An Austrian woman visiting Dubai recently got a strong reminder that concepts of justice vary in big ways across the world.
The 29-year-old woman is named Maria. She declined to reveal her full name to the media. Maria was visiting Dubai recently when she was raped after a hotel party. According to the woman, she accepted a ride home from one of the men at the party. The man, who is the son of a police chief, raped Maria in the parking garage of the hotel she was staying at.
Maria was likely looking for help and justice when she reported the rape to authorities, but she found none. Instead, she was charged with alcohol consumption and extra-marital sex. When she protested that she was raped, authorities told her that rape still counted as extra-marital sex.
Maria was then told that she could have her charges dropped if she agreed to marry the man who raped her. When she refused to comply with that inhumane idea, she was thrown in jail. She says she was treated horribly while imprisoned.
“Nobody kept me informed about my situation,” Maria said. “I was treated worse than a dog. Nobody spoke to me properly. It was horrendous. I just thought it would be like in Europe, counseling, maybe tests. But now I know better. Dubai is very different.”
Maria was held in jail for three days. Her passport was confiscated by police.
As soon as news of her imprisonment reached Austria, her government acted swiftly. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz organized a crisis team and flew them to Dubai to negotiate Maria’s release. The negotiation was successful, and Maria has since returned to Austria.
“I am proud to be Austrian,” she said, “and I am so grateful to Sebastian Kurz and the whole team.”