The Rights of Women in Saudi Arabia

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The Rights of Women in Saudi Arabia
By Shanelle Topp

“Women’s rights are human rights” is an important message which Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign has adopted. The rights of women around the world have an effect on everybody in the world, including males. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2009 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ranked 130th out of 134 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2009 (Hausmann, Tyson, & Zahidi, 2009). In Saudi Arabia, women are often suppressed in society and are noted as having the rights of minors. Saudi women are subject to unjust laws, sexist family code, and tainted education systems. This systemic inequality towards women must change. Many of the so-called laws in Saudi Arabia are in fact not written laws. Often individual judges use their own discretion when punishing people for their crimes as based upon Sharia. Sharia is defined by Oxford dictionary as “Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunna), prescribing both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for law breaking.” This can often lead to rulings that follow archaic religious rituals; although it should be noted that Sharia in itself is not sexist, but rather common Saudi Arabian cultural interpretation is sexist. Women are often subject to punishment for acts that are often not thought of as crimes in the Western world. A particularly disturbing case of this was in 2007 when a Saudi court issued a preposterous sentence to a gang-rape victim. The girl had gotten into a car with a boy she knew from her school because he had a picture of her. His having the picture of her was taboo as she was soon to marry another man. Both the boy and girl who were in the car were kidnapped and all involved were punished. The female victim was sentenced to 90 lashings for having had contact with men who were not relatives of hers. Her sentence was later upped to 200...
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