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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “Woman Jailed After Rape ‘Unfortunate'”

March 29, 2011

It has been another day of top choice headlines amongst those reading news online today. AdelaideNow readers are focused upon “A Fat Lot Of Good This Will Do”, The Courier Mail readers are concerned for “Ricki-Lee’s Bad Hair Day” and News.com.au readers are seemingly outraged by “Baby Kicked Off Bus For Laughing Too Loud”.

Must be a slow news day, I couldn’t find a single penis article.

In real news today’s headline is anything but a slow news piece. Brisbane woman, Alicia Gali, is currently seeking compensation from her previous employer, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, in the United Arab Emirates for breaching their workplace duty of care. Condensing the article, Ms. Gali alleges that she was raped by three to four co-workers in June 2008 after having her drink spiked. Upon reporting the assault to authorities, Ms. Gali was tried and found guilty on charges of adultery (it is illegal to have sex outside of marriage in the UAE) and jailed for 8 months. Ms. Gali was pardoned and released in March 2009.

I’m struggling with the word ‘unfortunate’ in this headline. ‘Completely fucked’ would actually be my choice of language, however the bar for my journalistic standards is considerably lower than that of The Australian. I’m sure you’ve noticed.

Melissa Payne, lawyer for Ms. Gali, feels that this particular incident could have been avoided. Upon reporting the sexual assault to the human resources manager Ms. Gali was not advised of the consequences that could occur for filing an incident as such. Ms. Payne also feels that that an inadequate induction on the local laws and customs was provided and that if there were segregated, secure quarters for women the incident could have been avoided altogether.

Not surprisingly Ms. Gali has experienced severe psychological distress following this experience. As the UAE promotes itself as ‘one of the safest places in the world to visit’ and the beach resort itself states that ‘limitless fun is our promise’ it’s not difficult to understand why Ms. Gali feels “angry and upset”. I want to make some kind of sarcastic remark about limitless fun and rape but even I can’t sink that low. It’s sickening that this incident has occured and frightening to think it could happen again. How many local women have been subjected to and become victims of such an archaeic legal system? How long will it be until amendments are made?

There is nothing ‘unfortunate’ about what has occured here. This is a catastrophic event that encourages victim blaming and punishment of the innocent. While it is certainly acceptable for other cultures to live differently to what we do here in Australia, the blatent repression of women is something that should be condemned. To rub salt into Ms. Galis’ wounds not one of the perpetrators of this crime was charged with sexual assault. So much for gender equality. A clear message has been sent to the men in this case that it is perfectly ok to perform acts of sexual violence against a woman. How can future cases like this be prevented if there is no punishment for those who commit such appalling crimes? Is it possible to shape a generation of responsible young men and teach them to respect and value women when it is being taught that women are disposable? Does the UAE embassy really have any conviction behind their statement of “The UAE intends to establish a new benchmark for gender empowerment in the region”?

Perhaps this landmark case will bring us some answers.

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