She was raped and called the police. They asked her if she liked it.

This is Marte Dalelv.




“Did you call the police because you didn’t like it?”

That’s what a police officer in the United Arab Emirates asked 24-year-old Marte Deborah Dalelv when she called to report a rape. And instantly, Dalelv knew the police did not believe her story.

It was March of this year that the Norwegian citizen, who had been working for two years at an interior design firm in the neighbouring country of Qatar, was allegedly raped by a colleague after a night out in Dubai.

Dalelv alleges that she asked her colleague to walk her to her hotel room at around 3am. When the pair were in a hotel corridor, the man pulled Dalely into a room which was not her own.

“He dragged me by my purse in, so I thought, ‘OK, I just need to calm the situation down. I will finish my bottle of water, I will sit here and then I will excuse myself and say I feel fine,'” Dalelv recently told United States broadcaster CNN.

The next thing she knew, Dalelv was naked and lying on her front and the man was raping her.

After she managed to make it downstairs to the hotel lobby, Dalelv did what she would have done if the crime had taken place in her home country: she called the police.

“That is what you do. We are trained on that from when we are very young,” she told CNN.

The United Arab Emirates.

But here’s the thing. In her home country of Norway, calling the police to report a crime like a rape is expected.


But in the United Arab Emirates, laws of rape and sexual assault operate very, very differently.

The United Arab Emirates follows Sharia Law, which is the traditional Islamic law.

Under Sharia Law, people are prohibited from having sex outside of marriage and, unfortunately, rape falls under that law.

The law also prohibits people from drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

Under Sharia law, a rape allegation is not considered by the courts unless it was witnessed by at least four Muslim men who are each willing to testify and attest that the sex was non-consensual.

So when Dalelv told police that she had been raped – and that she was not married – she was charged with having unlawful sex after being held with no charge for a total of four days.

This from CNN:

Subsequently, she said her manager advised her to tell the police it was voluntary sexual intercourse and likely the whole issue would just go away. She followed the advice and in one of the many hearings at the public prosecutor’s office, she made a statement saying it was voluntary.

Dalelv was then charged with making a false statement.

“That was my biggest regret because it wasn’t voluntary. I just thought it would all go away,” she told CNN.

On July 16, Dalelv was sentenced to 16 months in prison; 12 months for having sex outside of marriage, with additional time added for alcohol consumption and making a false statement. Her attacker has reportedly also been convicted of unlawful sex and alcohol consumption but it’s not known whether he has been charged with rape. What is known is that his sentence was only 13 months jail.

Dalelv is planning on appealing her sentence in September. Dalelv, who has been allowed to stay at a Norwegian community centre in Dubai, said she wanted to go public with her story because her case is not unique. Women in the United Abab Emirates are regularly jailed for unlawful sex despite the fact that the sex was had without consent.


In fact, Dalelv’s story is similar to that of Australian woman Alicia Gali (right). In 2008, Gali travelled to the UAE to head up a spa and beauty salon at a four-and-a-half star resort on the coast.

Three months into her working holiday, 31-year-old Gali was allegedly raped by three hotel employees after her drink was spiked.

“I remember drinking the drink – I don’t even remember finishing the drink,” Alicia told reporter Ross Coulthart, during an interview with Channel 7 earlier this year.

“Next thing I know I wake up at 4:30 in the afternoon the next day. The door to my apartment was ajar, I was completely naked with just my bra handing off my shoulder. I woke up in pain; I had broken ribs and a lot of bruising to my body.”

Alicia was sentenced to one year in jail – the men who raped her received sentences of a similar length. She was pardoned after eight months and allowed to come home to Australia. And today, Alicia says she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder because of the incident.

Both Gali’s and Dalelv’s stories have gained the attention of human rights groups.

The Emirates Center for Human Rights released a statement recently which read:

Ministers in the UAE regularly cite their efforts to eliminate discrimination against women as evidence of an excellent human rights record. As this case demonstrates, the current legal system prohibits the achievement of justice for cases of sexual violence against women.

Rori Donaghy, Campaign Manager, said: “If the UAE is to be taken seriously in its commitment to protecting the rights of women authorities must reform a legal system which affords little protection to victims of rape.

As it stands, if the laws are not reformed, authorities in the UAE are simply using the rights of women as a form of pinkwashing to protect themselves against wider criticism of their human rights record.”

We call upon the authorities to allow Marte Deborah Dalelv to return home and quash her conviction.

If you want to support Dalelv in her efforts to be freed, you can follow her Facebook page here. 

UPDATE: Norwegian woman Marte Deborah Dalelv has reportedly been pardoned and is free to go home from the United Arab Emirates.