Friday, November 23, 2007

Saudi women furious at gang-rape ruling

DUBAI - A recent Saudi court ruling sentencing a woman to six months in jail and 200 lashes despite being gang-raped highlights the injustice faced by women in the ultra-conservative kingdom, women rights activists said
Well, since the punishment was doubled because the victim complained publicly complaining by women's rights activists is a pretty brave thing to do.

‘Sure, there is injustice against women in courts. It is a bitter situation that Saudi women have to endure,’ Saudi activist Wajiha Al Hweider said on Thursday, after the court ruling received widespread publicity.

‘The kingdom is in an embarrassing position. King (Abdullah) should step in and stop this farce,’ Hweider told AFP, adding that the judicial system, which is based on Islamic law, should be reformed.

Despite being raped by seven men who kidnapped her with a male companion at knife-point, the 19-year-old woman was sentenced in November 2006 to 90 lashes.

The judge sentenced her for being in a car with a man who was not her relative, a taboo in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

‘The judge does not have a written law. It is a matter of luck. You are lucky if the judge is a moderate and fears God,’ said Hweider, an outspoken US-educated activist who leads a group of women demanding the right to drive.

Hatoon Al Fassi, a history lecturer at King Saud university in Riyadh and another women rights activist, agreed that women suffer from the lack of written laws, which subjects rulings to the discretion of judges.

‘It all depends on the reasoning of the judge,’ she told AFP.

‘It is good that the case has taken an international dimension. It is shameful that such a case could have stayed unspoken of... This is a ruling that has treated the victim as a culprit,’ she said.

‘Such logic is so distant from Islam. It is the result of a male-chauvinist reasoning,’ she charged.

Oh really?

Then why do I keep hearing otherwise.It must be Islamophobic propaganda
Hweider highlighted the humiliation faced by women inside the courtroom, saying that a judge, who is always a clergyman, addresses only her male guardian.

‘The woman does not have the right to represent herself in a court. She enters the court covered entirely in black. Some judges do not even allow her to speak,’ she said.

She pointed out cases of forgery where men took women to court to impersonate others only to make false claims. ‘It helped some men in stripping their sisters of inheritance, for example,’ she said.

A male guardian, who could be the woman’s father, brother, husband, uncle, son, grandfather or grandson, literally controls her life.

‘A woman is treated always as a minor and as a second-class citizen. She needs a male guardian,’ Fassi said.

She pointed out that she even needs her male guardian to obtain her identity card or passport and that women are not allowed to enter government departments.

‘Here, the son is the male guardian of his mother if she is a widow or divorced. She would need his written approval for anything... She has no value,’ said Hweider.

Although she acknowledges that some Saudi women have been successful in some professions, she said that a woman ‘would lose everything if the male guardian decided that she had to stay home.’

‘And for a Saudi judge, I am part of the property of my male guardian,’ she lamented.

I'm sorry Ms. Heider, you have got a lot of guts, but you are going to have to take this ALL THE WAY. As long as the Quran is regarded as the immutable revealed word of God, your position will be untenable. That is to say, human rights, equal protection under the law and other radical ideas will be in abeyance to the sovereign word of God. If you have a better answer, I'd love to hear it.

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