In the UAE, strict laws surround sex outside marriage. Prisons are filled with women who have fallen pregnant whilst unmarried, often due to abuse. Many are migrant domestic workers, particularly vulnerable and often trapped in the UAE by a law which forbids them from leaving the country without permission. This shocking report exposes the hidden persecution of vulnerable women sentenced under UAE law, their pregnancy used as evidence of their crime.
"A women can't have a child with someone she loves. If my family found out they'd slaughter me"
, explains Hessa, who got pregnant out of wedlock and was forced to have an illegal abortion. In the UAE, sex outside marriage is not just a cultural taboo but a serious criminal offence, and for many women, pregnancy is used as proof of their guilt. If found guilty, women face lengthy jail terms and even flogging.
"I couldn't imagine how a human being could torture another human being like this"
, explains Laily. Originally from Bangladesh, she was working as a domestic servant when she was raped by her boss. When she became pregnant, she still faced prosecution under the Zina law, and was forced to flee the country as if she were a criminal. Although Laily managed to escape, migrant workers are officially forbidden from leaving the UAE without their employer's permission, and as a result many are trapped in the country: imprisoned for being pregnant or forced to stay with the employer who abused them.
"Every case of physical abuse or rape... I felt it",
describes Shala. In 1991 Shala turned her house into a shelter for vulnerable pregnant women and victims of abuse. She helped over 3000 women in a 20 year period, but was eventually advised to leave the country to avoid prosecution, by a government that preferred to treat the women as criminals rather than innocent victims.
Both alarming and incredibly moving, Pregnant and in Chains exposes the horrific human rights violations of one of the world's richest nations; shedding light on the personal tragedies at the heart of the UAE's brutal legal system.
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