S peaking at a recent conference in Jeddah on domestic violence, of all places, Saudi Judge Hamad Al-Razine spoke out in favor of a husband's Islamic right to slap his wife around in instances, like when she spends money lavishly on frivolous items.
"She deserves that punishment," the judge stated, citing possible excuses explaining the upsurge in reported domestic violence cases within the Kingdom.
Al-Razine tried to reason that women are just as responsible for the domestic violence they bring upon themselves and he whined that "Nobody puts even a fraction of blame on them (women).”
Women in the audience were stunned and outraged by the judge's remarks and many cried foul.
Like in the West, many cases of domestic violence still go unreported. But women here are beginning to come forward, accounting for the steady increase in reported cases of domestic violence.
My question is, why is a man with views like this in such an authoritative position in the first place?
And the answer would be that because Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state, and Islamic law permits it here.
Yes, a man can beat his wife and his children and he is perfectly within his legal rights to do so.
My understanding of Koran verse 4:34 interpretations by Islamic scholars (and please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) basically states that men are superior to women and that men should provide for and protect women. Women should be obedient and keep their private parts hidden from other men. And if the woman disobeys, then a man should scold her, deny her sex, and then if all else fails, it's okay to beat her.
Noted Saudi women's rights activist, Wajeha Al-Huwaider has said, "They've (Saudi men) been raised in a culture that tells them it's okay to raise your hand to a woman, that this works."
Now of course, fortunately the majority of men in Saudi Arabia would never raise a hand to their spouse.
But what about those who do?
There is no recourse for the wife. She is not protected under the law and her husband can abuse her all he wants (all right, well maybe not ALL he wants) and nobody can do a thing about it.
A woman's value in Saudi Arabia's misogynistic society has always clearly been less than that of a man. In court, a woman's testimony does not carry as much weight (only half actually) as that of a man's. While men are free to do such things as travel and go to school for higher education, women cannot do so without the approval of their male guardian - and every woman in the KSA has to have a male guardian. Women here are required to cover up all but her hands and face (yet most women here DO cover their faces AND wear gloves), while men are only required to cover from their waist down to their knees. In marriage, women can only have one husband, while men are allowed up to four. To this day, it is far easier for a man in this society to divorce his wife than for a woman to obtain a divorce from her husband. As far as inheritance goes, women inherit far less than men. All this leads me to believe that this country's interpretations of Islam are not really fair to women.
But then again, many passages in the Bible also encourage inferior treatment of women as well. No wonder I'm so turned off by organized religion!
Other countries have clear laws against such abuse. Other countries even have clearcut laws against abusing animals.
I think we can all agree that wife beating is a far more serious and urgent matter than women being denied the privilege of driving here in the KSA or by the alleged appearance of oppression of women by having them wear black cloaks and veils.
In his defense, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has indeed taken a stand opposing domestic violence and against renegade old school religious clerics who have issued their own hideous interpretations of Islam which keep the country stuck in a socially oppressive time warp lateral to that of the Dark Ages.
But still it seems that this type of behavior will continue until real change takes place - when Saudi Arabia steps up to the plate and says enough is enough - that beating women here is unacceptable and wrong no matter what the reason and puts in place measures to enforce it.
But when will that happen? When will Saudi Arabia recognize the value of its women?