Thursday, November 15, 2007

Asking For It

There was a time in America's past when a woman who was assaulted by a man had to weigh her fervent desire to see her attacker punished against the unpleasant likelihood that society would view her very negatively merely for having been the victim of such a crime. The loathsome phrase that she was somehow "asking for it" covered all manner of her potential transgressions, from having somehow encouraged the man by her clothing, appearance, or manner to having acquiesced in the behavior, only to cry "rape!" when the deed was done. The victim of rape was often victimized twice: once by the actual attack, and then again by having every shred of her reputation unfairly torn from her by those who were quick to judge her as having been somehow complicit in her own victimization.

Although this attitude is still sometimes to be found in American society, our awareness of the reality of this particular crime, its devastating effects on its victims, and increased sympathy for women who have been the victims of rape have grown considerably over the last century or so. While rape counselors and victims themselves will agree that there are certain risk factors a woman can--and should--avoid (such as being alone with men they barely know, drinking to excess or using illegal drugs, and so on) the actual attack is not a woman's fault, despite any circumstances. Rape is an ugly crime, no matter how it happens.

Which is why Americans should be completely outraged at this.

Look at the facts: a nineteen-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia is being punished with 200 lashes and six months in jail because she was raped! Technically, the punishment is being handed down to her for the crime of being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the attack; it was actually increased because her lawyer went to the media to raise awareness of the situation. The woman's attackers--yes, attackers, plural; there are six of them--have been sentenced to between two and nine years in prison. Her lawyer has had his license to practice law revoked because he tried to challenge the verdict in this case.

In Saudi Arabia a woman can be held criminally responsible for her own rape merely for not following Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam which tries to interpret the Koran literally, and which forbids women to associate with men other than relatives, to drive, and to appear in public without being veiled from head to toe. To the Saudi government, this young victim of a hideous and terrible attack was asking for it--because she got into a car being driven by someone she wasn't related to, a man, naturally, because women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to drive cars. That act, to the government of Saudi Arabia, is tantamount to giving men the permission to abuse and mistreat you; and while the men are also being punished for violating public morality standards their initial punishment was a mere one to five years in jail. Even with the new "tougher" punishments for the men the outrageous injustice involved in sentencing a rape victim to be beaten and imprisoned for daring to challenge the idea that she should be punished at all is an offense against every notion of human decency and human kindness.

Instead, the American policy of appeasing Saudi Arabia seems to extend to such matters as pressuring U.S. servicewomen to abide by Wahhabist rules and making sure that only male FAA employees would be on duty when the crown prince visited Crawford, Texas. We seem all too willing to overlook Saudi assaults on human dignity, Saudi incidents involving religious oppression, and Saudi ties to terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.

In the fight to make sure that Islamofacism doesn't overwhelm the United States of America, we should remember all these mixed signals we're giving to Saudi Arabia: our appeasement, our willingness to overlook their human rights violations, our tendency to pretend that our two countries' world views aren't as radically different as they are. We should understand that if Saudi-funded terrorism does indeed begin to flourish in our country, that as far as the Saudis are concerned, we were asking for it.


Tracie said...

What's even worse about this is that after the young woman is released from jail, there's a high probability that she will be killed by her male family members because of the "shame" she has brought upon them.

I'm currently reading "Kabul in Winter: Life without peace in Afghanistan" by Ann Jones, a women's rights activist. It's informative - and frightening. We women in the West have no idea what it's like for women in Muslim countries.

Opal said...

We lived in KSA for about 4 years and it wasn't much fun at all.
Bringing the injustice of this case, and the laws may or may not help this woman. Maybe future women? I know that one prominent TV reporter was severly beaten by her husband. It seemed to shed light on the "wife beating" trend they have. That poor woman, I pray she is able to leave the country because chances are, she will be killed.
As far as US relations with KSA, that is a delicate one.
But get this, if they didn't have us (US) and European workers over there, they would not be able to do much. Because for the most part, Expats hold managerial positions. So they do need outside help, lots of it.

Red Cardigan said...

Opal, that's really interesting; I'd love to hear about your experiences in that country!

Opal said...

Day one, spring of 1996.
It was a long trip especially with a 1 year old. I don't think I slept at all.
When we finally arrived late into the night at Khobar we were delayed on the plane to fill out paper work. This paper work was to let you know if you brought into the kingdom any religous, alocohol, pornography or the such, you would be punished, deported or could receive the death penalty.
I took a deep breath because I brought our daughters Christmas tapes with us. Although I had scratched out "Christ" I wondered what would happen if they see these? I took off my crucifix and stuffed it deep into my pocket.

The airport was more like a big warehouse really and the stench was almost too much to bear. We were hearded into different lines, long lines with mostly Pakistani's but a few Europeans here and there. The natives were usurd to the front and promptly escorted through the long lines. It was time to wait.

We had no trouble in customs and everything was in order except for me. I wanted to cry. The place was so foreign, so very different.
After repacking our luggage and finding some help to carry it, we get the "OK" to go through the doors and find my husband. What a relief!

After arriving to the compound, we are greeted by a few of the neighbors, mostly Americans with a few Europeans. Exhausted I was ready to go to bed for a few days but there was one thing bothering me. In the general exchange of welcomes, someone told me to NOT go out to the market tomorrow. I had to know why. I turned and asked the nice woman why I shouldn't. "Because tomorrow is Friday and they are having an execution in the market place. IF you are there, being an American, they will find you and sometimes force you to watch the execution. A way to let you know they mean business." Oh. I was no longer sleepy. I wanted to go home.
Day one in Saudi.

(Red, we are about to leave for TExas to look at houses, would you all say a prayer for us, thanks)

Red Cardigan said...

Opal, thank you so much for sharing that with us! I can't imagine how afraid I would be to be in a country where any open display of faith can get you killed.

(Will pray fervently that Saint Joseph will lead you to the right home for your family!)