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Saudi Arabia’s Treatment of Women
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Saudi Arabia goes by strict Sharia Law which is interpreted religious law according to Islam. The country does not currently have a written penal code but instead sharia law is interpreted by each individual judge. Much of Saudi law is especially restrictive to women. Currently, there is enforced gender segregation in almost all aspects of life. Women are not allowed to drive, vote, hold office, be outside the home without a related male and head and body covering, or buy property without permission. It is not uncommon for rape victims to be punished themselves for the “crime” of interaction with unrelated men (non-mahram) or adultery if they are married. One such case is of a Saudi woman in 2007 who received punishment after she was gang raped along with an unrelated male companion. While her rapists received jail sentences and lashings, the woman herself was charged for being outside her home without a male relative. At first she was sentenced to 90 lashes but her sentence was increased to 200 lashes and six months in prison upon her appeal.
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Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that still bans women from driving. Recently, Saudi women have taken to YouTube and Twitter to protest, posting videos of themselves driving illegally as part of the “women2drive” campaign started by activist Eman al-Nafjan. The movement has chosen October 26th as a day that women should take to the streets (in cars) to protest for their right to drive.
Some common reasons given for prohibiting women from driving in Saudi Arabia are:
- Driving a car involves uncovering the face.
- Driving a car may lead women to go out of the house more often.
- Driving a car may lead women to have interaction with non-mahram [non-related] males, for example at traffic accidents.
- Women driving cars may lead to overcrowding the streets and many young men may be deprived of the opportunity to drive.
- Driving would be the first step in an erosion of traditional values, such as gender segregation.
A Saudi Cleric, Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan, has recently declared that women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and causing birth defects to unborn children in response to the driving protests. Other driving ban protests have taken place in Saudi Arabia; one in 1991 in which 47 women were imprisoned for a day and had their passports taken for driving and in 2007 and 2008 for International Women’s Day.
Activist Manal al–Sharif driving in Saudi Arabia
Dr. AlAjroush driving in Riyadh
Cave Paintings Now Thought to be Mostly Created by Women
A study that measures finger ratio in early human cave paintings suggests the majority of artists were female. As far back as the 1800s the difference in ratio of the index to the ring finger between males and females has been noted in scientific studies and writings. Although the reason for this is still up for debate, Dean Snow, an archeologist from Pennsylvania State University, created an algorithm to measure various aspects of hand prints found in cave paintings in France and Spain finding a probable 75 % to be female.
Belgian Firefighters and Police
While protesting budget cuts on October 7th in front of the Prime Minister’s office, Belgian police burned tires in the street, blocked traffic with fire engines and sprayed riot police with fire hoses and foam. I think we can all agree that Belgian firefighters are badass!
Edward Snowden Receives Sam Adams Award
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor turned whistleblower, received the Sam Adam’s award October 10th in Moscow, Russia. Bestowed annually, the award is given to an intelligence officer (not exclusive to the U.S.) who stands for integrity and ethics by the Sam Adam’s Associates for Integrity in Intelligence; a group of former American government officials some of which have themselves been prosecuted for whistle blowing. Wikileaks recently released video of Snowden from the award ceremony. It is the first footage of Snowden since arriving in Russia in July. He faces espionage charges back in the U.S.
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