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A Worthy "Pardon"

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There’s good news out of Saudi Arabia today. King Abdullah has “pardoned” the rape victim who had been sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes for being in a car with a man who was not her relative. As the Times put it in their lede, the 19-year-old woman was sentenced “after pressing charges against the seven men who raped her,” and who also raped the man – an ex-boyfriend – in whose car she sat. According to the Saudi justice ministry, she invited the attack because she violated the sexual segregation laws and because she was indecently dressed.

Not only has the woman suffered emotional and medical problems since the rape, but she has also survived an attempted murder by her brother. The perpetrators of the rape received sentences ranging from 10 months to 5 years and 80 to 1000 lashes.

In pardoning the woman, the King did not indicate that the sentence was unfair or the sexual segregation law wrongheaded. Instead, the pardon was because of the “psychological effects” the punishment would have had on her.

I’m not sure what I can add by way of commentary. Obviously, the fact that women are punished for being raped is appalling. But it shouldn’t be that surprising to us — not only because we’ve heard so many similar stories but also because we harbor similar attitudes (if only attitudes alone) in our own society, where judges call rape victims “stupid” and where Maryland state rape law holds that once consent is given, it cannot be withdrawn. It’s a different magnitude of misogyny, but not a different animal.

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