Hundreds of women are being imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates after being accused of extramarital sex. Many of the women are pregnant or migrant workers who have been raped, a BBC Arabic documentary set to be aired on Friday 30 October has revealed.
The documentary features footage showing pregnant women with their feet shackled being led into courtrooms where they will be tried under "zina" – the offence of sex outside marriage under Sharia law. Some are sentenced to flogging or prison terms, though there is no evidence to suggest the floggings are undertaken.
The cases of Western women caught up under the laws are often highlighted in the global press, such as the case in 2013 of a Norwegian woman who was sentenced to 16 months in prison after reporting being raped, stories of this happening to local women or migrant labourers are rarely seen however.
The UAE has refused to respond to any of the allegations. There are no official statistics on the number of female prisoners in the Gulf state, though estimates have been put it in the hundreds.
In a number of dramatic interviews, the documentary sees the BBC talk to an "Emirati woman who had an illegal abortion; a pregnant Filippino shop worker who made a dramatic escape from Dubai airport; a young Filippino woman who served a prison sentence with her two small daughters; a Bangladeshi domestic servant raped by her employer and became pregnant; another pregnant rape victim who tried to escape her employer's home."
Pregnant and in Chains will premier at the BBC Arabic Festival 2015 on 30 October.