Sexual Assault in the UAE: Safety Tips for Women

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In the worst-case scenario, women subjected to rape in the UAE are often charged with illicit sex. We take a look at what to do if you're in trouble, and how to stay safe.


A woman looking at buildings in Dubai Photo © iStock/Olarty

Despite the UAE ranking just two points behind the USA when it comes to safety for female solo travelers, previous horror stories have travelers worried. Here is what to do if you're in trouble, and how to stay safe.

Female solo travelers are at risk of sexual harassment, assault, and rape anywhere in the world. And while the UAE ranks very high when it comes to women feeling safe, there were reported cases in the mid-2010sof rape in the UAE and instead of the assailant being charged, the women found themselves in prison, charged with illicit sex. To address these occurrences, the UAE brought in a new and updated 2022 law against rape aimed to protect women. A guilty charge can result in a life sentence or the death penalty for the assailant.

The problem is knowing what to do once a woman has been assaulted, and to provide sufficient evidence to catch and convict the rapist.

Women travelers in the UAE who are subjected to sexual assault or rape, whether by Emirati men or by other foreigners, need to follow these important steps.

How to stay safe

The UAE is, generally speaking, safe for female solo travelers, and has plenty of options in place to feel even safer. There are, for example, the Pink Taxis in Dubai, taxis for women driven by women, noticeable by the pink emblems and uniform. You find them at the airport and taxi ranks, or call 80088088, and download the app. Many hotels have women-only floors, such as Dukes Hotel in Dubai, and most gyms and spas are segregated.

And while you do get hassled in the souqs, ogled when walking along, and cases of assault are rare, common-sense precautions should always be taken, however safe you might feel.

Who to call on for help

If you are sexually assaulted, call the World Nomads Emergency Assistance Team immediately (or your travel insurance provider), and we will facilitate the appropriate care. If you need immediate help from police, call 999, or if you need an ambulance call 998.

What to do if you have been raped or assaulted

World Nomads suggests women who are assaulted should get in touch with our Emergency Assistance Team as a first point of contact.

The leader of World Nomads Australian-based Emergency Assistance Team, Lisa Fryar, says special care is given to such cases.

“We will put them in touch with officials from their consulate in the UAE and arrange for treatment and evidence gathering at a private clinic.”

“We don’t recommend the victim taking the matter through Emirati authorities unless it is absolutely necessary.” she said.

New sexual assault laws

Coming into effect in January 2022, the old laws in the UAE which made alcohol consumption and extra-marital sex illegal, were revised, and updated. Looking at the party scene in Dubai, for example, it’s easy to forget that such laws still existed in the UAE until recently, but it was exactly these laws that were at the heart of the problem with proof of rape, because just simply being in a bedroom with a man that was not your husband, was basically illegal.

Today, the new laws have not only decriminalised relationships out of wedlock (unless you are having an affair, and a husband or wife files a complaint) but also added numerous definitions of rape and use of force, making it a lot easier for a woman to win justice if assaulted.

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