Rape Case In Qatar About More Than Just Dangers Of Tourism

By Tara Lighten
, MintPress, June 14, 2016. 
A 22 year old Dutch woman on holiday in Qatar was
jailed for nearly three months on unclear charges after reporting her rape to
Qatari authorities.

Her drink was spiked while she
was at a hotel bar with friends and she realized she’d been raped when she woke
up in an unfamiliar room. The alleged attacker, reported to be of Syrian
nationality, was not tried for the rape. Instead, the woman was immediately
arrested after alerting police and incarcerated.
Women walk through an airport in
Doha, Qatar on June 30, 2010. Two of the women are wearing niqab. (Flickr /
She has now been found guilty of
“illicit sex” and being drunk. Sex is illegal in the Gulf state unless it
occurs between married persons. She was given a one-year suspended sentence,
three years of probation and fined $823. It is expected that she will be
immediately deported.
The alleged rapist was found guilty
of the same crimes. He was sentenced to 140 lashes. No mention was made of any
sexual assault accusations during the trial.
Unsurprisingly, the reaction of
most commenters has been to see this as a tourism issue. Some blame the woman —
identified only as “Laura” — for travelling to Qatar, as if somehow she should
have foreseen her rape and imprisonment. Others blame the Qatari legal system.
However, this isn’t just a
problem for tourists. In fact, tourists may well be better off than local
Gulf women.
Local women do not have other
nations advocating on their behalf. It is no coincidence that Laura’s
alleged rapist received a harsher penalty, though he was found guilty of
exactly the same crimes. It is no coincidence that, after holding Laura since
March, the sentence was effectively no punishment: the suspended sentence and
deportation mean she can go free.
As she was a tourist, it is
unlikely there is any reason for her to feel anguish at being deported; and if
she hasn’t finished sightseeing all she has to do is not commit a crime next
time she’s there (if she visits before her three-year probation period
expires). Even the fine is likely to be cancelled out by the fact that
deportation saves her the cost of a flight home. And, take the 2013 case of a Norwegian
rape victim found guilty of fornication in nearby UAE: according to CNN, she
was pardoned by Dubai’s ruler.
Women without another country’s citizenship
— or, most likely, without the citizenship of a country which does not share
Gulf states’ views on rape — are vulnerable to receiving harsher punishments
(such as that given to Laura’s Syrian rapist). In fact, Laura faced up to 7
years in prison. If she were a local, she might be serving a full sentence or
facing lashes.
Not only do locals and tourists
from other Middle Eastern states lack a government to protect them, they may
also face ostracism from their own communities and families for being raped or
being perceived to have had sex. As homosexuality is illegal in the region,
male rape victims also face very real risks for reporting rape.
Sadly, it may not even be the law
that is the problem, but how it is applied. CNN states that Qatar’s Penal Code 2004 (Law No. 11) reads,
“anyone who copulates with a female above sixteen without compulsion, duress or
ruse is convicted to no more than seven years in prison. The same penalty is
also imposed on the female for her consent.”
This text suggests that rape
(using “compulsion, duress or ruse”) would incur a more severe punishment —
more than seven years. And unlike the statements made by certain American
political figures, the law appears not to require use of force to qualify a
crime as rape, or at least as different from illicit sex. This does not appear
much different from sexual assault laws in Western states.
However, clearly — at least in
this case — the attitudes and choices of the police and court system preclude
the law from being enacted in the way it was intended. And these attitudes
ultimately pose more of a threat to local women, men, adolescents, trans and
agender people than they do to those who have an embassy to — though it may
fail in getting any sort of justice — at least attempt to prevent the worst
injustice of all.
Local residents also face another
danger: the add-on effect of jailing rape victims while refusing to prosecute
the perpetrator for rape is likely to deter victims from reporting. This may
well contribute to creating a ‘safe haven’ for sexual predators.