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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making a Stand for Innocence

The news can inform, teach and entertain us. Sometimes, however, it can also shock and appal us to realise just how inhuman we humans can be to one another.

Authorities in Brazil are investigating reports that a young woman was left in a police cell with some 20 men for a month and repeatedly sexually abused. Women's rights groups in Brazil say it is not an isolated case. They say that she was raped relentlessly and forced to have sex in order to obtain food.

Meanwhile, the "hidden" sex slave trade in England is getting worse. Nine people have been arrested after a series of raids on 10 suspected brothels in Devon and Cornwall.

Twelve sex workers, all foreign nationals, were from Korea, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Thailand. BBC News Online has run a series of reports on the victims of human trafficking, with such heart-rendering accounts as a Romanian girl forced to have sex for 11 hours and a girl from Nigeria who ran away from her family's persecution only to find herself in England, imprisoned and raped again and again.

While across the globe in Saudi Arabia, a 19-year-old girl was travelling in a car with a male friend last year, when the car was attacked by a gang of seven men who raped both of them. The girl was sentenced to 200 lashes herself because she had been in a car with an unrelated man.

When her lawyer complained that this contravened Islamic law, he was banned from the courtroom and his licence to practice was revoked. Authorities in Saudi Arabia have backed the decision to punish the gang-rape victim.

As cruel as the treatment of the girl is, it seems just as cruel that her male counterpart has been completely overlooked. However, in the same region, male rape has forcibly been given a voice. A Dubai court has been hearing evidence against three Emirati nationals accused of raping a French-Swiss boy.

Again the law in Dubai seemed to punish the rape victim, when the boy's family realised that despite Dubai's status as the Arab world's paragon of modernity and wealth, its legal system was a perilous gauntlet when it comes to male rape and legal protection of foreigners.

United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called "forced homosexuality."

The authorities not only discouraged the boy from pressing charges, they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier.

Veronique Robert, the mother, has been campaigning for more protection for under-age rape victims in the Emirates. "Aids is a taboo subject here... The government played with the life of my child," she said.

Mrs Robert has published the site Boycott Dubai for her son, in which she dedicates it to "all the children of the world whose wounds were never recognized and ... to all the mothers of the world even the ones of my son's aggressors."

She goes on to state: "Tears have no identity, no religion. We must unite so when tears run, it will no longer be in loneliness but in front of the whole world's eyes, with many hands to wipe them."

The rape of another human being is one of the worse trespasses on our humanity. Not allowing that victim legal redress in the eyes of the law and to treat the victim as the criminal, due to the stigma attached to it from the particular culture, is an even greater rape of decency.

Even if a victim is of legal age to consent to sex, rape can never be justified or excused in any way. This kind of abhorrent act isn't exclusive to Dubai, although had it happened in the US for example, there in legal terms it would be a different story.

We need to learn lessons from such horror, and change for the better, so just possibly those amongst us with such a large capacity for evil will not have succeeded after all.

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