Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dubai: Prison for sex beach pair

I was waiting for the blogosphere to start commenting on this and it hasn't happened - so I suppose I'll have to. A man and woman have been jailed for three months (although they are on bail awaiting an appeal) for getting up to the kind of lascivious behaviour we've come to expect from UK citizens abroad.

Most of the British Press has reported this as a straight 'Brits fall foul of Dubai's strict sex laws' story but there is a bit more to it than that. It's true that in Dubai couples are forbidden to kiss and homosexuality is outlawed, which is clearly very harsh and wrong, but the charges against the pair involved include having sex in public (which is also illegal here, sort of), drunken behaviour (ditto) and assaulting a police officer (which is fine in the UK, but only after night fall).

So when the Times talks about "Arab values" and Dubai's "slender claim to modernity" I was rather left wondering whether it was the assaulting the police officer, the public lewd behaviour or the drunkenness that was specifically breaching "Arab values" and dragging the region back from "modernity".

When the Guardian says they had "fall[en] foul of the strict Islamic laws" you're left to ponder whether they're reporting on the case or just passing judgement on Islam and it's strict "no attacking policemen" ways. I mean it comes to something when Arabs start locking up white people doesn't it? It's not like he was a real policeman - he didn't even have a bobbies helmet or anything.

As I understand it the affair all started after the two executives attended an all you can drink champagne brunch. They had been drinking for some time when they went to the beach together. At this point a policeman cautioned them for their behaviour and wandered off. It's then alleged the pair started having sex, which they deny, although it's probably irrelevant when you consider that they admit “kissing and canoodling” which is illegal.

The policeman returned and was probably a bit irritated that instead of taking his friendly warning to heart the couple had upped the stakes. At this point the lady in question became abusive, assaulted him and waved her shoe in his face. She and her partner have now found themselves on the wrong end of a three month sentence because of it (which has been seen as lenient as the judge could have sent them down for six years).

If the pair had done the same thing here they would probably have been held over for the night and possibly given a caution for drunk and disorderly (although I might be wrong about that). Clearly there is a difference between the legal systems and I do prefer ours - but I'm not going to treat these two as victims of an injustice when they're clearly morons who think that having a tax free executive job in Dubai makes them a cut above ordinary people, particularly the locals with their funny ways.

I think I'll leave it to the British Press to use this as a stick to beat Islamic countries with and let them come to the defence of behaviour in other circumstances they would usually decry as anti-social behaviour. Whilst I don't think these should go to jail I do think that if you poke a bear it bites you. If they can serve as an example to other stupid, rich bigots to help them mind their manners a little more, then at least some good will come out of this.

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