The High Rape-Scale in Saudi Arabia

January 16, 2013 § 35 Comments

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in the world, especially in regard to the status of women. Saudi Arabia is an extreme Islamic country where its legal code is based on Shari’a Law. They therefore believe that there is no separation between church and state and the state’s laws are heavily based on Islamic teachings. Because of this strict Islamic culture, women in Saudi Arabia are treated and acknowledged very differently than the women who live in the west. For example, in Saudi Arabia, there are laws that require women to wear a hijab, a head scarf, as well as dress in loose, long garments that do not show the shape of the woman’s body. To do so would be shameful and secular. There are other laws such as this one that are meant to protect the virtue of women in Saudi Arabia.

1st mapKnowing this about Saudi Arabia, I had assumed that women there would be relatively safe since there are such strict laws regarding the protection of a woman’s virtue. I assumed incorrectly when I was studying a WomanStats map that displayed the rape scale of each country in the world. On a scale from one to five, Saudi Arabia had a ranking of a four. I was confused by this since, as briefly described above, Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in the world where women are highly secluded. I would have thought these practices and laws would have decreased the rape rate substantially.

The question I pose then is this, why does Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the world have one of the highest rape scales in the world?

While there are many interconnecting reasons why rape occurs so often in Saudi Arabia, I have chosen four possible causes to narrow down the research for this project. The four causes I have chosen are one, a secular society, two, insufficient laws, three, taboos against reporting rape and four, an ineffective judicial system.

Secular Society

The first cause, a secular society, was quickly dismissed because as was mentioned in the introduction, Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most conservative countries in the world. The society of Saudi Arabia is especially conservative when it comes to women. For example, it is illegal for women to drive or intermingle in public with males that are not related to them. It is also illegal for a woman to go out in public without a male-escort who is related to her as well as go out in public without wearing her hijab (WomanStats). Violence or legal prosecution usually ensues if any of these are broken. To further illustrate this point, the following maps show how strict Saudi Arabia is in regard to dress code and intermingling in public laws compared to the rest of the Middle East, a very conservative region itself.

23

It is clear from these maps that Saudi Arabia has one of the strictest dress codes and intermingling laws in the Middle East which is the most conservative region in the world. Based on these findings, one would sense that these women are highly secluded from society and thereby would be more protected from instances of rape and other forms of violence. On the other hand, one may argue that because women are treated so differently, they could be seen as inferior and thus suffer more abuse because of the lack of secularism.

Insufficient Laws Against Rape

The next probable cause studied was the possibility of insufficient laws against rape in Saudi Arabia. Since there were reported convictions of rapists, it can be assumed that there are laws against rape. Also, Saudi Arabia’s legal code is based on the Shari’a law, which criminalizes rape as punishable by death. However, spousal rape is not included in this criminalization according to Shari’a law. Although these laws exist against rapists, the actual conviction process is complicated and nearly impossible. In order for a perpetrator to be convicted he or she must confess or there must be four witnesses of the act (FreedomHouse). Usually in these certain circumstances, there are only two witnesses present, the perpetrator and the victim. Since it would be hard for a victim to find four witnesses, it is very unlikely that a perpetrator would admit to such a heinous act that he or she could very well get away with. Another example of the insufficient laws against rape is that foreign female domestic workers, which consists of 1.5 million of foreign nationals, receive no protection from the labor laws and are more prone to be victims of abuse. Based on this research, it can be concluded that while there are laws against rape, the actual conviction of rapists is very rare. This could be a plausible cause of the high rape scale since the punishment of such an act hardly occurs.

Taboos Against Reporting Rape

The third possible cause of a high rape scale in Saudi Arabia is the taboos against reporting rape. There are many social stigmas that scare women away from reporting a rape to the police. One social stigma is that in many instances, the law enforcer will accuse the woman of having illicit sex instead of accusing the man of the crime (FreedomHouse). As a consequence of this accusation, societal reprisals take place such as a woman being seen as unfit for marriage or even violently punished for bringing shame to the family. In some extreme cases, honor killings have been committed against women who have been raped (Zoepf). One may wonder why these crimes take place if the laws in Saudi Arabia are supposedly meant to protect women. There is another cultural stigma that plays a role here. In Islamic society, a family’s honor, particularly the male family member’s honor is based on the purity and virtue of the women in their family. If a woman in the family becomes “violated” either by choice or by force, the family’s honor is seemingly stripped from them. It is not so much about the concern over the woman but over the honor of the men. Because of this engrained belief, already victimized women are sometimes further victimized by their own family members. This causes great fear among the women in these types of societies and if one is raped, it is very unlikely that she will report it based on the potential ensuing consequences.

Ineffective Judicial System

The last possible cause studied was an ineffective judicial system. As was mentioned before, Saudi Arabia’s legal code is based on the Shari’s law, an extreme version of the Islamic code. Because of this, women are not given the same rights as men, especially when it comes to the courts. For example, in most cases, women are unable to speak for themselves in court. They must be represented by a male-relative or lawyer. It is considered shameful for a woman to speak to the sheik or judge and is only sometime allowed to do so if her face is covered (WomanStats). Because of this, if a woman is raped, and a man’s honor is based on her virtue, what male relative would want to shed further light on the subject by representing her? Also a man’s testimony is worth two women’s testimonies. So if a woman had four witnesses to testify against the perpetrator, if some of them were women, the number of females would have to be doubled for the accusation to be considered.

Another clause of the judicial system is that most clerics were taught in Wahhabi schools where extreme Islam is taught extensively. Because of this, most clerics demand the seclusion of women and often hold an unforgiving attitude toward accusations of violence against men (WomanStats). A Saudi Arabian attorney even said, “Unfortunately, judges consider women to be lacking in reason and faith, so generally do not agree with her arguments” (HumanRights).

The following stories illustrate the point explained above. The first is about a young girl who was being molested by her father. She went to the courts to file a complaint. The law enforcers did not believe her and told her, her father needed to come in to file the complaint (Economist). The obvious ignorance need not be explained in this situation. The next story tells of a nineteen year-old woman who met a man not related to her in a car. They were both kidnapped by a gang and she was then gang-raped fourteen times. Seven men of the gang were convicted and were sentenced to prison ranging from one to five years. This was a light conviction given they could have received the death penalty according to the law. The woman was also convicted to six months of prison as well as ninety lashes for being associating with a male who was not related to her in public (Harrison). The woman was later pardoned by the King of Saudi Arabia, not because he disagreed with the punishment but because he was being merciful and thought it was best for the whole of the country, not to mention international relations with countries that were in an absolute uproar over the ordeal (Zoepf).

Based on my research I propose that the main perpetrator of the high rape-scale in Saudi Arabia is the lack of conviction of rapists due to the taboos against reporting rape and the ineffective judicial system. If perpetrators are not being punished then there is little incentive to not rape woman if that is the desire. To illustrate how low the conviction rate actually is, in 2002, there were 59 reported rapes out of a population of 26,534,504 (WomanStats) The perpetrators are getting away with a heinous crime and the Saudi Arabian government must pass more effective legislation that enables law enforcers to convict those criminals. The social stigmas will be very difficult to overcome regarding seeing a woman unfit for marriage or taking away the family’s honor because of being raped. However, if women continue to speak up about the issues they face, solutions will come, just as they have in other parts of the world. Also international pressure must always be present to give those women courage to stand up.

—By TS

References

Double indemnity a bizarre application of the law. (2007, Novem 22). The Economist, Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/10191773

Eleanor Abdella Doumato, Rowman & Littlefield. (2012, April 4). Freedom House, Saudi Arabia Freedom House Report. Retrieved from http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/inline_images/Saudi%20Arabia.p df

Harrison, F. (2007, Novemeber 15). Saudi Gang-Rape Victim is Jailed. BBC. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7096814.stm

Womanstats project. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://womanstats.org/CodebookCurrent.htm

United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights- Saudi Arabia, 2007

Zoepf, K. (2007, Decem 18). Saudi king pardons rape victim sentenced to be lashed, saudi paper reports.The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/world/middleeast/18saudi.html

§ 35 Responses to The High Rape-Scale in Saudi Arabia

  • WomanStats says:

    Wow, this is just a terrific treatment of such a horrific problem. Thank you for your excellent research on this, and for using the new rape scale!

  • CPC says:

    This is a well-researched post! I’ve been taking a class on Muslim Feminisms and we have read some case studies of women’s activism in ultra-conservative societies like Saudi Arabia. These women have so much written into the laws and institutions working against them! It’s the only nation that gets an absolute zero on the FreedomHouse (I think) scale of women’s political participation.

    And we wonder why the laws are so ridiculous!

  • Saudi women says:

    Thank you for the informative post! 
    As a Saudi women, this high rate is shocking & un-shocking in the same time. I expect something like this considering the media lies and covering-up of things like that. Plus, the awful situation of women here in Saudi Arabia for the reasons you mentioned above and other reasons like from the bingeing, any rape saudi women won’t go to report it because they will accuse her that she Seducing the perpetrator! I am serious, in case of rape, sexual harassment, abduction, torture and many other unbelievable psycho things like:
     if he is married and raped another stranger women, people will accuse the victim of course and his wife that she is the reason of him being raper and criminal because he won’t go this way if she Gratified his sexual need!

    Even if she reported it went through all of this, plus she can’t do anything without a male with her, she definitely will need “Wasta, which is using someone’s connections and/or influence to get things done” in every single  step.
    The judicial system is horribly broken in general. 
    The social stigmas are not just about seeing the woman unfit for marriage or taking away the family’s honor. Her sisters and maybe even cousins will be seeing unfit to marriage. Also, sometime, her sister may get divorce!
    People may know her and what happened but the perpetrator will be unknown and media never slander his name. of course, unless she has Wasta!

    Writing about a subject like this bring lots and lots of idea which does not fit in this comment which I tried to make it short as possible :D

    Any way, What I really want to emphasize here is please understand: Saudi Arabia does not present Islam and Share’a at ALL. Women do have rights in Islam and Saudi Arabia does not give it to them.

    Thank you :)

  • ali says:

    Congratulation if you are successful in making statics for unreported rape which could not even be made by any of the World organizations. However “Wikipedia” the most visited site have listed a very few numbers of reported rape victims in Muslim Countries, which may be hundreds of time lesser than rest of the World.

  • Caroline says:

    What is the point of posting images that are too small to read? Please post larger, legible images. Thanks!

  • rwan says:

    i must be living under a rock. i have never met any raped women in my whole 20 years on this country, i’m a saudi women. i honestly don`t know personally any women that has been raped. i don’t say there isn’t any, but saying one of the highest!!!!!! that is quiet unbelievable. also considering the fact that you said they usually don’t report the case, i wonder how they got such statistics!!
    “If a woman in the family becomes “violated” either by choice or by force, the family’s honor is seemingly stripped from them. It is not so much about the concern over the woman but over the honor of the men. ”
    first off, this is NOT an Islamic culture it’s the Arabian culture either Muslims or not. second off, do you actually mean that if i got raped my family would not care about me they will only care about my father/brothers’ honor?!!!!! really??? we are not aliens or some kind of other creatures. please no. this is so frustrating, stop those lies.

  • nice try says:

    I’m a muslim woman from Saudia Arabia and all this research is bunch of lies , I don’t know how I got into this stupid liar website that run by Islamophobe who want to brain wash the westerns , if your research is true , then why you don’t find Saudi women Immigrants running from our country if we are being treated as bad as you said , stop the lies , stop this propaganda.

    • expatlog says:

      For the simple reason they’re not allowed outside the house unless chaperoned by a male.
      If you think the website is stupid, by all means leave but don’t make us suffer your stupidity too by stooping to leaving such an personally insulting, baseless comment.
      It’s understandable you may want to deny the realities of your situation (Stockhom Syndrome) to avoid facing up to the injustice of it and the repercussions of resistance. But not everyone is prepared to live like that. Congratulations on successfully alienating yourself from a large part of your society.

  • Bob Smith says:

    How do you describe the largest problem the world (and that includes women) faces – with one word – Islam.

    The intellectual chains that bind Muslims to Islam are so entrenched that the “Saudi woman” can’t even complain about Islam itself. She blames the problem on Saudi Arabia.

    Islam is the scourge of humanity. It either enslaves a population with Sharia law or prepares for war against non-Muslims. Women are just part of the road kill of Islam.

    Women in the non-Muslim world need to help their sisters held hostage by the scourge of Islam.

    Here are a few links documenting the reality of women within Islam.

    Canadian Women leaves college because of art she created

    http://theomega.ca/2013/04/11/controversial-conversation-continues-due-to-cultural-art/

    Afghan women in Kabul prison over moral crimes

    http://news.yahoo.com/afghan-women-kabul-prison-over-moral-crimes-131735797.html

    Exclusive: How my brother tried to kill me in ‘honor attack’

    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/04/world/asia/afghanistan-honor-killing-survivor/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

    Saudi religious police lift ban on women on bikes

    http://news.yahoo.com/saudi-religious-police-lift-ban-women-bikes-111923001.html

    Saudi Arabia Introduces SMS Tracking to Keep Women in State of Slavery

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/407818/20121123/saudi-women-husband-wife-muslim-islam-sms.htm

    Maldives girl to get 100 lashes for pre marital sex

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21595814

    Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/29/bangladesh.lashing.death/index.html

    Nearly half Saudi women are beaten at home

    http://www.emirates247.com/crime/region/nearly-half-saudi-women-are-beaten-at-home-2013-02-26-1.496510

    Marriage or rape 90 year old Saudi weds 15 year old girl

    http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/01/07/259048.html

    Read http://islamsfatalflaw.blogspot.com/ .

  • Bruce Alexander says:

    It is not clear how the high rape-scale in Saudi Arabia is known if victims are typically afraid to lay complaints. Where do these statistics come from?

  • Moderator says:

    Is it possible to allow the images to open into larger sizes if you click on them (meaning the original file size is maintained even if the image is reduced in the article). I can’t see or read clearly what the images actually states.

  • D.Bose says:

    However, the British press is blaming only India. According to them Saudi Arabia is a safe country for women, because I suppose British politicians just like the son of Margaret Thatcher receive a lot of bribes from the Saudis.

  • sohan says:

    If Saudi women don’t report being raped, how was the data compiled? Indian women are raped too, and they don’t report, either. They would become impure and not worthy of marriage. Family honor, also, is a factor for their not reporting. Silence is golden to them, too.

  • Plus, I wonder waht goes on in the heads of rapists. Theirs as well as ours. But I am not sure I would really want to know.

  • hanafi says:

    Women in the Muslim World required to wear hijab is not to only avoid rape or criminal effect. it is required by Allah. Rape is an criminal action done by human who internally driven by shatanic sex abuse. To understand this 2 phenomena and facts you must learn more depth of Islam.

  • Andrew says:

    I don’t understand. You are using a map showing “combined weighted scores” that the Womanstat website says is “Combined weighted data, legal and taboo scores”. http://womanstats.org/laststatics/weightedinternationalrape20113.png
    So basically you are using the legal and societal scores to explain a combined weighted score that already takes into account the legal and societal scores? But what does that have to do with the actual prevalence of rape in Saudi Arabia? According to Womanstat, rape in Saudi Arabia is actually is in the lowest category: http://womanstats.org/substatics/Prevalence%20of%20Rape_2011tif_wmlogo3.png .

  • Mery DT says:

    Great article! Since I studied about sexual orientation several years ago, am not surprise at all with this stat. I had written 2 articles in my blog about why homosexual behavior in Saudi Arabia hit the highest percentage in the world. Too bad, I wrote it in Indonesia language.

    I found out, there is not only women being raped, boys too. Gender segregation scoring rape of boys is very high, and this behavior will be repeated to younger boy. According to source I read, man with double life (with woman and man) is normal in Saudi Arabia. Sorry to spin this issue to sexual behavior.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Malaysian says:

    And of the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Myanmar, I wouldn’t blame it on Buddhism but Buddhists themselves.

  • […] this a unique incident? Nope, it is a rather common problem within the Islamic world, violence and rape is endemic, but because it does not officially happen … its not a […]

  • Steve Ogilvie says:

    Women can’t leave Saudi Arabia because they must be accompanied by their husband/father/brother etc… Do any Saudi women have their passports on them? Or is it being held by a male relative?
    Even in the west I am sure a minority/majority of rapes are not presented to the police…
    Rape is not even defined in the Quran (it is okay for a male to have sex with his captive woman, i.e. slave, but isn’t that by definition a rape victim, a captive person?

    • Saudi woman says:

      Actually, women are not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia without permission from their male guardian who must give consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.
      Combination is not a must by law but in Saudi Arabia community, it’s mostly. And yes mostly the passport is being hold by the women’s male guardian.
      In fact, Saudi women’s male guardians receive text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.

      Regarding the definition of rape in Quran, no that is not the meaning of it. Allah clearly commands the Muslim men to not force their slave women into sex:
      Translation: “Let those who cannot afford to marry keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them out of His Bounty. And write out a deed of manumission for such of your slaves that desire their freedom in lieu of payment – if you see any good in them – and give them out of the wealth that Allah has given you. And do not compel your slave-girls to prostitution for the sake of the benefits of worldly life the while they desire to remain chaste. And if anyone compels them to prostitution, Allah will be Most Pardoning, Much Merciful (to them) after their subjection to such compulsion  (The Noble Quran, 24:33)”

      • matthayichen says:

        Perhaps for you all sex is prostitution? Sure, forcing a slave into prostitution (ie, sex for money) is not okay. But no punishment is prescribed.

        Leaving aside prostitution, it is the right of the owner to have sex with his slave, with or without her consent. All classical Islamic jurisprudence is united on this point and it has the backing of the Quran and Hadiths. Even married women are fair game once enslaved, as the Quran makes special mention.

  • […] Apologists may make excuses, but there is much evidence of rape throughout the Muslim world, even in Saudi Arabia where Shari’a is in its purest form to ‘protect […]

  • […] method absolutely counter humanizing as subject? Setting aside the fact that sexual objectification is in fact not deterred by the hijab, in attempts to stave it off women end up being objectified in many other  arguably […]

  • Maryam Naseer says:

    Women inter mingling in public with males has been shown 100% incorrect in case of Pakistan. I am a Pakistani girl and lived both in urban and rural set up. Unlike the media reports, we are free here to move any where we want with out escorting any male member. So can not believe any more on the report. How can some one be 100% sure while living out side and making judgements about other countries which are far from reality.

  • Mahboob Khan says:

    Plain lies. I had worked in Saudi Arabia. There is a strict Code for the rapists. Let’s not forget that large number of foreign workers work in Saudi Arabia and they live in separate housing systems; for example, Aramco is the largest oil company in Saudi Arabia and their employees live in their own housing and these housing are not actively supervised by the Saudi Police. The foreign workers make in their own wines in their private houses and they consume it within the confines of their homes, and sexual activity does take place in these Housing Schemes as they are not supervised by the Saudi Police, but they do everything such as drinking, fucking, inside their own houses. Obviously, the Saudi Police does not go inside their rooms to see what happens there.

    Looks like this is an anti-Islam site.

  • […] with the law in that particular country. A fellow wordpress blogger has written an article on the treatment of woman in Saudi Arabia , Another place where rape and abuse takes place. Another place where women are fully clothed on […]

  • […] TS. (2013). The High Rape-Scale in Saudi Arabia. Retrieved from http://womanstats.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-high-rape-scale-in-saudi-arabia/ […]

  • […] treatment of woman in Saudi Arabia […]

  • Enayet Karim says:

    Very Shocking!!!!!

    Take a look at the rape rate in USA… Very very low…. only 1 in 5 women raped in US!!!! Which totals a number of 200,00,000 only of the total female population!!! This low rate is because of giving women their rights properly…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html?_r=0

    Not even comparable to the very high rape scale in Saudi Arabia!!!…

    What a Shame…

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