A south African national and his girlfriend were detained by authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on charges of unlawful sexual relations. No rape or other sexual assault misdemeanors were suspected, Emlyn Culverwell, the man in question was simply arrested for having premarital sex.
The BBC reports that premarital sex is considered illegal in the UAE and so Culverwell and his girlfriend were taken in by the Abu Dhabi police force. They were both arrested at an Abu Dhabi hospital when the girlfriend’s complaints of stomach cramps turned up the revelation (after a series of tests) that she is pregnant.
Reports have it that the two were then taken into custody when they were unable to provide a marriage certificate. They were taken to Yas Police Station and then later to Al Wathba Prison.
The UAE operates a Sharia legal system which stamps the young couple guilty of “Zina” or extramarital sex. Zina encompasses a wide range of offences that include consensual sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage and other moral offenses. People convicted of Zina face sentences, ranging from public flogging to lengthy jail sentences.
Culverwell is an employee of a popular Abu Dhabi water resort and has lived in the UAE since he moved there five years ago, while his girlfriend works as an administrative officer.
South Africa’s Herald Live reports that Culverwell’s mother petitioned for authorities to help her son and his fiancée‚ who were jailed since January. She said that after the couple’s arrest, they were held by Abu Dhabi authorities with no form of contact with the outside world.
Culverwell’s mother also accused South African authorities of not doing enough to secure her son’s release. Despite the alleged nonchalance of the embassy Culverwell and his girlfriend were released on March 10 with an agreement that they would both get married.
Statistics sourced by Herald Live showed that hundreds of women — with the vast majority being foreign women — are locked up in the UAE every year for having sex outside of marriage, including pregnant women and rape victims.
Human Rights Watch‚ says the UAE’s Zina codes violates international human rights law that the UAE is a signatory to but some have made the argument that the couple were privy to the rules concerning premarital sex in the country and should have kept to them.