Dubai rape dispute points to wider Islamic rules

By Brian Murphy

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 25 2013 2:02 p.m. MDT

In Lebanon, whose tourism has dropped off sharply since the civil war in neighboring Syria, there are no specific national laws banning premarital sex, but the country has subcategories of "personal status laws" for the country's patchwork of religious and ethnic sects. These laws require Lebanese citizens to follow the traditions and rules of their respective groups. Both the major religions, Muslim and Christian, forbid sex outside marriage, but enforcement becomes a local issue. Unmarried couples living together in Lebanon also is increasingly common.

Tour operators in Egypt fear the now-ousted Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi would frighten off unmarried couples. Currently, though, the chaos in Egypt has choked off tourism to a trickle.

The government in Indonesia — with its popular Bali resorts — proposed in March changing long-standing liberal colonial laws from Dutch rule to impose jail sentences up to five years for unmarried sex. The possible changes reflect a growing emphasis on stricter Muslim codes in a nation that has long followed more moderate interpretations of Islam.

Authorities the fast-growing Gulf states of Qatar and the UAE, meanwhile, apply a generally light touch on enforcing laws about unwed sex in a tacit acknowledgment of the dependence on the huge foreign workforce, including many singles, and the growing importance of tourism.

The blows to Dubai's image from the Dalelv case are cautionary tales for Gulf states trying to project a Western-friendly aura. But there appears to be no suggestions of amending the morality statutes in its laws, which are strongly influenced by Islamic codes but include tribal customs and international jurisprudence.

In most cases, the police only intervene after a complaint.

An Egyptian living in Qatar, Mulham Ashraf, said he called police because he was offended when his roommate's girlfriend began spending the night. The man was arrested, he said, but he was not sure of the fate of the woman.

"I lived with my Filipina girlfriend for several years before she returned to the Philippines," said Abdullah Owaidat, a Jordanian living in Qatar. "We were not harassed or questioned. But we were careful not to socialize with neighbors for fear of being reported. I have a lot of friends — Americans, British and even Arabs — who live with partners outside marriage."

Still, like the Dubai case, rape claims can bring complications for the accusers.

In December 2011, the Doha-based newspaper Al Arabi Qatari reported on an Asian maid who was charged with sex outside marriage after she claimed she was raped by her boyfriend. She was later deported.

Earlier this week in Dubai, an unmarried Filipina and her boyfriend were sentenced to a year in prison each on sex charges after she was treated for a miscarriage.

SHARIA SIDE

Parts of the Muslim world that follow strict interpretations of Islamic law, or sharia, can impose death sentences for sex outside marriage.

In Pakistan, punishment can be stoning to death or 100 lashes under laws issued in 1979 when strongman Gen. Zia ul-Haq ruled the country. Lawyers say there have been cases where rape victims were punished under the law, although not stoned to death, because they were not able to prove the rape claim — which needs the corroboration of adult male witnesses.

The law applies to Pakistanis and foreigners, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Khurram Khosa, a criminal lawyer, said there are several examples of foreigners who were caught and tried on charges of sex outside of marriage. These were mainly women who came to Pakistan to work as prostitutes, Khosa said.

In Afghanistan, Islamic law can be applied in cases of premarital sex or adultery, but rarely is enforced because it is almost impossible to meet the requirement of four witnesses. Instead, judges use Afghan law that calls for one to five years in prison if two unmarried people have sex outside wedlock. In Taliban-controlled areas, there have executions of people found guilty of adultery or sex out of wedlock.

Afghanistan's laws apply to foreigners, but most in Afghanistan live in guarded compounds that are restricted to non-Afghans.

Under Iran's Islamic codes, punishment for adultery can be death by stoning. If both partners are single, it can bring 100 lashes.

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