On Jan. 29, a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman living in the United Arab Emirates went to the doctor after experiencing stomach cramps. What came next: a pregnancy diagnosis—and her arrest for unmarried sex, which is illegal in the UAE. Iryna Nohai and her South African partner, Emlyn Culverwell‚ 29, have been detained without charge in Abu Dhabi since, the BBC reports. "The South African government is aware of the case, but unfortunately cannot provide legal assistance" regarding what it says is UAE law, a rep tells News24. "The only thing they did which was wrong, was to fall in love," says Linda Culverwell, who tells News24 that her son and Nohai got engaged on Jan. 27, two days before their arrest.
She says the Ukrainian embassy is trying to intervene, and that it sees two alternative outcomes: They could marry or be deported. Otherwise, if charged and found guilty the pair could face time behind bars. The BBC notes that Culverwell has been working in the UAE for the past five years, and his employer reportedly told his family no charges have been filed because authorities are allegedly conducting "tests" aimed at determining how long Nohai has been sexually active. The couple's case is not an expat first: The Independent reports that an unmarried UK couple were sentenced to three-month terms in 2008 for having sex on a beach in Dubai, though their sentences were suspended upon appeal. (A woman was jailed in Dubai after reporting rape.)