Saudi Arabia's treatment of rape victim unconscionable

Farzana Hassan [President, Muslim Canadian Congress]: "While staunch affirmation of human rights remains the mantra of the day, the world continues to witness violations both great and small of this noble human ideal. Recently, a Canadian Muslim woman also felt her human rights violated and took her grievance to the Human Rights Commission. Her complaint-- a uniform skirt that leaves her calf exposed which according to her devout belief and practice, constitutes a serious violation of religious precept. Although Ms. Muse has the option of wearing trousers to work that would satisfy the Islamic requirement for modesty, she finds the attire uncomfortable, especially in warm weather, as she feels she must keep her jacket on to further conceal the shape of her body.

Miles away from this controversy, in a benighted prison cell in Saudi Arabia, a nineteen year old girl awaits the implementation of a punishment that may very well take her life. She was convicted earlier this year of the "crime" of leaving home unaccompanied by a close male relative. To her utter misfortune, the woman was gang-raped during the ill-fated trip to meet her fiance. Yet, instead of receiving redress for the atrocity, she was awarded the brutal and humiliating punishment of 200 lashes along with a six month prison sentence.

Needless to say, such human rights abuses stand in stark contrast to Ms. Muse's relatively innocuous and somewhat disingenuous concerns. Despite this, there is deafening silence over the outrageous sentence from the champions of human rights. The insidious worldwide alliance between the leftists and the Islamists appear to be lending strength to misogyny and medieval values.

Saudi Arabia's verdict on this young girl is unconscionable.

Not only is it harsh in comparison to the so called "crime", it also places the onus of rape almost exclusively on this woman by bringing into focus her infraction of having violated Saudi law, thereby suggesting she brought vulnerability upon herself. Such messages reek of patriarchy and misogyny as the woman according to the verdict must be taught a lesson by serving a sentence and receiving a public flogging.

Saudi Arabia continues to implement a justice system that is medieval and archaic in upholding the most literal interpretations of the Islamic Shariah.

Yet despite its cruel manifestations, as in the case of the nineteen year old rape victim, there is an absence of public outcry from within Saudi society. The sporadic voices decrying the verdict have come largely from abroad, where journalists both Muslim and non-Muslim have expressed outrage over the decision.

What needs to be addressed is the very premise upon which the Saudi justice system is built—one that renders women voiceless, non-persons without freedom and socially marginalized. A society that criminalizes a single woman's unaccompanied movements must review the social fabric of the society that prompts such unwarranted restrictions on her freedom. The strictures of a highly conservative brand of Wahabi Islam must be reviewed, allowing for more humane applications of religious norms. Moreover, Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2000 and as such is obliged under international law to repeal and amend all laws that blatantly discriminate against women. It must introduce laws and public education programmes that uphold the essence of the Convention based on the equality of women.

While human rights activists contest Ms. Muse's right to wear a long skirt at her place of work, they must of necessity also direct their energies to addressing the gross human rights violations within Saudi society."

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