Friday, March 19, 2010

Yes, But is it Attested?

Just in the Gulf News this morning, out of that den of tolerance and wisdom known as Ras Al Khamiah, a couple has been arrested for having sex in their car. A Bangladeshi man and an Indian woman have been sentenced to a year in jail followed by deportation.

So far, so normal for the UAE, but there are a few niggling details that should give pause.

The first is that the car was covered, as in, you could not see into it at all.

The "witness" never actually saw the offense, but claims to have "heard some noises" coming from the car. At first blush that sounds plausible, except that unless the windows were open, how could anything be heard at all? Once I close the door to my car, I can't hear a peep from anyone inside, so unless this "concerned citizen" had their ear pressed right up the glass, I can't see how they would have heard anything at all.

So our concerned citizen did what "anyone" would do, they ran to the nearest police officer, flagged him down, and led him to the scene of the crime, where the illicit pair was caught "red-handed."

So far, so normal. It is the UAE, and illicit affairs are a no, no... Except that this was not an illicit affair.

The man and woman were married. They even produced a marriage certificate for the courts.

So to recap, a married man and woman have sex in a covered car, completely hidden from public view (Something I very much doubt is unheard of, if only going by the number of Landcruisers and Patrols with midnight-black tinted windows I see parked in the unlit sections of various beaches at night). Then they are arrested, go to court, prove the relationship was not illicit, only to have the judge notice that the couple hadn't paid the 150 AED to have their marriage certificate attested. So the judge ruled them unmarried, and sentenced them.

That's it. They didn't have the right stamp.

In the UAE no birth, no marriage, no education is officially recognized unless you fork over a handful of cash and get a wee little stamp recognizing the validity of the certificate.

The problem this case poses is for potential tourists.

It is doubtful that any tourist couple would line up to get a stamp on their marriage certificates after coming to the UAE, if they even brought them. And while it is RAK we are talking about here, and not Dubai, it is a distinction without a difference for most of the world.

After the spate of recent, tourist unfriendly incidents in the past little while, you have to wonder if we are seeing the beginnings of a real trend.

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