The law shouldn't discriminate based on gender - but unfortunately this often isn't the case. New blogger Paakhi writes about some the problems for women posed by the United Arab Emirates legal system.
The laws of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and many of the Islamic countries are based on the Sharia discipline law. Under this law, access to legal and safe abortion is largely restricted.
Abortion is only permitted within the first trimester of pregnancy and only if the pregnancy was a result of proven rape or if carrying the pregnancy to full term has the potential to cause fatal mental or physical trauma to the health of the woman.
The definition of rape under the Sharia law is very ambiguous and two witnesses other than the woman herself are needed to prove that the woman was raped. Additionally, UAE laws criminalize sex outside of marriage, so the woman who reports a rape crime and fails to successfully prove that she has been raped would be sentenced to jail for consensually having sex outside of marriage.
This ambiguity in the definition of rape and the possibility of being jailed for being a victim of a sexual assault serves as a major deterrent for women (especially those who are married) who want to report their rape. It also gives the judges an enormous monopoly over the verdict of the case.
Marte Deborah Dalelv, a Norwegian citizen who was in Dubai on a business trip in 2013, had been jailed for sixteen months on reporting an incapacitated rape. She was pardoned (in the UAE judicial system, criminals may be pardoned from their punishment by the judge) later due to an uproar in media and criticism against UAE.
But there are many women in UAE who are not as lucky. They are imprisoned for a crime that was committed against them and they are stripped off their voice and dignity.
Due to the various restrictions that women face in proving their sexual assault and due to the poor and vague definition of rape, many women are forced to carry a pregnancy to full term without their own consent.
Denying women the right to abortion and the freedom to report their sexual assault is denying them the right to bodily autonomy and to a healthy and prosperous life.
The laws of UAE must change according to changing circumstances and become more accommodating and equal. United Arab Emirates is a beautiful place with an exuberant culture and helpful people, it is about time that the beauty and potential of UAE reflects in its legal system.