stupidly) still stand but the evidence seems to be indicating that there is a real injustice in the UAE when rape is involved.

    I apologize for minimizing your outrage; it was and is entirely warranted. I can only say I was unaware and plead ignorance, although I realize that isn’t an excuse.

  15. says

    Hey, thanks, Cullen. Accepted. I don’t disagree with you about the need for visitors to pay attention to reasonable local practice. I was just disagreeing with the suggestion that because families are safe in Dubai, and women traveling with their husbands are safe in Dubai, that what happened to a woman traveling on business by herself somehow didn’t count.

    Thanks very much for finding out more and saying so.

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