A Dutch Woman Was Convicted For “Illicit Sex” In Abu Dhabi After Reporting Rape

Back in March, a Dutch woman in Abu Dhabi was jailed after reporting being raped. As if that fact alone wasn’t disturbing enough, on Monday, things took an even darker turn when the 22-year-old woman identified by CNN as “Laura” was found guilty of “illicit consensual fornication” and being “drunk in a public place.” CNN reports Laura was placed on probation for three years for the sex-related charge, fined 3,000 Qatari Riyals (or $823) for being drunk outside a licensed location, and will “almost certainly” face immediate deportation.

While the prosecution, which made no mention of Laura’s rape accusations, didn’t deny that the incident in question had occurred, the incident was merely portrayed as a consensual encounter. The trial ultimately fixated on the public intoxication and illicit fornication charges, despite the graphic story presented by her lawyer detailing Laura having drinks at a hotel in the Qatari capital only to have a drink that made her feel “unwell” and wake up in an unfamiliar location, realizing she had been raped.

The Dutch ambassador to Qatar, Yvette Burghgraef-van Eechoud, told CNN: “We will do everything we can to get her out of the country as soon as possible to where she says she wants to go.” But, considering Laura has spent the past roughly three months in jail, it’s difficult to believe there will be any immediate relief for her.

While the results of this trial primarily reflect Qatar’s harsh, conservative laws, where adultery, consensual sex, and consumption of alcohol are all punishable crimes, there’s no denying the situation has stark similarities to rape cases in the U.S. For instance, just consider how victims of rape are doggedly pressured to report their experiences or be disbelieved, only to still be disbelieved when they do report their assault, also facing shame, stigma, and victim-blaming, even if they are fully armed with loads of credible evidence. It’s worth noting that the instinct to assume women lie about being raped is in spite of very low rates of false reporting (between 2 and 20 percent).

Then there’s the fact that rape, as a whole, is dismissed and made light of even in those all-too-rare cases where victims actually are heard and believed. An immediate example of this is the disturbingly short jail sentence received by convicted Stanford rapist Brock Turner, because prison would have “a sever impact on him,” as if being sexually assaulted didn’t severely impact his anonymous victim.

Date rape, which was described in Laura’s version of events, is the most prevalent form of rape, yet gross misconceptions about consent continue to render women like Laura vulnerable to assault and victim-blaming, as if the fault lies with a woman for having a drink and not the man for, oh, I don’t know, drugging and assaulting her. Ultimately, the fact that Laura is being charged for consensual sexual relations reflect a disdain for female sexuality and promiscuity that arguably lingers in western society, where “loose” women are more likely to be not only disbelieved, but also ridiculed and shamed.

Daily Life In Abu Dhabi
CREDIT: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Similar to Laura’s story, a Norwegian woman who reported being raped in Dubai was sentenced to 16 months in jail in 2013. She was charged with having unlawful sex, the illegal consumption of alcohol, and for “making a false statement,” despite no evidence to disprove her claims. She was eventually pardoned by the then-ruler of Dubai, and we can only hope Laura will meet the same fate.