A South African man Emlyn Culverwell and his Ukrainian fiancée have been jailed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for more than a month after it was found they were expecting their first child out of wedlock.
Culverwell, 27, from Port Alfred in Eastern Cape, had rushed his fiancée Iryna Nohai, 26, to Medeor Medical Centre on January 29, after she complained of stomach cramp.
Culverwell and his fiancee were subsequently arrested by police authorities after the doctor announced that Nohai was carrying a child. More so, it was found that the lovers had no marriage certificate.
Being unmarried‚ the couple had transgressed the United Arab Emirates’ morality laws. They were taken to Yas Police Station and then later to Al Wathba Prison.
Under the perspective of Sharia law, Nohai’s guilt is called “Zina”, which is an Islamic term for extramarital sex. According to traditional jurisprudence, Zina can include fornication (of unmarried parties), adultery (of married parties), prostitution, bestiality, and rape.
Under Sharia legal system, offenders could be locked up for months or a minimum of one year or could be flogged. On the other hand, the offence could lead to outright imprisonment or deportation, as stipulated in UAE laws.
Reports have it that the couple started their courtship after Culverwell met his fiancee in Abu Dhabi, where she worked as an administrative officer.
Emlyn Culverwell moved to the UAE five years ago to work as a water rescue operative at Yas Waterworld. He studied in Port Elizabeth and lived in Port Alfred for several years and was an active NSRI member.
His mother, Linda Culverwell is currently petitioning for authorities to help her son and his fiancee. She said the incidence has left her traumatized; adding that her son is an active and health-oriented man by nature.
She lamented that the couple was denied bail‚ denied any state-appointed legal representation and were not charged when they appeared before a judge once.
Worst of all, she claimed that the same judge refused to grant their marriage request when Emlyn Culverwell and Iryna Nohai demanded to get married in Prison.
The traumatized mother, who was recently admitted to a hospital for observation said she only wants their safety and that of the baby – if Nohai is truly pregnant. Linda had earlier expressed worry that Nohai’s stomach cramp could have been signs of a miscarriage.
In the meantime, Culverwell’s colleague has lifted the lid on why the couple is yet to be charged. He said the reason is that Nohai is still undergoing a test to determine the paternity of the baby‚ the HIV status and how long Noahi has been sexually active.
Linda Culverwell has also revealed that the Ukraine Embassy is trying hard to intervene and is pushing for them to get married, adding that Amnesty International‚ Foreign Affairs and Human Rights have not been helpful after she narrated her plight.
The traumatized mother says she feels Nohai’s being violated.
“I find it so degrading‚ I have worked my whole life in the medical field and I know there is no such test. The poor girl gave no consent for this. She must feel so violated‚ she must feel raped‚” she said.
Meanwhile, the SA Department of International Relations and Cooperation media liaison spokesman Nelson Kgwete told reporters that the department is aware of the matter but that the government cannot assist the couple because they were prosecuted in terms of UAE laws.
“The South African government is aware of the case but unfortunately cannot provide legal assistance. As [the] department all we can do is monitor the situation and try to ensure that they are fairly treated,” Kgwete said.
He said it’s left for the couple to appoint legal representation. Since their arrest‚ a manager from Yas Waterworld has been able to see Emlyn and Nohai – and both are reportedly doing fine.
While the family is working out ways to get the couple out of jail, Linda Culverwell says “the only thing Emlyn Culverwell and Iryna Nohai did which was wrong, was to fall in love.”