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

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, or you could potentially face further harassment at the hands of the authorities.

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.

This warning comes after another case of a woman reporting a rape to the Emirati authorities only to see her charged with extra-marital sex.

The British tourist was raped by two other Englishmen after a night out. She was detained and her passport was confiscated after she reported it to police.

She faces the prospect under Emirati law of jail, a flogging or being stoned to death. Luckily, the charges were dropped. Unfortunately, the who men who raped her were exonerated as well.

The case has prompted a British-based charity, Detained in Dubai, to tell women they should not report sexual assault in the UAE.

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 teams 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.

Human Rights Watch

The international Human Rights Watch group says the UAE’s laws condone sexual violence. The organisation says:

“Rape is a serious crime in the UAE, but the very act of reporting a rape automatically puts a woman in danger of being charged with illicit sex. The law places an almost impossible burden of proof on rape victims to show that sex was non-consensual.”

The not-for-profit group has called on the UAE to reform its repeal code and rules of evidence. Hopefully the laws change soon, but for now there is not much protection in place for women who are assaulted in the UAE.

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