Nov 23, 2007, AFP:
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.
"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.
But her story hit international headlines last week when her sentence was increased to six months in jail and 200 lashes after she spoke to the media.
Except for immediate family members, men and women cannot mix in Saudi Arabia, which applies a rigorous doctrine of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Women must also cover themselves from head to toe in public and are banned from driving or travelling without permission from their male guardian.
The men were initially sentenced to one to five years in jail, but those terms were also increased last week to between two and nine years ...
Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim, Robert Spencer:
How could they not defend it? They're just applying Islamic law.
Saudi women stifled by stringent restrictions, AFP:
Women in the ultra-conservative Muslim powerhouse of Saudi Arabia navigate through life amid harsh restrictions imposed by a rigid interpretation of Islam and stringent tradition ...Photos: Saudi women in Riyadh and Hofuf. Protest near the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Mumbai. (source Yahoo)
They are mostly unwritten restrictions based on tradition and religion and as such have come to be considered law.
Home to Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ruled by Wahhabism, a rigorous doctrine of Sunni Islam whose sharia (laws) impose a total segretation of the sexes.
So in the view of the kingdom's conservative society, the young rape victim broke the first of a string of cardinal rules and sinned by being in the physical presence of a male who is not a directly-related relative.
In Saudi Arabia, a male guardian, who could be the woman's grandfather, father, uncle, husband, son or brother, literally controls her life.
And no matter how old they are, Saudi women need a "mahram" or a guardian -- a husband or close male relative if they are widowed or single -- in order to apply for and obtain a passport.
"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 Saudi activist Wajiha al-Hweider
Fellow women rights activist Hatoon al-Fassi said women in Saudi Arabia suffer from the lack of written laws, which subjects rulings concerning them to the discretion of jugdes, and complained of "male-chauvinism" in her country.
"A woman is treated always as a minor and as a second-class citizen," said Fassi, a history at King Saud University in Riyadh ...