Rape, bigotry and Dubai

A 15-year-old French boy who was gang-raped in Dubai is taking on the Emirates’ criminal justice system by trying to get his attackers prosecuted. And so far, he’s not having much success.

The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier.

“They tried to smother this story,” Alex said by phone from Switzerland, where he fled a month into his 10th-grade school year, fearing a jail term in Dubai if charged with homosexual activity. “Dubai, they say we build the highest towers, they have the best hotels. But all the news, they hide it. They don’t want the world to know that Dubai still lives in the Middle Ages.”

Alex and his parents say they chose to go public with his case in the hope that it would press the authorities to prosecute the men.


Good for them.

This takes a lot of bravery — not only is Alex challenging a foreign criminal justice system, but he’s also speaking openly about his sexual assault. And he’s doing both in a country where male rape victims aren’t recognized, and homosexuality is incredibly taboo:

United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called “forced homosexuality.” The two adult men charged with sexually assaulting Alex have pleaded not guilty, although sperm from all three were found in Alex. The two adults appeared in court on Wednesday and were appointed a lawyer. They face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Legal experts here say that men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years.

It also highlights the taboos surrounding H.I.V. and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat H.I.V. virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with H.I.V., or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)

Hopefully this case will make a small dent in the culture of homophobia and hate. But I’m not so sure it’s going to demonstrate that the criminal justice system in the Emirates is as modern and enlightened as Dubai’s physical development would lead one to believe. After all, in an attempt to prove that they’re taking the case seriously, one prosecutor has said that he’ll be seeking to execute Alex’s attackers — and the death penalty is about as backwards as it gets.


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16 comments for “Rape, bigotry and Dubai

  1. Betty Boondoggle
    November 1, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Exceedingly brave, Alex is. It’s good to see such bravery in the face of such a backward, ridiculous system.

  2. Thealogian
    November 1, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Any news as to whether Alex has tested positive? How horrifying for this family. Though prosecuting sexual assault and rape has always taken those of great courage (and strong family support) to bring to light the reality of these crimes.

  3. alsojill
    November 1, 2007 at 10:55 am

    That poor kid. But I admire his bravery, and that of his family. :/

  4. preying mantis
    November 1, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    “Any news as to whether Alex has tested positive?”

    The article says he’s tested negative so far, but they won’t know anything for (reasonably) certain until January, which is the sixth month from exposure.

  5. Miss Sarajevo
    November 1, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    I think there was a major article in the Nation (maybe some other magazine) a while back that called Dubai “Sinister Paradise.” From the stories I heard from a friend who worked there last summer, I think that’s a fitting description. As in the other Gulf states, foreign workers of South Asian origin live, and are treated, little better than slaves by the small indigenous ruling class. My friend met a man named “Carrefour” –like the French hypermarket. He said he didn’t know his real name, age, or nationality and was basically bought by the family he had worked for from childhood. Apparently he was handed into servitude in a Carrefour parking-lot.

  6. EG
    November 1, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    That is brave. Poor kid.

  7. November 1, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Indeed a brave young man, most especially for being willing to talk about the crime and pursue this case.

    I have to ask, though (not to detract from this story or Alex’s horrific experience)… just where IS the rape of males, by males, recognized or taken seriously? Or prosecuted seriously?

    Male rape seems pretty much accepted as a fact of life in the US prisons, with some people even salivating over the thought that someone sentenced to a prison term will receive further “punishment” by being raped by other inmates.

    We are sometimes concerned (and sometimes LONG after the fact, and only when it can’t be hidden any longer) with the rape of male children or youths, but other than that… I just don’t see that, in practice, the Dubai justice system is much different than that of many other places, including the U.S.

    (I could be wrong and have missed many prosecutions for this here or something, tho.)

  8. Mnemosyne
    November 1, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    I have to ask, though (not to detract from this story or Alex’s horrific experience)… just where IS the rape of males, by males, recognized or taken seriously? Or prosecuted seriously?

    Texas.

    However, given that 1 out of 4 women report having been sexually assaulted, but only 1 out of 33 men, there’s not exactly an epidemic of men being raped. You don’t see many prosecutions because, frankly, men being raped just doesn’t happen as often as women being raped.

    If you have statistics showing otherwise, I’d be interested to see them.

    We are sometimes concerned (and sometimes LONG after the fact, and only when it can’t be hidden any longer) with the rape of male children or youths, but other than that… I just don’t see that, in practice, the Dubai justice system is much different than that of many other places, including the U.S.

    Remember the whole pedophile priests scandal? You know, the one that’s costing the Catholic Church millions of dollars? You wouldn’t know it from the coverage, but girls were molested along with boys. Yet, somehow, the molestation of the boys has been treated in the media as THE crime. Molestation of girls, especially teenage girls? Eh, men can’t help themselves.

  9. Bitter Scribe
    November 1, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    And these are our ALLIES.

  10. preying mantis
    November 1, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    “Remember the whole pedophile priests scandal?”

    You know, now that I think of it, whenever some fucked up case involving sexual abuse, exploitation, or misconduct by Protestant clergy makes the news, the victims are women and/or girls. It only seems to be when Catholics are involved that the spotlight is really shone on male victims. I wonder if it’s reporting bias, something to do with the general organization of the churches, or a combination.

  11. November 1, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Texas.

    Thanks, I didn’t know about that one.

    However, given that 1 out of 4 women report having been sexually assaulted, but only 1 out of 33 men, there’s not exactly an epidemic of men being raped. You don’t see many prosecutions because, frankly, men being raped just doesn’t happen as often as women being raped.

    Oh, I don’t think there is an epidemic of men being raped (except in prisons), especially not at the same rate, or even close to it, that women are but I have no statistics on it – I imagine it probably happens more than is reported (as with rapes of women), and for many of the same reasons, as well as the added ‘macho stuff’ ones.

    Remember the whole pedophile priests scandal?

    I do. And I also remember that there was far more horror over the boys, with little mention of the girls. Part of the reason I think that was is for the reasons below.

    You know, now that I think of it, whenever some fucked up case involving sexual abuse, exploitation, or misconduct by Protestant clergy makes the news, the victims are women and/or girls. It only seems to be when Catholics are involved that the spotlight is really shone on male victims.

    Personally, I think some of that has to do with a form of anti-gay bias (and probably anti-Catholic bias), in the media, the general public and the Catholic Church hierarchy itself. Not only was there the pretty much ignoring of female child rape (as well nuns – both abused and abusers), but there was the tendency to, by implication or (in the more right wing media) straight out, conflate gay priests with pedophiles and pederasts.

    That worked to take part of the focus off of the decades of concealment of known child predators (which thing also happens in other denominations and organizations), and also gave defenders and justifiers a hook.

  12. November 2, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Holy fucking shit!

    What is with the child abuse/rape cases this week?? First that crazy woman forces a genital piercing on her 13 year old daughter because she finds out daughter is having sex with mom’s boyfriend, and now this shit?!

    Sometimes I really hate this world.

  13. denelian
    November 2, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Texas

    i dont comment a lot – but i had to comment on something in this news article.
    its about a man who is a serial rapist of other men, for those who don’t want to read it. it describes what had happened, to various men, and then says
    “No one has been seriously hurt. “

    because, you know, rape doesn’t cause harm

    grrrrrrr

  14. Mary Katherine
    November 2, 2007 at 2:17 am

    1 out of 33 males being sexually assaulted is incorrect. I don’t know where that number comes from. Maybe it is the rate of rape of adult men not in prison; I don’t know.

    I have read a lot on child sexual abuse, including books by Christine Courtois (you can look her up; she’s written three books).

    1 out of 6 males report sexual assault before the age of 18, compared with either 1 out of 4 or 1 out of 3 females.

    My view of the situation is that women speak with difficulty about rape and other forms of SA, and men tend not to speak at all. And if you are disabled or not white, good luck finding a counselor who is sensitive.

  15. November 2, 2007 at 6:39 am

    Absolutely — men are really marginalized when it comes to sexual assault. Part of the reason is that male rape is often an attempt to humiliate someone by “feminizing” them — talking or grieving about it can feel like you’re giving into that weakness.

    And as a society, we really don’t seem to care about the epidemic of prison rape. We think of it as just part of the punishment. It’s really disgusting.

  16. Morningstar
    November 3, 2007 at 1:36 am

    Absolutely — men are really marginalized when it comes to sexual assault. Part of the reason is that male rape is often an attempt to humiliate someone by “feminizing” them — talking or grieving about it can feel like you’re giving into that weakness.

    I’m no expert on these sorts of things, but I would think male rape is usually about exerting power or fulfilling a sexual urge and maybe lastly an attempt to emasculate (and maybe something like that mostly occurs just at prisons).

    Honestly I don’t really know. But I always thought the reasons were similar to hetero rape.

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