How is female freedom in Dubai

Freedom, human rights and pluralism

"Enjoy inexpensive fairytale vacations in Dubai"“If you discover Dubai on vacation, the journey will take you to the fabulously rich emirates on the Persian Gulf and to a world in which oriental fairy tales seem to come true. “This is what it says on the Thomas Cook website. With "Sun and Caribbean temperatures every day, wonderful beaches and the sea, luxury in the hotels, Arabian ambience in an absolutely tolerant atmosphere and hardly any crime" advertises the agency Anyone who browses the Internet using the keywords “Travel Dubai” cannot save themselves from superlatives: the tallest skyscrapers, the longest beaches, the largest shopping malls, and on top of that, skiing in the middle of the desert. Luxury, friendliness, modernity and cosmopolitanism wherever you look. If you don't know what to do with your money, you can buy a villa on the artificial island landscape "The Palm" or a chic apartment in the city center in order to really enjoy life in Dubai. Well-educated Europeans or Americans can always find high-paying jobs - in almost all industries and for almost all professions. There are also dozens of pages with the most lucrative offers. And many companies are attracted by the extensive tax exemption.

So much for the sunny side. The downside is not mentioned in all of these travel, job and investment offers.

"Almost in the twinkling of an eye, gigantic new buildings grow out of the desert sand that break architectural and technological boundaries." [1] Only these houses do not grow by themselves in Dubai either. They are built by those mostly unskilled migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka , Sudan, the Philippines or North Africa, which make up the majority of the 85% of the population who live as foreigners in Dubai (total population: 2.035 million). Hundreds of thousands of them are lured into the country, often under false promises, where their passports are withdrawn by their employers immediately after arrival, because usually the moment they enter the country they are at the agency that has paid for their travel expenses. heavily in debt. Work permits and the right of residence are directly linked to the employer, to whom they are at the mercy of the future. This army of slave workers does not live in the fancy hotels or apartment buildings, nor do they stroll through the shopping malls - they just build them or work there as warehouse workers, cleaning and kitchen helpers. Their apartments, which they are only allowed to leave for work, are mass accommodations on the outskirts of the city - without air conditioning and all the luxury of the glittering facade of Dubai. In their workplaces they are at the mercy of their employers. Fatal accidents and suicides are just as common as the sexual exploitation of female domestic helpers, who are not allowed to leave the house in which they work without the consent of their owners. [2]

Behind the dream scenery of Dubai, tragedies happen for all those who build and play on the scenery; behind all the luxury there is poverty, misery and exploitation. Those who do not let these conditions spoil their trip to the desert emirate, which has been ruled absolutistically by rulers from the Maktum family since it was founded in 1833, should perhaps at least think about their own safety, because Dubai promises not only "dream vacations" and good paid jobs, but also has some risks at the ready:

The legal system of Dubai is essentially based on the Sharia and is also extremely corrupt and committed to an authoritarian and extremely patriarchal class society. Foreigners experience this painfully again and again. First of all, some things that are part of everyday life in the West are considered criminal offenses in the country on the Persian Gulf, such as the consumption of alcoholic beverages, exchanging caresses in public, sex outside of marriage or homosexuality. Knowing this, of course, the question arises what the website ​​understands by “absolutely tolerant atmosphere”. In addition, in a possible procedure it would be decisive who you are, how much money and influence you have and, above all, what gender you belong to. Trials against emiratis, especially those with ties to the ruling family or the administration, police and judiciary, or against Muslims, are hard to win for foreigners, especially non-Muslims. The Austrian doctor Eugen Adelsmayr had to experience this in 2012, when he fell victim to the intrigue of two colleagues (a Syrian and an Iraqi). He is said to have forbidden the resuscitation of a patient who then died. The charge is murder, the maximum possible penalty: execution. The court was not impressed by the fact that Adelsmayr was not at his place of work at the time of his death (he had been out of work for 36 hours), nor that the prosecution had produced obviously falsified evidence. For example, an expert opinion had been “translated” from English into Arabic - but the translation had little to do with the original. Everything exonerating had been left out while incriminating was added. The doctor was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia. Something similar happened to a South African colleague. While he was working as a vacation replacement in a Dubai hospital for four weeks in 2003, a child died. During a layover in 2012, he was arrested at Dubai Airport. Until then, he hadn't even known that he was being investigated.

The chances of women, especially in lawsuits involving violations of the emirate's rigid sexual norms, are extremely slim. In the case of rape, the judiciary generally does not see them as a victim but as a perpetrator, because rape is assessed as extramarital sexual intercourse. In 2013 a Norwegian woman committed the fatal mistake of reporting the perpetrator after she was raped by a work colleague. She was immediately arrested and later sentenced to 16 months in prison. International pressure eventually led to her pardon - not a fair judgment! The same fate awaited a Viennese tourist who was raped in a parking garage, called for help and was then arrested by the police. [3] After three days in detention, she was released, but was initially not allowed to leave the country and had to surrender her passport. The charges against her were extramarital sex and alcohol consumption. The authorities had "offered" to marry the rapist, a Yemeni, in order to reduce the possible sentence. After that she would have been helpless at the mercy of this man and probably would not have been able to go home at all. Fortunately, the Austrian authorities managed to get the woman to leave the country. The trial against her is currently taking place in her absence before a Dubai court. After her very likely conviction, she should never travel to Dubai again or to a country that extradites to Dubai for such “offenses”, as the local judiciary is known for obtaining international arrest warrants. It is unknown how many people are restricted in their freedom to travel for the rest of their lives because of such an arrest warrant - or, like the above-mentioned South African doctor, suddenly find themselves in Dubai prison without even suspecting a charge.

What seems completely incomprehensible to a Western understanding of law has its meaning in the context of Sharia law: Here it is not about the acting persons and their motives, but about the action itself. Sexual acts outside of marriage are prohibited under Sharia law, and it does not matter whether they are voluntary or forced - the forbidden act requires an atonement in order to restore the divine order it has violated. [4]

Anyone who gets caught in the mill of justice in Dubai can expect nothing but a miscarriage of justice. Until Dubai has a legal system that deserves the name, that guarantees legal equality and legal certainty and protects the human rights of the hundreds of thousands of contract workers, one can only say: do not travel to Dubai, do not work in Dubai, do not invest in Dubai - the country's economy depends on these three sources! [5]

Update May 1, 2014

The Viennese woman was sentenced to four months imprisonment in absentia. She received two months for “extramarital consensual sex”, another two months, and a fine of 200 euros for drinking alcohol. Her rapist was also sentenced to two months in prison. Look here.

[2] or: http: //
[4] See the chapter “Sharia” in the book: Heiko HEINISCH, Nina SCHOLZ, Europa, Menschenrechte und Islam - ein Kulturkampf ?, Wien Passagen Verlag 2012
[5] The income from the oil business now only accounts for 5% of the state income, while more than a quarter of the income now comes from tourism alone.

This entry was posted in General, Arab World, Dubai, Women's Rights, Human Rights, Law by Heiko Heinisch. Permanent link of the entry.