5 Countries That Respond to Rape Victims By Throwing Them in Prison

As we at PolicyMic reported Wednesday, the victim of a Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) rape came forward recently to tell her story. The victim, Alicia Gali, moved to the UAE from Australia to work as a manager at a local hotel. In 2008, she spent an evening at a hotel employee bar, where her drink was spiked and Gali was raped by three employees. When she came forward to UAE police, however, they arrested her — under United Arab Emirates law, rape victims are nonetheless guilty of "illicit sex," which is illegal, regardless of consent. Gali spent eight months in prison, returned to Australia, and is now suing her former employer. 

Unfortunately, however, this treatment of rape victims is by no means endemic to the United Arab Emirates. Many other countries have in recent years subjected rape victims to similar legal retribution — though they are, of course, victims rather than perpetrators of a crime.

1. Afghanistan

In 2011, a woman known only as "Gulnaz" was released from a Kabul prison where she had been held for two years for adultery. Gulnaz, who was 19 at the time of her rape, was arrested after she became pregnant with the child of her rapist, her cousin's husband. Gulnaz lived in jail with her daughter, and the two were only released from prison at the request of Afghan president Hamid Karzai — she was given a 12-year sentence.

Shockingly, according to the Guardian, Gulnaz has also been put under "heavy pressure, including from a judge," to marry her rapist, who was imprisoned elsewhere for rape. She initially expressed willingness to do so, given that marriage to her attacker was emphasized as the only way to "regain honor" and provide her child with a family after the attack, as she explained to CNN while still imprisoned.

2. Saudi Arabia

In 2007, a Saudi Arabian judge sentenced a 19-year-old gang rape victim to a six-month prison sentence and 200 lashes. The ostensible purpose for the victim’s sentence was being in public in the company of a non-relative male, which is illegal under Saudi law. The sentences given to the seven men found guilty of the rape ranged from two to nine years.

Her initial sentence was doubled for "attempting to aggravate and influence the judiciary" after she took her case to the media — in an interview with ABC News, she spoke of suicide attempts and post-trauma stress after the attack. The victim was stripped of her defense attorney, who was banned from defending her, had his legal license revoked, and was summoned to a disciplinary hearing.

3. Republic of Ireland

Unjust persecution of rape victims is endemic neither to the Middle East nor to countries under Sharia Law. In Ireland, a woman was arrested and imprisoned last February for refusing to testify against her alleged attackers. The alleged victim, whose attackers were found innocent by the court, is Eastern European, not Irish, and reportedly became so distressed at the order to point out her assailants that her lawyers "feared she might collapse in court" and failed to appear the next day. Police found her after an attempted suicide, and she was arrested after recovery.

Such mistreatment of victims, even alleged ones, is apparently typical in Ireland: Ellen O’Malley of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre told reporters that the Irish judicial system makes victims feel as if "they are the ones on trial" and that Ireland allegedly has one of Europe's highest rates of rape trials collapsing before the attackers can be brought to justice.

4. Somalia

That a failed state is both incapable and unwilling to protect its rape victims from their attackers is hardly surprising, but Somalia has also taken steps to silence anyone willing to report such crimes. This February, Somali police jailed a 27-year-old woman who accused Somali security forces of rape. She was jailed for insulting the government and making what the government called a "false accusation." Also imprisoned was the freelance journalist who interviewed the victim; he was accused of inciting her to give false evidence and of insulting the government.

The woman's legal treatment was condemned by Human Rights Watch. Its African director, Daniel Berkele, declared that the case against the rape victim was "build on groundless charges and serious due process violations and should be thrown out."

5. India

Last month, police in the Bulandshahr district arrested a 10-year-old child after her family pressed charges against a local man accusing him of raping the child. The arresting officers, perhaps surprisingly, were female.

Unlike the above cases, however, this action was not sanctioned by the upper-level officials in the police force, who released the child as soon as they heard of her incarceration and are now prosecuting the lower-level policewomen responsible. Police have yet to successfully capture the accused man, who assaulted the family the day after they filed charges and then disappeared.

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Elizabeth Strassner

Elizabeth, a Saint Louis native, is currently a sophomore at Columbia University where she is studying international politics, Spanish, and history. After Columbia, she intends to go to law school. Elizabeth has previously served on the editorial board of the Columbia Political Review, where she wrote a biweekly strategy column during the 2012 presidential election.

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