Survey says women unlikely to report rape

Arab women are more reluctant to report rapes to the police than expatriates, fearing damage to their family's reputation.

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DUBAI // More than half of women in the UAE would not report a rape to police, although a significant majority of all residents would, a survey by YouGov Siraj indicated. The study, conducted via e-mail, showed that 77 per cent of UAE residents would report rapes, but that most of the 23 per cent who would not were women.

Fifty-five per cent of female respondents said they would not report a rape because they would worry about their family's reputation or their own. Separately, 49 per cent feared being unjustly judged by society or accused of immoral behaviour. "Arab women are less likely to report sexual assaults to the police owing to concerns that the allegations could damage their family's reputation," said Iman Annab, the chief executive of YouGov Siraj.

"In many cases, women are concerned about ending up on trial, or fear the authorities will uncover other infractions such as visa breaches or consuming alcohol without a licence." The survey polled 980 UAE residents and nationals - 657 men and 323 women - from December 22 to 27, with a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent. On December 13, The National reported that most expatriates were wary of reporting rapes to police. Lawyers said victims worried about embarrassment and prosecution.

"An attack like this could embarrass the family," said Mohammed al Redha, a Dubai-based lawyer and legal consultant. If victims spoke up, he said, they would have to provide evidence to the police, a laboratory and prosecutors. An Australian woman was sentenced to a year in jail in Fujairah last year after going to police to report that she had been drugged and gang-raped. Judges rejected her claim and instead convicted her of having sex outside marriage. The three men accused of attacking her were also prosecuted and jailed for a year.

Dr Ali al Jarman, a managing partner at the Dubai-based Prestige Advocates and Legal Consultants, said he faced many problems in registering rape and sexual assault cases. He recalled one instance of alleged abuse in which it took six months to register the case, a delay he put down to the number of requests by prosecutors and police. "Initial tests are requested, then secondary and tertiary tests are further requested," Dr al Jarman said. "By that time, the plaintiff would give up and refuse to go through more humiliation. Women refrain from reporting such issues due to the fact that they do not want to face such a process."

The Dubai Public Prosecutor, Shoaib Ahli, noted that the maximum sentence on a rape charge was death. "In a rape the technical evidence is thoroughly examined," he said. "DNA, forensics and a full investigation is made. If a person claims rape, we rely on the technical evidence and examine the testimony. If we do not find corroborating evidence, we cannot enforce the rape charge." Lara al Barazi, a research manager at YouGov Siraj, a research centre based in Saudi Arabia and Dubai whose stated mission is to "accurately represent the Arab world", said that 39 per cent of the male respondents said they would not report a rape out of concern for their family's reputation or their own.

Ten of the respondents said they had been victims of rape, assault or other violent crimes.