Most of us have heard the grotesque stories about rape victims in Dubai (and probably other countries as well), who have been imprisoned for pre-marital sex after reporting being raped to the local authorities.

A woman can be imprisoned for admitting to pre-marital sex, because proving that a rape happened is next to impossible in Dubai, where four male Muslim witnesses are required. If a woman admits to being raped, and the rape cannot be proven by the legal system, the man or men walks free.

But why is there no burden of proof for imprisoning the woman? If sex has happened, by Dubai law, one of the parties is guilty of breaking the law. But not being able to prove that the accused is guilty doesn't mean that the accuser is guilty, by any standard of the law, as I know it. Does innocent until proven guilty not exist here?

Surely it is not illegal to be raped, and that is the only thing these women are admitting to? On what grounds are they imprisoned?


As a comparison, I'd like to explore the following. A victim of consuming illegal drugs against their will, reports the crime at a police station/ hospital in the USA. Health workers perform a drug test, and find evidence of illegal substances. An investigation is started, but due to lack of evidence, no one is charged or convicted of drugging this victim. Could this now result in a criminal case charge against the one reporting being drugged, because the drugs are illegal to consume, and no evidence is found that this was done against their will?

  • 8
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the legal answer is simply "The law allows it". The OP is seeking an answer to a political question - essentially "Why are the laws in Dubai the way they are?"
    – Dale M
    Jan 26, 2016 at 0:06
  • 4
    In that case, might the question be a better fit for politics.stackexchange.com ?
    – WBT
    Feb 17, 2016 at 1:56
  • 1
    Not really... My question is about how the law works. As far as I understand, it is not illegal to be the victim of a crime. And how is reporting a crime being used as evidence for another crime? Is the law different in those states? Are you not considered innocent until proven guilty? Lack of proof of rape is not the same as existing evidence of voluntary premarital sex, and my base for the question is exactly why it is treated as such.
    – jumps4fun
    Feb 4, 2020 at 15:28
  • Your update is completely irrelevant. You are saying "here is a scenario under one set of rules. As an example, here is a different scenario, under a different set of rules". How are the two related? The USA does not have the same legal system as all other countries.
    – jimsug
    Feb 14, 2020 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


Women are imprisoned on the grounds that they have confessed to engaging in pre-marital sex.

If you're looking for the reason why this is the case even when they've been raped, it's because Islamic law, specifically, Sharia law, states that this is the punishment for engaging in pre-marital sex.

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    Yes... But isn't the law agains voluntarily pre-marital sex? If that is the case, are they legally allowed to imprison women for reporting a rape? They have not confessed to voluntarily engaging in pre-marital sex, and I don't suppose they can be actually sentenced for being raped. This is a case of "can't prove either side is lying", which should mean both sides should be innocent until proven guilty?
    – jumps4fun
    Jan 28, 2016 at 10:11
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    The law is against pre-marital sex. They have reported and confessed to engaging in pre-marital sex. Not trying to be rude, but if you're looking for somewhere to point out social injustice, the internet's a big place and this isn't the right site for it.
    – jimsug
    Jan 28, 2016 at 10:13
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    If you're looking for the reason why this is the case even when they've been raped, it's because Islamic law, specifically, Sharia law, states that this is the punishment for engaging in pre-marital sex. - Please note that this claim of yours is wrong and with out reference to a reliable source. Please provide a source to your claim. Here is a source which is in contradiction of your claim : islam.stackexchange.com/a/10452
    – Ghazanfar
    Apr 6, 2016 at 14:19
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    @MohammadGhazanfar your source does not contradict my claim. It merely states that four witnesses are not needed to prove rape, which is not the question here. The question here is "why can a woman be imprisoned for admitting to being raped?" If you disagree, feel free to post an answer.
    – jimsug
    Apr 6, 2016 at 14:41
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    @MohammadGhazanfar seems like you disagree. Why don't you quote the part of that answer which states that a woman's testimony is not evidence of her being raped and then answer this question?
    – jimsug
    Apr 6, 2016 at 21:42

The "logic" it appears is that the law says "having pre-marital sex is illegal" and "Having any sex with someone AND it was against his/her will is illegal". Thus, if an unwed woman is accusing a man of "Having Sex with someone and it was against her will" the crime of "Having sex out of marriage" is confessed too as she is unmarried and sex happened. The crime she is accusing is that the man did not have her consent to do it... and if the crime is not proven, she still had to testify that "Pre-marital sex happened" and at this point, in absent of a sucessful rape allegation, she's confessing to a crime.

Western law has a concept of this called "Affirmative Defense" which is essentially conceding one point of the accusation as fact in order to argue that the other point not fact. For example, in the U.S. the crime of Murder generally holds that two things must happen (and if neither one does, it's not murder): 1.) You killed someone (homicide) AND 2.) there was no justification for killing that person.

A classic affirmative defense to Murder is "Self-Defense" and requires that you acknowledge that the first element (You killed someone) is true BUT the the prosecution is wrong about the second element (The reason you killed the person was he was going to kill you and you had no other choice).

The difference between Islamic Law and Common Law (U.S.) is that an Affirmative Defense does not need to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that it was self-defense and not murder, just that it's enough to not rule it out as a plausible explanation. In Islamic Law, the burden of proof is still required.

Please note that in the first sentence, I used quotes around "logic" as I believe one of the initial predicate conditions is false, thus the conclusion is not logical, but this part gets into a sort of mathematical logic that requires a lot of explanation I think would detract from the summery. Essentially, It's your math teacher saying "I understand why you got the answer you did because you showed your work, but your answer is still wrong."

EDIT: In response to the Update. Involuntary Intoxication is a defense though it is rarely used, as well as diminished mental capacity. With that said, if the person intoxicated against their will does nothing but report the crime, it's likely they will get an easier time than if they drunk drive after drinking spiked punch. If they are able to prove it, they would be legally not responsible for any crime committed while under the influence.

  • There are unfortunately too many words I don't know the meaning of, to understand this answer. But I'll update my question with another example, to try and explain myself better
    – jumps4fun
    Feb 5, 2020 at 13:30
  • @KjetilNordin: Updated to respond. And what terms are you having trouble with? We're here to learn, so if something is confusing by all means, ask.
    – hszmv
    Feb 5, 2020 at 13:56
  • The update consideres additional consequences to being under the influence, which I consider irrelevant in this particular case. I understand the need to have harder evidence burdens in cases where third parties are also injured. But that is not the case in neither pre-marital sex/rape, nor being drugged agains their will/voluntarily taking drugs. So in many ways I fail to se the concrete relevance of murders and traffic accidents, even though I do understand that they are in some way similar.
    – jumps4fun
    Feb 5, 2020 at 14:02
  • The most important part here, is the fact that reporting a crime is so violently discouraged, because of the risk of being jailed yourself. If no one reports any crime, no one would know anything. Which is definitely not the case in say traffic accidents under the influence, or murders. I just fail to understand the way burden of proof is handled. It must be other rules in Islamic law countries I guess?
    – jumps4fun
    Feb 5, 2020 at 14:05
  • @KjetilNordin: In the west, Onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat (Latin: Burden of Proof lies with he who accuses, not he who denies.) has been a major part of legal framework since late 2nd-3rd century AD. For a non-criminal example, lets take the question "Does alien life exist?" If I say yes and you say no and the accuser or affirmative has the burden of proof, then you win as we start with no evidence of aliens from beyond the moon. I must show that it is real and cannot be swamp gas or Venus in rare alignment to prove you wrong.+
    – hszmv
    Feb 5, 2020 at 14:16

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