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Punishing The Victim

Punishing The Victim
Punishing The Victim

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a gang-rape victim to six months in prison and two-hundred lashes for violating the country’s religious law. The young woman was sitting in a car with a former boyfriend when she and the young man were kidnapped by seven hoodlums who brutally raped her. Both victims were sentenced to ninety lashes each for being together in private. The attackers received sentences ranging from two years to nine years in prison and eighty to one-thousand lashes each. \

The woman’s attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, complained about the severity of her sentence. In response, the court increased her punishment to two-hundred lashes and suspended Mr. Lahem’s license to practice law. Bassem Alim, a Saudi Arabian lawyer, said the young woman’s sentence was too severe. “She should not be punished for going to the media and explaining her case,” he said. Fawzeyah al-Oyouni, a founding member of the Saudi Association for the Defense of Women’s Rights, says the case involves more than one young woman victimized by rape. “It’s about every woman in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “We’re fearing for our lives and the lives of our sisters and our daughters and every Saudi woman out there,” said Ms. al-Oyouni.

“A courageous young woman faces lashing and prison for speaking out about her efforts to find justice,” said Farida Deif of Human Rights Watch, an independent human right monitor.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the decision in the case ultimately rests with the government of Saudi Arabia:

“It is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it.”

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department said that among the “significant human rights problems” in Saudi Arabia are “infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments; beatings and other abuses,” “exemption from the rule of law for some individuals,” and “legal and societal discrimination and violence against women.” The report said that “although the [Saudi] government did not keep statistics on spousal abuse or other forms of violence against women, reportedly such violence and abuse were common problems.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said “the process of change in Saudi Arabia is one that is going to take place over time.” For its part, he said, the U.S. believes “it is essential that every individual enjoy basic universal rights.”