Saudi rape verdict a violation

A 19-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia who was gang raped by seven men has been sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashings. Initially, the woman was sentenced to 90 lashes for travelling in a car with an unrelated male. The lashings were more than doubled and a jail sentenced added to her punishment on the basis that the woman was attempting to “aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media,” according to the Globe and Mail.

The woman was said to have violated the country’s Islamic sharia law prohibiting women from being in the company of men outside of their family by getting into a car with a male friend. More men climbed in the car and drove to a secluded spot where she was raped 14 times. Seven men were convicted in the case and sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to nine years.

The court’s decision has sparked international outcry including condemnation from Canada’s minister responsible for the status of women, Josée Verner, who called the decision “barbaric.”

The U.S., however, called the ruling “astonishing” but seemed to shrug off this egregious abuse of women’s rights. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack cited Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty as reason for his country’s silence. Sadly it’s not shocking—the U.S. can’t afford to aggravate the oil-rich country.

The humanitarian aspect of this case is most disturbing—a woman who was raped by seven men received not only jail time, but a corporal punishment increased because she spoke out. Rape isn’t an uncommon abuse, but public acknowledgement of it is. Punishing a victim of physical violation with another form of it is incomprehensible.

The court’s decision will undoubtedly discourage other women from coming forward and will propogate an image of rape victims as being the culprits. If a woman is punished for a crime she didn’t commit—or provoke—justice is denied.

Such an abrogation of human rights can’t be met with silence if we as a society want to combat rape victims’ stigma. The abuses of power in this case—by the rapists and the Saudi court—are shameful and place blame on a victim guilty only of being an outspoken woman.

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