Dubai’s wacky legal system is in the news once again. On Sunday, a Lebanese woman was convicted of negligent homicide after allegedly causing an accident in which her unborn child was killed. In October of last year, just four days before a planned cesarian delivery, the defendant was driving around the notoriously dangerous streets of Dubai where she was involved in a collision that proved fatal for her fetus.
The details of the traffic accident are unclear. The defendant claimed that she was not at fault, but the court disagreed and ordered her to pay over $5000 in blood money to the fetus’s successors. In the UAE, those responsible for someone’s death are required to pay $54,500 to their families. In this case, the recipients of the money are unclear.
What is a little bit clearer is the message that Dubai authorities are hoping to convey. In their view, Sunday’s conviction “should be a detterent” to women who choose to drive in the final phase of prenancy. The head of traffic prosecution explained further:
“Pregnant women who are about to deliver should protect theirs and their fetuses’ lives and avoid driving as much as possible except in emergencies. The Federal Penal Code punishes any suspect who accidentally causes the death of an individual…
We ruled out any criminal intentions and concentrated on the mother’s accidental error, recklessness and failure to keep a safe distance. We prosecuted the woman to protect the fetus’s rights and because accidental killing is punishable by law.”
This is an interesting story on many levels. It is another reminder of how wacky Dubai’s legal system can be and it raises many questions. Should the woman have been driving, given her condition? Was she responsible for the death of her unborn daughter? Assuming she was, does she deserve to be punished? What about the more general concept of pregnant women behind the wheel?
The short answer to the first answer has to be no, the defendant should not have been driving. Doctors routinely advise expecting mothers to avoid operating motor vehicles, particularly in the third trimester, and especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy. There are good reasons for this. Aside from the obvious potential of contractions, there are physical implications to driving under such a condition that cannot be overlooked. It goes without saying that pregnant women need to take extra care. Those who are nearing their due date should be forbidden from driving.
Whether or not the expectant mother actually caused the collision that killed her unborn baby, she was partly responsible for its death. That may sound insensitive, but it is perfectly reasonable. Driving is not something to be taken lightly. When we get behind the wheel of an automobile we are effectively taking control of a weapon; with some exceptions, we are ultimately responsible for anything and anyone we harm while driving. If the woman in question had been in the passenger seat, things probably would have turned out better. Instead, the baby’s umbilical cord was severed in the crash. Of course the mother was devastated, but what was she thinking when she got behind the wheel in the first place?
Luckily those crazy judges didn’t choose to lock her up; that would have been completely unreasonable. While she did not deserve to be fined either, I do agree with the court’s finding: reckless driving that led to unintentional homicide. Hopefully the conviction will serve as a deterrent… but it will ultimately fall flat without the proper judicial legislation to back it up.
Maybe there was some pressing reason for the defendant in question to have been driving, but there does not appear to have been any real emergency. Whatever the case, there is no justification for an expectant mother to be behind the wheel when she could go into labor at any moment. At the very least, someone who choses to drive under those conditions should be required to do so with their hazard lights on. After all, such women are not only a hazard to themselves and their unborn babies, but everyone sharing the road with them.
If the court’s decision was backed up by a law stipulating that pregnant women late in their third trimester should not drive (and if ‘blood money’ was not in the picture), I doubt that I would have any problem with it. I would say the same thing if this was someone I was related to. I’ve happily driven my pregnant friends and relatives around, and I will continue to do so. They have no business driving, especially not in Dubai.
That’s my two cents anyways, but I’m just a man. It would be nice to know what some of the women reading this think about the whole subject. Unfortunately, traffic safety isn’t that big of a deal in the Middle East. Here is an interesting comment I found on Gulf News:
Is this same penalty applied to children who are killed in other accidents? What about the children who ride around in cars with no child’s car seat or proper restraint and are killed as a result? Do those parents pay blood money as well? Of all the things to fine a person for, this decision completely alludes me.
Filed Under dubai, Kalash, law, uae, women