Wronged Rights

March 10, 2011
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Though the laws in countries with Sharia law are based on the religion most citizens follow devoutly, laws related to women’s rights often oppress and grotesquely exaggerate if not blatantly contradict their doctrinal basis which provided women with rights radical for the time at which they were granted. Saudi Arabia especially has a large amount of corruption associated with the abuse of women’s rights because the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice which arrests many Saudi citizens is independent of the government and legal process.
Based on the Koran, the Muslim holy book, Sharia or Islamic law is only practiced in nations where the vast majority of citizens practice the Muslim faith. The Koran does describe women as inferior to men and in need of protection (Truszkowska). Upon the Koran’s writing in the early seventh century, inequality based on gender was accepted virtually worldwide. Because of this, women are not granted the same rights as men by many Islamic governments for the “benefit” of the female citizens. The belief that women need special care dictates the need for separate laws for women which place men in control. Practices such as polygamy were allowed so that women would be able to remarry and be taken care of in event of their husbands’ death (“Islamist Misogyny”). This is a prime example of a law that, seen in the modern, western world, may seem to create an inferior role for women, but that was designed in a different era to protect members of society that could not protect themselves, or survive alone. One glaring inequality however, is that lewdness is punishable by death for women, but men are forgiven if they repent (Sassoon). Many passages in the Koran upon which the laws are based refer to women as inferior to men, thus religiously justifying some gender discrimination.
In Saudi Arabia, women are required to wear veils.
Women cannot drive.
Women rarely meet their husbands before the wedding.
Women are at the mercy of the men in their families.
This is despite the fact that the Koran gives women many rights that were virtually unheard of at its writing, including inheritance and stating “for divorced women a reasonable maintenance should be provided” (Sassoon). It also mentions the prophet’s wives riding camels, the equivalent of driving (“Islamist Misogyny”). The Koran describes Adam and Eve’s creation and sin as equal as opposed to Christian interpretations of the narrative in which Adam was created first and Eve sinned first. Despite this initial equality, Saudi Arabia holds that the female gender is a moral weakness and requires men to guide women (Truszdowska). It is as if the first portable music player developed was a CD player, but mp3 players were outlawed. As shown in Figure One, the veil conceals the face, destroying the identity of the woman and dangerously limiting her vision. The woman is dehumanized and handicapped, even crossing the street is dangerous because of this fabric restraint. This picture displays more skin around the eyes than is shown in Saudi Arabia giving the woman the ability to see more easily. The Koran holds not mandate forcing women to cover their faces, it merely requires women to “guard their modesty” (Sassoon). Though many passages of the Koran show the equality of the genders in many ways, discrimination is still enforced in several countries.
Much of the women’s rights abuses in Saudi Arabia do not occur at the hands of the government, but rather a corrupt religious police. The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) which is not accountable to the Minister of the Interior is able to make arrests and interrogate suspects before turning them over to the police. The CPVPV offers monetary incentives to its officers of up to the equivalent of three-hundred American dollars for arresting criminals leading to an increased persecution of women. The “mischief and discord” phrase in Saudi law lends itself to many interpretations in order to validate the CPVPV’s arrests. Because of the vague wording, many activities not outlawed in specifics can lead to a woman’s arrest (Truszdowska). The Saudi Princess Sultana recalls “one of our Filipino maids had inflamed some mutawas [religious police] by wearing a knee-length skirt in the souq. A group of religious men struck her with a stick and sprayed her uncovered legs with red paint” (Sassoon). Though the woman broke no law, she was beaten, publicly humiliated, and suffered lasting psychological dammage. The woman was not arrested because there she committed no crime, yet the physical abuse happened in public without legal backing. Because the CPVPV is not held accountable and is free to harshly interrogate suspects, its actions are impossible to validate. The lack of government regulation regarding the CPVPV allows many encroachments on human and especially women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
While it was easier for a Muslim to be a man, it was easier in Islam’s early years for a woman to be a Muslim than to belong to another faith where she would be seen as inherently sinful. There are exaggerations of sections in the Koran that translate into doctrine-defying laws. This is combined with political corruption in Muslim states, especially Saudi Arabia, to remove human rights in relation to women. Though the Koran which is the basis for the laws in many Islamic countries is biased in favor of men, it gave women rights that were very radical for its time, unfortunately, many of these rights do not have modern equivalents because of a resistance to change that may bring about gender equality.
Works Cited
“Irreligious Police” Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. 2001. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.
“Islamist Misogyny Does Not Have Its Roots in Islam” Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. 2003. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.
“Is Muslims’ Treatment of Women Islamic?” Arab Democracy. 2009. Web. 24 Jan 2011.
“Muslim Women Need Their Rights to be Recognized” Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. 2009. Web. 24 Jan. 2011.
Sassoon, Jean. Princess. William-Brooke Books, 2004. Print.

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