Monday, March 23, 2009
75 year old widowed woman sentenced to 40 lashes and 4 months in prison in Saudi Arabia for having a nonrelated man deliver her bread.
Attention all Saudi women: If you need assistance of any kind, you are on your own. The government of Saudi Arabia made this clear to all women residing in their country when, late last month, it chose to arrest a 75-year-old widowed woman for being in the company of unrelated males who were simply helping her.
In an embarrassing display of law enforcement, the Saudi government convicted and sentenced the widow to 40 lashes and four months imprisonment for mingling with her late husband's 24-year-old nephew and his friend, after she had asked them to deliver some bread to her house. (Since her husband's death, she often asks others for help. The Saudi government claims that she has sinned.)
Saudi Arabia has become infamous for its religious police (known by the Arabic word "mutaween"), who have the power to arrest unrelated men and women caught socializing, seize products regarded as "un-Islamic" and enforce Islamic dress codes and dietary laws. In March 2002, they forcibly barred schoolgirls from escaping a burning school in Mecca because the girls were not wearing head scarves and black coats. Consequently, 15 girls died and 50 were injured.
Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women face severe discrimination, particularly in matters like education, employment and the justice system. Although they make up 70% of university enrollment, women comprise only 5% of the Saudi workforce. They cannot travel abroad, be admitted into a hospital, be examined by a doctor or leave the house without permission or in the company of an immediate male relative.
Women particularly face discrimination in the Saudi legal system. In 2007, seven men abducted a teenage woman and an unrelated man from a mall in Saudi Arabia and raped her. The seven men were sentenced to two to nine years in prison, but the woman was also convicted of breaking the law by not having a male guardian with her and for being alone with an unrelated male. She was the victim but was still sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes. Where is the justice in that?