On Wednesday, July 17th, Marte Deborah Dalelv was sentenced to 16 months in prison in Dubai for having sex outside of marriage after reporting being raped.
That’s right. She was accused of committing a crime after being sexually assaulted. Granted, laws are different in Dubai, but what kind of misogynistic interpretation of law does it take to say that a victim of a crime is guilty of a crime?
Even more insulting, the perpetrator was found guilty of both having sex outside marriage and public intoxication, but was only sentenced to 13 months. So it seems that the victim is more guilty than the assailant.
So why should we care about what happens to a citizen of Norway who is working in the United Arab Emirates? Because we are allies with the UAR, and many people from this country also work in the UAR, some of them women. How much anger would you feel if a woman from the United States was jailed for reporting a rape?
I still believe any nation, whether our ally or no, should be allowed to rule their people in the manner that they see fit. But when we ally with a nation with policies such as these, it implies tacit acceptance of such acts, even if such things would not be allowed within our own borders.
Many people would argue that if the climate is so hostile to women, they should just stay away from that country. But that argument has been used any time women have tried to better their position in life by trying to do work typically in the realm of men. The basis of this goes back to antiquity of women being kept “in their place”. Modern and enlightened people realize this is unfair and wrong, especially with technology leveling the playing field in so many jobs.
Not all countries govern from a modern or enlightened view, however. As a purportedly progressive and “equal” nation, we should really only be giving ally status to nations who are at least nearly as forward thinking as we claim to be. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to tell a potential ally that we expect a certain level of legal fairness in how they deal with crime and victims of said crime, or we simply cannot be allies. For a nation that has very little military of their own to protect their precious oil tankers, this would be a huge bargaining chip indeed. All the while we would still be protecting their sovereignty because we aren’t using force to demand change; we would be using economic incentives to gently lead them to fairness because it would in their financial interests.
Some would say that would be reckless on our part because they would just get protection for their oil from someone else. Maybe, but that someone else would have to get their forces in place. That delay would create a huge window for pirates in the area, such as the very active Somalis, to plunder the supertankers with impunity. The UAR knows this, but our leaders have not had the strength of character to try to nudge our allies towards a more equal society, so they don’t worry about it.
With increasing domestic yields in petroleum due to advancing procurement methods, we are losing our dependence on foreign oil. Additionally, technology is moving away from the need for petroleum for fuel at all. We are in a position to lead nations such as the United Arab Emirates toward equality and modernity without depriving them of their sovereign rights of internal leadership. History has shown time and again it is much easier to influence a people by their pocketbook than forcing them to your way of thinking at the point of a gun. If we use these tactics in our diplomacy and alliances, we can make history.