ABU DHABI // Members of a Filipino migrant's right group are alarmed over the spate of rape incidents involving their compatriots.
"We've been handling rape cases almost every week," said Karen Tanedo, chairwoman of Migrante-UAE. "It's really alarming."
On January 12, the group received a report of a Filipina housemaid in Umm Al Quwain who was gang-raped by three Arab men on December 31. The following week a secretary complained that she was raped by her boss inside a hotel room.
"The boss said there was a party with the rest of the team," said Nhel Morona, the UAE country co-ordinator for Migrante Middle East. "They began drinking while she waited for the guests to arrive. It turned out that there was no party and he raped her."
Last week, the group also received a complaint from a Filipina shop assistant who was attacked by her Arab friend's compatriot.
The organisation handled seven rape cases in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai last year.
"We now plan to open a women's desk to help all these distressed women and we'll endorse their cases to the Philippine embassy and consulate," said Ryan Pescadera, the group's secretary general.
The new service will complement the counselling provided by Gabriela-UAE, a Filipino women's rights group that was launched in Dubai in November 2011.
"These women are defenceless," said Kristie Mae Templa, the group's secretary-general. "Many fail to report the crime because they fear they will end up in prison and be blamed for what happened."
In September last year, Dr Mohammed Murad Abdullah, director of the Dubai Police decision-making support centre, told a conference on violence against women that a recent police study found only 9.5 per cent of sexual assault victims report the crimes.
Women were far more likely to go to the police if they had been the victim of a severe assault (80 per cent) or a threat (50 per cent).
Gabriela UAE has held a series of sessions for housemaids and office workers about violence against women since its launch.
"They need to be educated on violence against women and children," Ms Templa said. "The agency that deployed them to the UAE should run awareness sessions on what to expect while working overseas and how and where they can seek help."
Both groups refer the cases to the Assistance To Nationals section at the Philippines consulate in Al Ghusais.
The consular officers provide counselling, attend court hearings, ask for legal assistance funds from Manila, visit jails and coordinate with UAE authorities.
"As a lawyer, I would encourage them to report the crime to the police," said Frank Cimafranca, the Filipino consul-general in Dubai. "They can also approach the embassy or consulate for assistance.
"In sexual crimes, especially rape, it is important to report it without delay following the incident so that the culprit could be apprehended immediately and to preserve evidence."