In a horrifying new story from UPI, a Filipino worker may face up to 100 lashes from the Saudi Arabian government. The worker in question, a woman named “Camille” (a pseudonym), was jailed after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. The reason she became pregnant? She was raped by a co-worker last August. Now, after the miscarriage of her child in prison last December, she may be punished for the rape by the Saudi government. Sharia law sentences women who have had sex out of wedlock – even in the case of rape – to prison and lashing. The case is set to go before a judge later this month.
“Camille,” the mother of three children at home in the Philippines, moved to Saudi Arabia to work as a janitor in a dentail clinic last spring. She was raped by a co-worker three months after arriving and discovered that she had become pregnant. In Saudi Arabia, premarital sex is a punishable crime, even in the case of rape and sexual assault, and “Camille” decided not to press charges against her attacker, but rather applied for repatriation to the Philippines.
During a medical exam (a routine part of repatriation procedures), her pregnancy was discovered and “Camille” was jailed at the Hafer Al Baten Central Jail for having an “illicit affair”. Conditions in the prison were poor, and in December, “Camille” suffered a miscarriage. Now she is waiting to hear whether she will suffer the usual penalty of flogging, a punishment which is also being meted out to a 13-year-old girl who took a mobile phone to school.
The sentence has not yet been handed down, and it’s possible that the penalty could be overturned. Last October, Saudi King Abdullah cancelled a sentence of 60 lashes against Rozanna al-Yami, a TV producer who came under fire when three men bragged about their sexual exploits on one of her shows. And in 2007, King Abdullah pardoned a woman sentenced to 200 lashes following her rape.
Although this seems to be the exception rather than the rule (there are countless examples of women gang-raped and then sentenced to lashing, jailed for having coffee with male colleagues – and let’s just remember that women in Saudi Arabia were only recently given the right to drive), it’s possible that King Abdullah could be swayed to pardon “Camille” as well. Certainly, we can only hope that the sentence meted out this month will acknowledge the horror of what has happened to this woman, and won’t punish her further for something that has probably been the most traumatic experience of her life.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army's website.
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