Bear in mind when considering these numbers that rape is not even considered a crime in many Muslim countries, so these numbers do not accurately reflect the true horror.
The silence and sanction of the left is a secondary human rights abuse.
"Muslim countries, the most protective of women’s ‘honour’, have one of the highest rape scales in the world" The Muslim Issue,
July 11, 2013 (thanks to Inex)
The High Rape-Scale in Saudi Arabia
WomenStats | by TS
Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in
the world, especially in regard to the status of women. Saudi Arabia is
an extreme Islamic country where its legal code is based on Shari’a Law.
They therefore believe that there is no separation between church and
state and the state’s laws are heavily based on Islamic teachings.
Because of this strict Islamic culture, women in Saudi Arabia are
treated and acknowledged very differently than the women who live in the
west. For example, in Saudi Arabia, there are laws that require women
to wear a hijab, a head scarf, as well as dress in loose, long garments
that do not show the shape of the woman’s body. To do so would be
shameful and secular. There are other laws such as this one that are
meant to protect the virtue of women in Saudi Arabia.
Knowing this about Saudi Arabia, I had assumed that women there would
be relatively safe since there are such strict laws regarding the
protection of a woman’s virtue. I assumed incorrectly when I was
studying a WomanStats map that displayed the rape scale of each country
in the world. On a scale from one to five, Saudi Arabia had a ranking of
a four. I was confused by this since, as briefly described above, Saudi
Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in the
world where women are highly secluded. I would have thought these
practices and laws would have decreased the rape rate substantially.
The question I pose then is this, why does Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the world have one of the highest rape scales in the world?
While there are many interconnecting reasons why rape occurs so often
in Saudi Arabia, I have chosen four possible causes to narrow down the
research for this project. The four causes I have chosen are one, a
secular society, two, insufficient laws, three, taboos against reporting
rape and four, an ineffective judicial system.
The first cause, a secular society, was quickly dismissed because as
was mentioned in the introduction, Saudi Arabia is considered one of the
most conservative countries in the world. The society of Saudi Arabia
is especially conservative when it comes to women. For example, it is
illegal for women to drive or intermingle in public with males that are
not related to them. It is also illegal for a woman to go out in public
without a male-escort who is related to her as well as go out in public
without wearing her hijab (WomanStats). Violence or legal prosecution
usually ensues if any of these are broken. To further illustrate this
point, the following maps show how strict Saudi Arabia is in regard to
dress code and intermingling in public laws compared to the rest of the
Middle East, a very conservative region itself.
It is clear from these maps that Saudi Arabia has one of the
strictest dress codes and intermingling laws in the Middle East which is
the most conservative region in the world. Based on these findings, one
would sense that these women are highly secluded from society and
thereby would be more protected from instances of rape and other forms
of violence. On the other hand, one may argue that because women are
treated so differently, they could be seen as inferior and thus suffer
more abuse because of the lack of secularism.
Insufficient Laws Against Rape
The next probable cause studied was the possibility of insufficient
laws against rape in Saudi Arabia. Since there were reported convictions
of rapists, it can be assumed that there are laws against rape. Also,
Saudi Arabia’s legal code is based on the Shari’a law, which
criminalizes rape as punishable by death. However, spousal rape is not
included in this criminalization according to Shari’a law. Although
these laws exist against rapists, the actual conviction process is
complicated and nearly impossible. In order for a perpetrator to be
convicted he or she must confess or there must be four witnesses of the
act (FreedomHouse). Usually in these certain circumstances, there are
only two witnesses present, the perpetrator and the victim. Since it
would be hard for a victim to find four witnesses, it is very unlikely
that a perpetrator would admit to such a heinous act that he or she
could very well get away with. Another example of the insufficient laws
against rape is that foreign female domestic workers, which consists of
1.5 million of foreign nationals, receive no protection from the labor
laws and are more prone to be victims of abuse. Based on this research,
it can be concluded that while there are laws against rape, the actual
conviction of rapists is very rare. This could be a plausible cause of
the high rape scale since the punishment of such an act hardly occurs.
Taboos Against Reporting Rape
The third possible cause of a high rape scale in Saudi Arabia is the
taboos against reporting rape. There are many social stigmas that scare
women away from reporting a rape to the police. One social stigma is
that in many instances, the law enforcer will accuse the woman of having
illicit sex instead of accusing the man of the crime (FreedomHouse). As
a consequence of this accusation, societal reprisals take place such as
a woman being seen as unfit for marriage or even violently punished for
bringing shame to the family. In some extreme cases, honor killings
have been committed against women who have been raped (Zoepf). One may
wonder why these crimes take place if the laws in Saudi Arabia are
supposedly meant to protect women. There is another cultural stigma that
plays a role here. In Islamic society, a family’s honor, particularly
the male family member’s honor is based on the purity and virtue of the
women in their family. If a woman in the family becomes “violated”
either by choice or by force, the family’s honor is seemingly stripped
from them. It is not so much about the concern over the woman but over
the honor of the men. Because of this engrained belief, already
victimized women are sometimes further victimized by their own family
members. This causes great fear among the women in these types of
societies and if one is raped, it is very unlikely that she will report
it based on the potential ensuing consequences.
Ineffective Judicial System
The last possible cause studied was an ineffective judicial system.
As was mentioned before, Saudi Arabia’s legal code is based on the
Shari’s law, an extreme version of the Islamic code. Because of this,
women are not given the same rights as men, especially when it comes to
the courts. For example, in most cases, women are unable to speak for
themselves in court. They must be represented by a male-relative or
lawyer. It is considered shameful for a woman to speak to the sheik or
judge and is only sometime allowed to do so if her face is covered
(WomanStats). Because of this, if a woman is raped, and a man’s honor is
based on her virtue, what male relative would want to shed further
light on the subject by representing her? Also a man’s testimony is
worth two women’s testimonies. So if a woman had four witnesses to
testify against the perpetrator, if some of them were women, the number
of females would have to be doubled for the accusation to be considered.
Another clause of the judicial system is that most clerics were
taught in Wahhabi schools where extreme Islam is taught extensively.
Because of this, most clerics demand the seclusion of women and often
hold an unforgiving attitude toward accusations of violence against men
(WomanStats). A Saudi Arabian attorney even said, “Unfortunately, judges
consider women to be lacking in reason and faith, so generally do not
agree with her arguments” (HumanRights).
The following stories illustrate the point explained above. The first
is about a young girl who was being molested by her father. She went to
the courts to file a complaint. The law enforcers did not believe her
and told her, her father needed to come in to file the complaint
(Economist). The obvious ignorance need not be explained in this
situation. The next story tells of a nineteen year-old woman who met a
man not related to her in a car. They were both kidnapped by a gang and
she was then gang-raped fourteen times. Seven men of the gang were
convicted and were sentenced to prison ranging from one to five years.
This was a light conviction given they could have received the death
penalty according to the law. The woman was also convicted to six months
of prison as well as ninety lashes for being associating with a male
who was not related to her in public (Harrison). The woman was later
pardoned by the King of Saudi Arabia, not because he disagreed with the
punishment but because he was being merciful and thought it was best for
the whole of the country, not to mention international relations with
countries that were in an absolute uproar over the ordeal (Zoepf).
Based on my research I propose that the main perpetrator of the high
rape-scale in Saudi Arabia is the lack of conviction of rapists due to
the taboos against reporting rape and the ineffective judicial system.
If perpetrators are not being punished then there is little incentive to
not rape woman if that is the desire. To illustrate how low the
conviction rate actually is, in 2002, there were 59 reported rapes out
of a population of 26,534,504 (WomanStats) The perpetrators are getting
away with a heinous crime and the Saudi Arabian government must pass
more effective legislation that enables law enforcers to convict those
criminals. The social stigmas will be very difficult to overcome
regarding seeing a woman unfit for marriage or taking away the family’s
honor because of being raped. However, if women continue to speak up
about the issues they face, solutions will come, just as they have in
other parts of the world. Also international pressure must always be
present to give those women courage to stand up.
– Double indemnity a bizarre application of the law. (2007, Novem 22). The Economist, Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/10191773
– Eleanor Abdella Doumato, Rowman & Littlefield. (2012, April
4). Freedom House, Saudi Arabia Freedom House Report. Retrieved from http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/Saudi%20Arabia.pdf
– Harrison, F. (2007, Novemeber 15). Saudi Gang-Rape Victim is Jailed. BBC. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7096814.stm
– Womanstats project. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://womanstats.org/CodebookCurrent.htm
– United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights- Saudi Arabia, 2007
– Zoepf, K. (2007, Decem 18). Saudi king pardons rape victim sentenced to be lashed, saudi paper reports.The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/world/middleeast/18saudi.html