The Saudi judiciary is defending its punishment of a 19-year-old rape victim–that’s right, a victim–because she was in a car with a man not related to her when the crime occurred. The woman’s original punishment was 90 lashes, but she has since committed another crime: She spoke with the news media. Now, her sentence is six months in prison and 200 lashes.
Islamic law forbids a woman to associate with males who are not part of her family. As for speaking with reporters, the official Saudi press agency explains that “whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows an appeal without resorting to the media.” Add 110 lashes and six months in what I feel certain is not a “rehab” prison.
In the meantime, the court also doubled the sentences of the seven men who committed the rape.
It is horrific enough that rape victims are punished in Saudi Arabia, but there are other problems with the system that are just as disturbing. Individuals on trial are often not permitted to have defense attorneys present, and there are no sentencing guidelines other than the judges’ discretion.
Women in Saudi Arabia have no freedom of movement and may not even drive a car. First Lady Laura Bush recently wore an abaya in Saudi Arabia and declared–to the astonishment of millions–that the garb was “traditional” and “a religious choice,” without addressing the social roots of how that “choice” came to be. It is estimated that the Saudis have invested over $750 billion in the U.S., and–as we know–at least several thousand directly into the hands of George W. Bush. There has never been much enthusiasm among Western nations to support women’s rights in their own countries, much less in very oppressive countries. Now the relationship between the Bush administration and Saudi Arabia–not to mention the relationship between the Bush administration and U.S. women’s rights goals–makes it impossible to do anything but look the other way when a young gang-rape victim is tortured by her own government.