By Brandon Wallace
On a hot summer night this past July in Dubai, 15-year-old French-Swiss Alexandre Robert was taken hostage by acquaintances of a friend, sodomized against his consent in the desert by three men, and then dropped off behind a hotel.
The harrowing case of Alexandre Robert has brought an onslaught of international media attention in recent months to the Middle Eastern city of Dubai, capital of the United Arap Emirates (UAE), and requires U.S. citizens to examine their rape prevention standards in response.
The UAE are often considered the most progressive Middle Eastern country due to their status as a worldwide financial juggernaut and vacation hot-spot. Dubai has been under intense media scrutiny since Robert’s mother Veronique came forward publicly with her son’s story by informing media (with whom she has connections) in France and creating a website, http://boycottdubai.com.
Locally, the Rape Prevention Education group on campus helps to fight for survivors of rape who are continuously silenced by skeptics.
Gillian Greensite, directior of Rape Prevention Education, said that it is common for people to dismiss males’ claims that they were raped.
“People can be quite surprised, because they either assume that the male who is raped or the person raping is gay,” Greensite said.
Robert’s sexuality is unknown, although in recent court proceedings the defendants’ lawyers claimed Robert is a sex addict. According to media reports, the UAE does not recognize rape against a male as a criminal offense, instead classifying rape of a male as “forced homosexuality.” Robert may face up to a year in prison solely because he was raped, though court proceedings against two of the attackers are currently underway. The third attacker will be tried in a juvenile court.
Niki Akhavan, a specialist on UAE law and policy, maintains that UAE governments are making an effort to correct human rights violations.
“The UAE has been among the most responsive governments to respond to human rights concerns,” Akhavan said.
Larger questions, like why a person would choose to rape another in the first place, are found all over the world – including in Santa Cruz.
“Sex for such men is conquest, overcoming – not mutual pleasure,” Greensite said. “Sex is about power and domination for these men.”
Regardless of the attackers’ internal struggles, Akhavan says the Dubai government’s policies and laws are faced with the issue of translation. “The issue of whether or not male rape is recognized by law is a little bit sensitive because the translation can give an inaccurate representation of the law’s intent,” she said.
The plot of the story increased when reports showed that one of the attackers was HIV-positive. Robert will not know for another few months if he was infected during the rape.
The Dubai Embassy did not comment on Robert’s case because it is currently under investigation, according to an embassy official.
Akhavan summarized the reason behind the story’s growing momentum, saying, “There is so much wealth and development in Dubai, that people are curious to see what’s underneath all of the glitter.”