Saudi Arabia’s Child-Rape Case: Female Activists Fight to Prevent Abuse
Feb 8, 2013 Christopher Dickey
A monstrous case of abuse in Saudi Arabia shakes the kingdom and strengthens the cause of Saudi women activists.
The torture and murder of 5-year-old Lama Al Ghamdi could hardly have been more horrific—and news of it, repeated in countless Twitter feeds, has enflamed opinion around the world. But the fact that this story of one little girl’s death and one father’s monstrosity went public is also a sign of just how hard women in Saudi Arabia are working to fight the cruel misogyny embedded in the kingdom’s version of Islamic law. And among those women is a daughter of the king….
Fayhan Al Ghamdi, a self-styled Islamic preacher who appears occasionally on local TV shows pontificating about morality, was arrested last year and charged with murder. He told authorities that he had suspected his 5-year old daughter was not a virgin. He had even taken her to a doctor to check. But apparently that had not satisfied him….
Saudi law claims to follow a clear path (sharia) laid out in the Quran, but in practice it’s based on a maze of sayings and traditions (hadith) with as many baffling contradictions as the codes used by lawyers anywhere. According to one reading, a father cannot be held fully accountable for the death of his children; their loss is a punishment for him. So the question arose in the proceedings whether Al Ghamdi could simply pay the mother “blood money” for the loss of her daughter and walk free….
The mother has said she will not accept payment. She has asked that the stepmother be investigated as well, and she has told her advocates that she wants to see her ex-husband executed, which in Saudi Arabia means beheading.
Before the middle of the last decade, domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia were treated mainly as family affairs. Nobody wanted to talk about them, and if police did bother to investigate suspected crimes, which was rare, they found proof very hard to come by.
But it’s important to remember Saudi Arabia is not the only country where domestic abuse is a hidden crime. Indeed, the United States has the worst record in the industrialized world. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost five children a day die from neglect or abuse, but according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, those numbers almost certainly are understated….
Child Abuse in America
Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths….Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.