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Bahraini Lawyer Dismisses Rape of Asian Migrant as 'Fun'

On March 9, 2009

A young Filipina working in Bahrain is struggling for justice after her kidnap and rape by three local men was dismissed by a lawyer as an act of 'fun', according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). As a recent release from BCHR to co-incide with International Women's Day 2009 reported:

A 24-year-old Filipina employee at a hotel in Bahrain was allegedly abducted, gang raped, and robbed by three men. According to the woman's lawyer, results from a rape test kit matched the DNA of the men identified as her attackers. All three men have denied the charges.

In a court hearing on March 3, the defendants' lawyer, Fatima Hawaj, appealed to the High Criminal Court judge to acquit the three men. Reportedly, Ms Al Hawaj argues that the men should be acquitted because their actions were committed for the sake of 'fun' and without criminal intent.

The case is just one of a long succession of incidences in which migrant women have been forced to withdraw from court procedings because the legal system refuses to offer them the same protection as Bahrainis, according to Nabeel Rajab, Vice President of the BCHR:

"In the last year alone, the Migrant Workers Protection Society withdrew a number of court cases filed by expatriate workers, including three rape cases, because of a complete lack of success in the Bahraini court system.

"The one case where the complaint of female migrant victim of abuse has resulted in punishment of her abuser is the case of Meena Dolare, who was sentenced to 3 months in jail and fined BD 500 ($1,330) in 2003, for attacking her housemaid.

"Of course in that case, the abuser was also a migrant. We are yet to see the day when a female migrant worker abused by a Bahraini has appealed to the Bahraini court system for justice, and received it.

"Unfortunately, a much more common scenario is that rape victims are too scared to press charges against their abusers. In other cases, charges are dropped, the matter is settled out of court and the woman is returned to her home country.

"In Bahrain we have even seen cases where migrant domestic worker women who are rape victims have been jailed because of their refusal to return to the house of their employer and alleged abuser.

"Many times, cases are dropped because the court proceedings take too long."

The BCHR has called on Fatima Al Hawaj to retract her statements, and on the Bahraini judge to apply the same legal standards to the Filipina woman as he would to a Bahraini. BHCR says it believes there must be 'better and more reliable' legal provisions to safeguard the rights of migrant women, who it believes are some of the most vulnerable members of Bahraini society. The organisation also appeals to the Bahraini public to view the rape of a Filipina woman as being just as serious a crime as if it was committed against a Bahraini woman.