Model says burqa was rape protection

Model Michelle Leslie wore a burqa during her stay in a Balinese prison on drugs charges to avoid being raped, she said.

In an interview with New Idea magazine, Leslie revealed she wore the traditional Muslim headdress to protect herself from men inside the prison she feared would rape her.

Leslie said she awoke in the Kerobokan prison one night to find a man sitting on the end of her mattress, laughing and singing: “Jiggyjig Missa Leslie. Bali holiday. Jiggyjig”.

“I knew jiggyjig translated into having sex,” Leslie told the magazine.

“He was saying Australian model and stroking my leg. I screamed: `Get out of here!’.”

Leslie said she was aware another woman was being taken from her cell regularly for sex, and realised her fate would be the same if she didn’t act.

“I decided to dress in the Muslim burqa. I chose to wear Muslim dress for one reason and one reason only – to protect myself,” she said.

“When I put on the burqa, people were more respectful and I’m sorry if anyone is offended by that. But over there, it’s a case of whatever gets you through. I think anyone else would have done the same.”

Leslie, 25, was convicted of drugs possession in Bali in August last year following the discovery of two ecstasy tablets in her handbag.

She was sentenced in November last year to three months in jail, which covered the time she had spent in custody.

The model was criticised by some Muslim leaders for wearing a burqa during parts of her trial in the world’s largest Muslim nation, and then opting for tight jeans and a singlet upon her release from jail.

Days after returning to Australia, Leslie said she chose to wear the burqa because it was a “sign of public privacy and modesty”.

“I am a Muslim and I do understand the significance of wearing the burqa. I should have thought more carefully about wearing it in that situation and I apologise for any offence I have caused. It was an extreme situation,” she said at the time.

Leslie now says she is not a practising Muslim but was inspired by her time living with a Muslim family.

“I’d been living with an Islamic family in Sydney for about three years before I was arrested in Bali,” she said.

“I thought their beliefs were very beautiful and spiritual. So I decided I would adopt those beliefs over there.

“Am I the most religious person in the world? No, I am not.

“Am I a Muslim? I’m not a practising Muslim.

“Do I pray every day? No.

“Do I speak to Islamic leaders in the community? Yes.

“But it’s important that people understand there are different levels of people’s beliefs.

“Everybody I met in prison has turned to religion in their darkest moments. It gives you strength. It gives you hope. It gives you something to hold on to.”

Leslie insisted her embrace of religion was not a ploy for sympathy because her judges were Christian and Hindu.

Source:
AAP, via The Advertiser, Australia
May 29, 2006
www.theadvertiser.news.com.au
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