Woman Wanted in Dubai for the Crime of Being a Rape Victim

Trigger warning: This post discusses rape.

A 24 year old Norwegian woman staying in Dubai, Marte Deborah Dalelv, has been accused and convicted after reporting being raped to the police. The police’s initial response was to throw her in jail and take her money and passport. She was later released and has since appeared before a court in Dubai.

She has now been charged for having sex outside of marriage, for drinking alcohol and for bringing about false accusations of rape. She has been sentenced to 16 months in jail for this “crime” and is now wanted as she is not currently in their custody. She is in some form of hiding in Dubai unable to leave the country.

“It was a shock. I thought it was a joke at first. It appeared no one had believed anything of what I had told them. My whole world fell apart,” she says in a comment published in the Norwegian media today.

Reporting a rape is apparently a crime in these parts of the world. It speaks of the challenges all women face in these countries and why not only should attention be given to this case and collective efforts be made to get the charges dropped and get her home, but likewise should this practice be looked into for all women in similar situations. I strongly doubt she is the only one suffering such injustice.

According to a Skype-interview available on NRK’s website (in Norwegian) she was prepared for her visit to Dubai and was aware of the rules of conduct she would be exposed to, but she was not prepared for this. According to an interview with her father she only did what she thought was right after she was raped, she went to the police to report the crime. She was then charged for making false accusation, towards whom isn’t specified in the articles. Presumably the rapist.

According to a  representative of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs this is due to “different legal practices in different countries. Especially when it comes to violence towards women.” That is a bit of an understatement. He makes it sound like this is a trivial matter of cultural and legal difference. It is much more than that. It is the conviction and possible imprisonment of an innocent human being. It’s a human rights violation and should be treated as such.

This is not the first time this happens either. In a similar story from May this year an Australian woman was jailed for 8 months for having “sex outside marriage”. She was drugged and gang raped by her own colleagues at the hotel where she worked.

Update July 22nd.

The charges against Marte Dalelv have been dropped today, She can go home.

Feature image: Private photo of Marte Deborah Dalelv from



Veronica is a PhD candidate in high energy physics at the University of Oslo, Norway. She loves science, and is a total science-fiction nerd. She's a queer feminist, a secular humanist, and of course a skeptic. She spends most of her free time working for one of the major LGBTQ+ organisations in Norway. She is the editor of the Norwegian Skepchick blog, but also writes for some of the other blogs in the network. She can be found on Twitter as @VeronicaInPink.

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  1. July 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm —

    “Reporting a rape is apparently a crime in these parts of the world.”

    What do you mean, “these parts of the world”?

    • July 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm —

      In Dubai … obviously, I thought?

      • July 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm —

        I believe Timmyson was pointing out the idea that, while it’s clearly not a legal crime in many parts of the country, being a rape victim is still looked down upon in most parts in the world. The west still has plenty of people who blame and accuse the victim of wrongdoing. See the Duke rape case in the US as an example.

        • July 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm —

          I double-checked to be sure and found that not only were the Duke students cleared, the prosecutor chose to ignore the complainant’s contradictory statements and rushed to prosecute the students. This resulted in his removal as prosecutor and eventual disbarment. The Duke case is a very bad example to use, there are plenty of true examples to use.

          Veronica, being half Norwegian myself I have a special interest in this case. I hope she can be slipped to safety, and I hope Oslo will pull their heads out and protest this injustice loudly, making Dubai aware that Norway will not tolerate it’s citizens being treated this way. Can’t hurt to get Princess Mette-Marit involved, I’d expect her to be doing something already.

          • July 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

            The Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised in the evening news today to do what they can, but as always they will try not to force their will on a foreign nation in order to avoid escalating this or turn this into a diplomatic incident. In my opinion it already is though.

          • July 20, 2013 at 11:29 am

            I don’t know the details of the Duke case by I do know it is very common for rape victims to make contradictory statements due to compromised memory because of the trauma they suffered. PTSD victims of any kind can have the same issues. My father was witness to a gas station robbery in which he was punched in the face and a gun was stuck aimed at his face. He had no memory of being punched and he could not describe the robber or events. All he remembered was what the barrel of the gun looked like.

          • July 21, 2013 at 1:31 am

            The diplomats will always try to avoid escalating a matter to a diplomatic incident, that is their job (as they see it). But fortunately it is not their job as the politicians see it. This has already been made a diplomatic incident because it has reached the attention of the international press. We are all reminded that Dubai is still a third world country which is exactly the opposite of the impression its rulers want to project.

            The good news is that the corruption in the Dubai legal system is symmetrical. This was a prosecution that should never have been brought and now that it has been exposed and has caused multiple diplomatic incidents it is almost certain that there will be the right outcome in the end in this particular case.

            But the fix will be to address this one case and not the treatment of other women who are raped and any changes that do happen will be limited to foreign women whose cases might attract unfavorable media attention.

      • July 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm —

        Hmmm… perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything without being able to concisely describe my feelings. It is a somewhat slippery concept for me to try to articulate.

        In regular usage (in my dialect), I think “Dubai” would be a part of the world (singular), so to me there is an implication of generalization with “parts”. Generalization could happen in a variety of ways, but my mind (racism steeped, I guess) jumps to “the Arab world” or “brown people” or “non-white”.

        It’s not that I thought you were saying that. It’s just how it came off to me, and it made me feel a little uncomfortable, so I said something. Now rereading this, I think I’m being oversensitive. I hope you at least get an idea where I’m coming from.

        • July 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm —

          Well, a number of countries in that region have a lot to answer for when it comes to how women are treated, but it has nothing to do with race. In either case this is not what I intended to say, otherwise I would have said that. It was simply a way to avoid repeating “Dubai” over and over again. It is common to say the same things in different ways to avoid sounding repetitive. The generalisation comes in the next sentence where I refer to the situation of women in general in countries similar to the Emirates in this respect.

          In either case I am a little puzzled by the fact that this is what people choose to focus on rather than the atrocity that this story is.

  2. July 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm —

    The anti Muslim hate comments in that Blaze article make me more scared of the US than than anything else.

    • July 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm —

      Criticising Islam is good, hating Muslims is bad. The majority of the women who suffer under these systems of oppression are also Muslims.

      • July 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm —

        It’s just – I don’t think the answer is for all women to carry guns, or to nuke Dubai, as some of those commenters seem to think.

      • July 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm —

        I would suggest, at this stage, just off the top of my head, a high level investigation, consular officials involved to be reprimanded or sacked, a team of lawyers to be supplied to the victim, substantial compensation and all collateral medical expenses to be paid by Federal Govt, trade sanctions against Dubai, well publicised travel warnings to be issued by Department of Foreign Affairs.policy changes to prevent future reoccurrence of similar atrocities. As a start.

      • July 18, 2013 at 7:55 pm —


        Good point, and many people who are Muslims don’t want to live under them either, including ones who are currently living in theocracies like these, which is something that is lost on a lot of people.

  3. July 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm —


    This is horrible, I want Justice for Marte Deborah Dalelv. Its sad that stuff like this happens, especially in this day and age.

  4. July 19, 2013 at 8:47 am —

    Thank you.
    I read skepchick and other sites (freethoughtblogs for example) to be more aware. As an Australian, I know that many Australians fly through Dubai on the way to other destinations in Europe and North America. If more Australians were aware, perhaps they might reconsider flying through Dubai (Hello Emirates and Qantas). I have emailed my local paper, the west australian ( asking them to publicize the story.The relevant email appears to be: [email protected].

  5. July 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm —

    Terrible. I went to Dubai three years ago with my 16 year old daughter. She was respectfully dressed but was leered at by old men with several wifes following at the gold souk. No doubt bad things would have happened to her if she was by herself. Hope this poor woman can escape as soon as possible and recover quickly

    • July 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm —

      Bruce Maclean,

      So do I, and I’m certain everyone else here shares that sentiment. It will be horrible if she is convicted for basically being raped.

  6. July 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm —

    Pretty soon it will be a crime to be a woman…Texas are you listening?

  7. July 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm —

    “Reporting a rape is apparently a crime in these parts of the world.”

    Apparently the author is not familiar with Sharia law, which states that a women who alleges rape must have 4 male witnesses, otherwise she is admitting to sex outside of marriage, which is illegal.

    • July 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm —

      She is familiar with that law. IIRC you need 4 male or 8 female witnesses.

      • August 6, 2013 at 2:25 am —

        Actually, under Sharia it is 4 Muslim male witnesses or 8 Muslim female witnesses. Non-Muslims only count as half. Therefore, if a Hindu woman is gangraped in by Muslims Pakistan, she had better have 16 Hindu female witnesses, none of whom are afraid to speak out, otherwise she will face death for fornication. That brings me to another topic. Marte is at least fortunate to have been Norwegian. She has a government that will do something, and Western Europeans and Americans are at least viewed as what Emiratis call “first country nationals.” Can you imagine what Sri Lankan, Indian, Filipino, and Ukrainian women working in The Gulf countries must experience on a daily basis? BTW one less talked about aspect of the “pardoning” of this woman is that the rapist was also pardoned. Prosecuting him without also prosecuting her for ‘fornication’ would require them to rewrite the laws to treat rapists as criminals and rape victims as victims. That is unacceptable in Islam and therefore they will not do it. Aren’t you so proud to have more of these Muslim immigrants piling up in East Oslo?

  8. July 21, 2013 at 5:39 am —

    I read that, in Dubai, the law says the following: a rape is not proven unless (i) either the rapist confesses or (ii) four adult males testify as immediate witnesses.

    If that is not ridiculous then what is? Will the rapist ever confess? Will there ever be four male witnesses? What if the rape occurs when nobody can see? No, says the Dubai law, then it is not a rape. Notice that, according to the law, women don’t even count as witnesses. In particular, the victim doesn’t count.

    What a bunch of middle age backwards assholes! How dare the Norwegian official speak of differences in law?

    Dubai is a backwards country, stuck some thousand years ago, despite appearances.

    By the way, Dubai has one of the largest prostitution rings in the world. Ooh yes, prostitution is illegal in Dubai and, certainly not allowed to be practiced by pious muslims.

  9. July 21, 2013 at 7:44 am —

    Boycott Dubai. Next time I hear someone goes to Dubai for vacation i’ll get so angry.
    By the way, shame goes to all those European universities opening campuses in this medieval backwards country, lured by their money. Shame.

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