Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Injustice Everywhere

A 75 year old widow in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to forty lashes for asking her nephew (accompanied by his business partner) to bring some bread to her. Because he was not in her immediate family, this was considered immoral "mingling" between "unrelated" people of the opposite sex. The widow claims to have nursed the nephew occasionally as an infant which would have established a closer kinship in their tradition, but since she had no proof of this, their contact was considered criminal.
The men also await sentencing.

Another travesty in Saudi Arabia involves the marriage of an eight year old girl to a 47 year old man. ( The girl's father owed him money! ) The judge refused to annul the marriage, but had the husband sign a document that said he would not have sex with the girl until she hits puberty. (And when is that, at the appearance of the first pubic hair, or her period, or breast buds?) The girl may not herself file for divorce until she is 18.

"It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger," Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom's grand mufti, said in remarks quoted Wednesday in the regional Al-Hayat newspaper. "A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her."

I confess I find it hard to follow his reasoning. Why does the fact that a ten or twelve year old could be married mean that the limit should be extended to even younger ages? An eight year old?!?

And then there is the nine year old Brazilian girl, pregnant with twins by her abusive step-father. Fortunately abortion is legal in Brazil in cases of rape or medical emergencies----and this was both. The small child would likely have died carrying twins to term. She was given the abortion, but now her mother and the doctors have been excommunicated from the Catholic church. The step-father's sin was seen as serious, but not worthy of excommunication.

Although my vengeful nature dreams of a truly Biblical punishment for Bernie Madoff, not to mention those two judges in Pennsylvania who sentenced teens to correctional facilities to get kickbacks, we must all thank our lucky stars that we live in a society where religion does not dominate our legal system. The Brazilian girl has similarly benefited from the separation of church and state. The citizens of Saudi Arabia-----especially the women-----are not so lucky. The rules that govern their lives are religious decrees that none may challenge. We must remain vigilant to keep strictly religious views from being imposed upon our citizenry.

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