Marte Dalelv: Dubai Pardons Norwegian Woman Imprisoned for Reporting Rape


In March, a 24-year-old Norwegian businesswoman Marte Dalelv was on a work trip in Dubai, UAE when she was violently sexually assaulted by a coworker. Like any person should be able to, she reported her rape case to the police, and shockingly, she was sentenced to a 16-month prison sentence from the Dubai authorities for having 'sex out of wedlock.'

On Sunday, Dalelv was luckily pardoned and her 16-month sentence was dropped, after immense pressure from the international community, including her home country of Norway. Since March, Dalelv has become an international symbol for the perverse religious legal systems that still run some of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Her sentence provoked complete and global outrage in the Western world because it emphasized the clash between Dubai's Western-friendly image and its Islamic-based legal codes. For a city whose development depends on its ability to appeal to and do business with Western nations, Dubai developed a black mark worldwide for this international scandal.

When Dalelv originally reported the incident, she was not only issued the prison sentence, but she also had her passport seized and was thrown in a jail cell for several days where she was banned from using a phone or contacting any help. Dalelv's next scheduled hearing in court was scheduled for early September. Thanks to international media attention and help from the Norwegian Consulate, she was finally released and put under the protection of the local Norwegian Sailor's Church. Upon hearing the news, Dalelv declared, "I am very, very happy ... I am overjoyed."

Though she is now free to leave and return home, Dalelv has taken a dramatic step for progessive women's rights by going public and discussing her rape case, sentence, and revealing her name in a series of interviews.

In doing so, Dalelv may have sparked a process of change, by calling attention to the still stagnant legal system in Dubai and many other countries. According to Norweigan Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, "The United Arab Emirates and Dubai is a rapidly changing society. This decision ... [will] serve as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries.”