Sunday, November 18, 2007

Opposite perspectives on sexual assault

Recently in the UK, Conservative MP David Cameron called for more support for sexual assault victims, both at the pre-trial and trial stages, and for "proportionate", i.e. harsher, sentences for rapists. He also requested that the government enact measures to purge society of its "rape culture", so that attitudes and behaviours that trivialize or legitimize sexual assault and the objectification of women be clearly identified as wrong and, to a certain extent, against the law.

Mr Cameron also asked "that the government ... fund public service announcements against rape and cover sexual consent in sex-ed classes."

As Mr Cameron explained:

"It is important that we talk to children, so that years later when they become jurors, they no longer believe the myths of sexual assault: that women and girls are asking for it if they wear particular clothes, or are out late, or are drinking, that it's all their fault."


Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, a 19 year-old rape victim was sentenced to 90 lashes. Her crime? Being in a secluded place with a man who was not her husband or a relative.

"The young woman’s offense was in meeting a former boyfriend, whom she had asked to return pictures he had of her because she was about to marry another man. The couple was sitting in a car when a group of seven men kidnapped them and raped them both, lawyers in the case told Arab News, a Saudi newspaper.

"The woman and the former boyfriend were originally sentenced to 90 lashes each for being together in private, while the attackers received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison, and 80 to 1,000 lashes each."

The woman's lawyer appealed her sentence, on the ground that it was unusually harsh (the usual sentence for "adultery" being 60 to 80 lashes), and publicly denounced the ruling. As a result, "the court increased the victim’s sentence to 200 lashes and six months in jail", and her lawyer's license was suspended. (He is now facing disciplinary procedures.)

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