Saudi Arabia increases punishment of rape victim because she didn't shut up

From the BBC:

According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in Qatif in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

Seven men were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. [...]

The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia’s laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence. [...]

The rapists’ sentences were also doubled by the court. Correspondents say the sentences were still low considering the rapists could have faced the death penalty. [...]

The Arab News quoted an official as saying the judges had decided to punish the girl for trying to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.

Mr Lahem [the victim's lawyer] said that the judges’ decision to confiscate his licence to work and stop him from representing his client is illegal.

Curtsy: Thene

This entry posted in International issues, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

19 Responses to Saudi Arabia increases punishment of rape victim because she didn't shut up

  1. 1
    Matt Bors says:

    absolutely disgusting. What a great all in the war to spread democracy… honor killings and the like are off the charts in destabilized Iraq and from what I’ve read things haven’t got all that much better for women in Afghanistan.

  2. 2
    fathima says:

    yeah, i remember happening on this story randomly.
    the bastard assholes.

    Lahem’s contention that it’s “illegal,” though, suggests there are laws that the judges are contravening. the initial assumption would be that there are no laws protecting the victim at all and that the judges have complete and utter free reign. but that short quote from Lahem suggests otherwise. which means there is still hope. it also indicates that there aspects of this story we don’t have access to.

    to Matt Bors – i don’t really see the connection between your comment and this post, except for the usual mistrust of barbaric mozlems who make it a habit of going around killing women willy-nilly.
    but leaving that cliche aside for a minute, what is this about “honor killings and the like [being] off the charts in destabilized Iraq”? which charts are you referring to, exactly? i’d like to see them. thanks.

  3. 3
    NotACookie says:

    What’s especially sad about this sort of story (outrages perpetrated by a ‘friendly’ government we don’t have leverage on) is, I don’t have any idea what can be done about it.

    I don’t have a sense what the opinion of the Saudi population is. Would a representative government even want to change the system? If not, then I can’t see the current government taking any risks to bring about progressive change. They won’t expend political capital on behalf of people (women) who aren’t part of the political balance of forces.

    Does anyone have reliable, or even suggestive, information about what the Saudi population thinks of women’s rights?

  4. 4
    Thene says:

    NotACookie, the Beeb published a selection of comments here, including some from Saudis – all of them wired, English-speaking Saudis, obviously, but it’s a few dots on the graph for you.

  5. 5
    Mike says:

    Clearly, in many criminal events there are no clear-cut victims and criminals, quite often both sides are guilty. Saudi law clearly criminalises unchaperoned one-on-one contact, as a public safety measure, designed to prevent the occurrence of exactly this kind of situation. Saudi Arabia must be congratulated for their low crime rate. Scurrilous attacks on the judiciary such as the one committed by the alleged victim are deserving of punishment.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    Letting this through so people can see the evil.

    (Btw, “Mike,” you are beyond banned.)

  7. 7
    NotACookie says:

    For the record: Mike is repeating a comment on the BBC site linked to above — posted there under the name “Mike from Sacramento”.

    I wonder if in fact he’s either trolling or parodying, though it’s badly done if so, and rather tasteless. The sentiment is so far beyond what I’d expect from Sacramento that I have a hard time reading it as sincere. I know there’s some pretty unenlightened folks in this country, but that’s just too much.

  8. 8
    SamChevre says:

    Worth noting in mitigation–although still very far a justification.

    As I understand the story, the victim isn’t being punished for being unchaperoned with the rapists. She was kidnapped by the rapists from an unchaperoned meeting with a man unconnected with the crime.

  9. 9
    Petar says:

    It looks to me that a few things are getting mixed up here.

    1. The rapists got off lightly in the original sentence. So lightly, that once the story got out, the courts, under public pressure, increased the sentence. Still, the sentence is way too light for a country under Sharia law. Some people will say that this is due to the victim being from the Shia minority.

    2. Originally, the victim was sentenced, completely legally, for meeting a man without the supervision of a relative. You may say that this is an abhorent law, and I would agree with you. But it is the law of the country, it is closely tied to religion, and I can easily believe that most of the population firmly supports it.

    3. The victim used the media to apply pressure on the courts. Her attorney helped. This happens to be, again, against the law. I can’t even say it is a bad law. I would not like to be under the power of a court that is swayed by the media and public opinion. Not in Saudi Arabia, and not in the US. On the other hand, it is clear that, in this particular case, the case needed to be brought to the public attention.

    So if anything is to blame, it is laws that are foreign to our sensibilities, and an original sentence that may have been influenced by sectarian favoritism. Everything else logically follows. Frankly, I am not surprised by the victim and her attorney being punished for going to the media. But all of this is completely legal, which has nothing to do with completely moral. It is hard to argue that the judiciary system should disregard the law. I can also not believe that it is realistic to expect that Saudi Arabia will move away from Sharia law. No, the only place one can wish things had gone better is the original sentencing of the rapists. Had it not been too light, whether because of a bribe or because of sectarian bias, things would have been as good as can be expected. Which is pretty damn awful, indeed.

  10. 10
    Sailorman says:

    I would say that this: the only place one can wish things had gone better is the original sentencing of the rapists. is a pretty huge understatement, and dangerously close to saying that what happened to the girl is OK, understandable, or both.

  11. 11
    NotACookie says:

    Petar wrote:

    So if anything is to blame, it is laws that are foreign to our sensibilities, and an original sentence that may have been influenced by sectarian favoritism. Everything else logically follows.

    Really? I would have said that ultimate blame lies with laws depriving women of basic civl rights, and with the society that endorses such laws. Describing those laws as “foreign to our sensibilities” strikes me as excessively non-judgmental. I think we can, for this discussion, drop the over-cautious language, and start with the premise that depriving women of all civil rights is unjust and immoral.

    Likewise, barring public dissent from judicial rulings is monstrous. I’m startled by your comment that you “can’t even say it’s a bad law.” It strikes me as a law designed primarily to protect judicial tyranny. Saying that a key arm of government is exempt from being criticized on its performance of its duty is incompatible with a free society. Moral pressure is about the only leverage the public has on courts, particularly in a place like Saudi Arabia without much in the way of statutory law. Are the judges so doubtful of themselves that unfriendly newspaper coverage will sway them unduly?

    Whether or not the Saudi court was obeying “the law” in some sense isn’t the key issue. Courts almost always act under color of law, and I think nobody except a fiqh or other qualified Sharia scholar would be able to tell us how plausible that coloration is here.

    I think the only interesting question is the practical — whether there is anything we in the West can do to improve social equality in places like Saudi Arabia, and if not, how we should respond to that inability. My sense is there’s very little we can directly do. I assume the Saudis know how the world views this sort of thing, and that they don’t care. I suspect a more fruitful strategy would be to lean on more moderate Gulf states, in hopes that they will establish a more moderate strain of Islamic law.

  12. 12
    Petar says:

    > dangerously close to saying that what happened to the girl is
    > OK, understandable, or both.

    Right. If you believe that this is what I am saying, I see no point in even talking. I could say ‘I wish the Crusades were never launched, leaving Islam as tolerant and progressive religion’ , and then someone would counter with ‘I wish Jesus’s teachings were never perverted’. And of course someone would come to say that Islam is still (was never) a tolerant and progressive religion, and that Jesus’s teachings were never (always) perverted.

    I saw the rape as a given – something that happened before the judiciary got involved. And, yes, it is absolutely influenced by the society and its laws. Which part of ‘Abhorent’, ‘pretty damn awful’, etc… strikes you as excessively non-judgmental? On the other hand, I do not think I am qualified to say what effects would be if the US were to ‘lean on more moderate Gulf states’. My guess? Judging from what happened the last few years – disaster, defined as ‘loss of any gains in the last few decades, and loss of credibility of the progressive movements in the country’. And if there is any leaning to be done, why not target the offending society, that is Saudi Arabia?

    Blah. The best leaning the Western World can do is cut down its consumption of oil, and better people than I have given you this particular talk.

  13. 13
    Matt Bors says:

    fathima wrote, “but leaving that cliche aside for a minute, what is this about “honor killings and the like [being] off the charts in destabilized Iraq”? which charts are you referring to, exactly? i’d like to see them. thanks.”

    fathima, I’m not sure why you called me out and accused me of essentially being racist for noting the horrible treatment of women in the Middle East. as for “off the charts” I’m sure you’ll recognize that as a popular saying, meaning “increased to great proportions. ”

    Indeed, after we destabilized the country, honor killings have risen as sectarian violence and fundamentalism have terrorized oppressed women. You condescendingly asked to see the information I was citing, so here are some links reporting the increase in honor killings in Iraq from Time Magazine, NPR, and peacewomen.org. Thanks.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,994711,00.html
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5043032
    http://www.peacewomen.org/news/Iraq/May05/honour.html

  14. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » More On Saudi Rape Victim Sentenced To 200 Lashes

  15. 14
    Yohan says:

    Petar: 2. Originally, the victim was sentenced, completely legally, for meeting a man without the supervision of a relative. You may say that this is an abhorent law, and I would agree with you. But it is the law of the country, it is closely tied to religion, and I can easily believe that most of the population firmly supports it.

    Yes, correct, but we have to mention that the single man, who was with her was also beaten up and raped. Not only the married woman, but also the single man was a rape-victim and he was also sentenced to 90 lashes, no prison.

    Sharia law applies to both genders in this case, the married woman and the single man. Both received the same punishment.

    He accepted the sentence (15 lashes x 6 weeks) and the matter was finished for him.
    She refused, requesting an appeal and was informed, that the sentence might even be increased.
    Her lawyer replied angrily, if this is the case, they will go out to inform the (Western) international press, but the court did not accept that argument, considered it as a threat and suspended the lawyer’s license.
    —–
    The sentence for the rapists are about, what they would get in Europe for the same crime (but in much more comfortable prison cells and without lashes).

    In Europe, but also in Sharia courts, prison sentences are relatively short compared to those in USA. Nowhere else in this world are so many people in prison like in the USA. Not in China, not in Russia, not in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.

    About laws in USA, they are far away to offer worldwide a model of good justice. As
    a fact, a good wallet in USA is highly important for your legal defense and might change your sentence considerable. It should not be like that.

  16. 15
    Petar says:

    > good wallet in USA is highly important for your legal defense and might change
    > your sentence considerable.

    I doubt there is a place on Earth where the power you wield is not important to
    your defense. There are few, if any, countries where serious money translates into
    more power than it does in the States. Mostly because here, no matter what many
    will tell you, things like capacity for violence, race, gender, religion, etc… carry
    much less weight than they do elsewhere. And while those certainly matter a lot,
    one risks at least public disapproval when resorting to the them…

  17. 16
    Henry says:

    In Europe, but also in Sharia courts, prison sentences are relatively short compared to those in USA. Nowhere else in this world are so many people in prison like in the USA. Not in China, not in Russia, not in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.

    I live in China so I found that quote interesting. I can only guess you are quoting statistics based on percentage of population. Could it also be that aside from prison time they use other forms of punishment such as lashings to deter and punish behavior deemed criminal? Should the US system resort to those same punishments in order to reduce prison sentences and have fewer people in prison? And I can only guess you are for the death penalty, because it would be the only reason China’s prisons have a lower percentage of people in them than in another country such as the USA as you assert.
    From an article in USAToday:

    The country that executed more than four times as many convicts as the rest of the world combined last year is slowly phasing out public executions by firing squad in favor of lethal injections.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-06-14-death-van_x.htm

    Just interested in how China gets brought into various conversations from time to time…

  18. 17
    yohan says:

    @henry
    I can only guess you are quoting statistics based on percentage of population.

    No, not only in quoting based on percentage of the population, there are nowhere in this world so many people in jail – USA is leading in both, counting per person and calculating based on percentage.

    http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2008/07/slammed-welcome-to-the-age-of-incarceration.html
    (2.3 million people in jail in USA)

    On percentage USA is #1, (715) and China is #71 (119)

    http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/law/research/icps
    International Center of Prison Studies
    A good collection of various data related to prison issues worldwide

    @henry
    I live in China … Could it also be that aside from prison time they use other forms of punishment such as lashings to deter and punish behavior deemed criminal? Should the US system resort to those same punishments in order to reduce prison sentences and have fewer people in prison?

    And I am living in Japan, there are over 20 times less people in jail in Japan compared to USA…and there are no lashings…and Japan executes less prisoners than the USA.
    There are unusual many prisoners in jails in USA, don’t ask me why but I think it’s worth a discussion.

    @henry
    Just interested in how China gets brought into various conversations from time to time…

    Why should we not compare various legal systems? It’s for sure not correct to presume, that the US legal system is the best one worldwide. It has serious flaws.

  19. 18
    Henry says:

    ok, I never said they shouldn’t be compared I simply said I found it interesting how China gets brought into various conversations (even one’s about a middle eastern rape trial and the sentencing of the victim)…I think it’s great to compare things, it’s just not always reasonable to expect the same policies to work in various cultures and countries, or to produce the same results statisitically.

    In the post prior to mine the countries specifically mentioned were; China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia ~ not Japan, and in those countries there is an increasingly high number of death sentences actually carried out with China killing 4 times as many prisoners as the rest of the world combined~meaning if they didn’t kill 4 times as many prisoners as every other government on the planet they would have quite a higher number in prison, or out on the streets I suppose.

    As the reports says the US has 2.3 million people in prison that equates to what percentage of our population, less than 1% as we have around 300 million people…now to assume the numbers regarding the amount of prisoners in China is actually less than that of the US it would mean they have fewer than 2.3 million people in prison or what percentage of their 1.3 billion population??? So then the question is do they really only have 2 million or less prisoners out of 1.3billion people, are they underreporting. However if the number is accurate then the questions are why and how. Why is the number so staggeringly low and how could that answer impact US policies. Is it because there are that many fewer criminals? Is it that they just don’t get caught?

    If the US has less than 1% of it’s population in prison and it’s the highest by percentage and overall numbers is that a real problem? What if US law enforcement personnel are just better at catching criminals? Or what other factors could contribute to us having a less than 1% rate of population in prison?

    I think it is wonderful that Japan doesn’t lash citizens, however I do believe there is a much higher emphasis in Asian cultures in general regarding the loss of face and the high amount of shame that goes into being convicted of a crime. If you bring shame on your family in an Asian society it is far worse than in a western one. I believe Japan is pretty amazing in the culturally expected niceness of the people.
    Japan is also incredibly closed off as a country, it has NOWHERE near the diversity that the US does, could that play a part in the lower rates? ~ everyone has years of culturally normed behaviors that are acceptable above and beyond the rule of law which helps to encourage law abiding behavior.

    All of these are just questions of course, I wouldn’t dare to say the US system is perfect, the best or even that great ~ but if we’re going to compare then really look at all the numbers and look at the societal/cultural factors and feasibility of any type of suggested changes before implementing them simply because some other country that has a singular ethnicity and a third the population of the US has fewer people in their prisons, for example.