I would really love to know all of your thoughts on this news story from Yahoo!:
Saudis defend punishment for rape victim
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - The Saudi judiciary on Tuesday defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked.
The Shiite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia's rigid Islamic law requiring segregation of the sexes.
But in considering her appeal of the verdict, the Saudi General Court increased the punishment. It also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the woman, Saudi news media said last week.
The reports triggered an international outcry over the Saudis punishing the victim of a terrible crime.
But the Ministry of Justice stood by the verdict Tuesday, saying that "charges were proven" against the woman for having been in a car with a man who was not her relative.
The ministry implied the victim's sentence was increased because she spoke out to the press. "For whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows an appeal without resorting to the media," said the statement, which was carried on the official Saudi Press Agency.
The attack occurred in 2006. The victim says she was in a car with a male student she used to know trying to retrieve a picture of her. She says two men got into the car and drove them to a secluded area where she was raped by seven men. Her friend also was assaulted.
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Judges have wide discretion in punishing criminals, rules of evidence are vague and sometimes no defense lawyer is present. The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light sentence to death.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack avoided directly criticizing the Saudi judiciary over the case, but said the verdict "causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment."
"It is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it," McCormack said.
Canada's minister for women's issues, Jose Verger, has called the sentence "barbaric."
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the verdict "not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators."
I'm horrified by this. I understand that other countries have standards and ideals that are different than ours, and that they their laws are based on different ideals, but i'm completely disgusted by this. What can other countries do to protect the rights of women in this situation? I feel like America should be doing more. I feel like I should be doing more. I applaud the woman for going forward and speaking with the press even though it caused her penalties to be doubled. It took a lot of courage, and hopefully it will open the eyes of everyone else in the world. Its not only the Saudis who are like this -- I was reading an article about Zahara Jolie-Pitt's birth mother in Ethiopia who said she was raped and had to keep that a secret
because rape victims are looked down on.
a special thanks to Mary-Louise for offering up ways that everyone can help:
Here are a few women's rights orgs who concentrate on women in the world if you're interested in getting involved somehow:
UNIFEM is the women’s fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Address: The University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, 31905
Israel Contact Person: Claudia Goodich-Avram
Tel: 972-4-8240318 Fax: 972-4-8249014
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.kidma.haifa.ac.il Project for the Advancement of Women in Israel, Haifa, Israel, provides women from all sectors of Israeli society opportunity, information and access to subjects that can help them advance personally, professionally, financially and socially. The Women who come to project KIDMA include among others Jews and Arabs, new immigrants, students, and professionals dealing with women's issues such as sexual harassment. KIDMA is a non profit organization located at The University of Haifa.
Women's Solidarity Association of Iran
Address: P.O. Box 13165-117 Tehran, Iran
A women's human rights organization working for the progress of the women of Iran through advocacy and awareness raising on the national and international levels.