The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7096814.stm

For those who will not visit the link, let me summarize:

1 ½ years ago, a 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, travels in car with an unrelated male. The trip ends with her being gang-raped 14 times. By seven men – from the majority Sunni community.

The Judgments:

The men: found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years.

The victim…yes, that’s right, she got a sentence too! Why? Well, she was initially punished for violating Saudi Arabia's strict laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack, which violates Saudi Arabia’s segregation laws that state that unrelated men & women cannot associate with each other. Her punishment? 90 lashes.

The Appeal:

This incredibly brave young woman decided to appeal her sentence, to which the judges decided that she was using the media to influence them. So they then tripled the number of lashes she was to receive to 200, and to add insult to injury, added a 6 month jail sentence to boot. Officially, she is being punished for ‘trying to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media’.

To add, for some incomprehensible reason, the girl’s lawyer has also had his license to practice confiscated, has been suspended from the case and faces a disciplinary hearing.

That the attackers’ sentences were also doubled is hardly consolation, considering that the death penalty was a viable option in this instance. Even for the über liberal, they could have at least got life sentences. Mind you, all seven guys did NOT get 5 (or 10 on appeal) years. Some got far lesser sentences.

Now, in my entire life, I have never even met a rape victim. I can only begin to imagine the trauma that such a person must go through, not just at the time of the attack, but for the rest of her life. Certainly, the media has shown us plenty of examples. And this was not an ordinary rape – this 19 year old was gang raped by no less than 7 men. The guts and strength of character she has shown, not only by going to court and charging them, but also to appeal with an obviously biased judiciary is truly commendable.

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Beyond that…I’m absolutely horrified. I don’t quite get if the judges were bias due to the gender issue, or due to the fact that she was Shia Muslim. The fact that the men were convicted at all leads me to believe that there was very strong, credible evidence. And that is not a feminist standpoint, but one of basic logic and humanness. How, as a society, do we move forward when such actions happen, and we don’t bat an eyelid?

Leave aside the sentences of the men – I suppose in such stultified, unequal society, it is too much to expect that a man would be given an appropriate punishment for any crime against a woman. How could the judiciary punish the girl? For influencing the media? What a load of bull. The judiciary should know not to be influenced – it’s her right to talk to the media. How can they punish her for a crime that doesn’t exist? Or is subjective to say the least?

As for the lashes…I guess the law is the law, and had there been no rape, she would still be due for a lashing. But where is the humanity? Where is equity? Sentencing is in the hands of the judges – they could have sentenced her for even 2000 lashes, and suspended the sentence, maybe till a second violation. At least that way, the judiciary follows the rules and displays an ounce of humanity.

Why is nobody looking at the Middle East more seriously? Why is that Sri Lanka gets lashed left and right for HR abuses at the drop of a hat, most of them unfounded, while the HRW, Amnesty et all says precious little about these incidents? Why are these never followed up? Why does the U.K will offer political asylum to a veteran terrorist of over 20 years, but will not lift a fingernail in cases such as this?

I’d like to see the heralders of religious, or Sharia law now. Or those who preach endlessly on religion. This is what it does – it divides people based on gender, on sects and a host of other senseless things, and proceeds to decide which is better than which. This may be an extreme case but I challenge anyone to tell me that religion has done more good than harm. I could write a book on this topic, but it’s a blog, and I guess I should stop, before people just skip this page altogether.

And before I forget, today I am ashamed to be a law student.

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