Saturday, November 17, 2007

When is it appropriate to intervene? How much faith do you, personally, put in "cultural relativism"?

A 19 year old Saudi girl was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 200 lashes.

Her only crime? Meeting with an unrelated man (and getting gang raped by 7 others).

The court claims that they upped her sentence because she spoke to the media. However, the fact remains that a sentence was imposed upon the victim of a heinous crime simply because she had the guts to speak to the media about her presumably harrowing ordeal.

We've discussed cultural relativism, but how much is too much? Can we admonish a country for punishing a victim?


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pud2you said...

Whatever happened to freedom of speech? I don't even think that is a matter of cultural relativism. To increase punishment because of speaking to the media is just absolutely unfathomable…especially when it was the victim’s sentence who was increased and not the defendant’s. And further, to revoke her representation, it’s just totally unreasonable. As the victim’s former lawyer said “they're doing this to … deprive her from her basic rights” which is exactly what I would call it. This doesn’t even seem like an issue of cultural relativism when people from the same culture also disagree with this jurisdiction.

While I absolutely think this is a horrendous problem, I’m not too sure how I feel about the United States formally intervening. I think if anything, efforts should be made to rectify the underlying cause of problems like these, the lack of women’s right in Saudi Arabia. Here is where most of the human rights violations stem from within this country so if we are going to offer aid, attempting to resolve the treatment of women would be an appropriate long-term goal.

danielle.ja said...

Of course this is issue is cultural specific. And, while issues regarding culture may be viewed differently by people in the same culture, while we accept that each culture is equal, we cannot help but view certain practises as obvious violations of human rights. We need to acknoledge that certain cultural practises may not be seen the same way by people from different cultures. To me, freedom of speech is a fairly American view, although it is a right according to the Universal declaration, we need to keep in mind that certain governments have power over their citizens. In dealing with issues of human rights, we now need to address the fact that governments have control over allowing or denying these rights.

danielle.ja said...

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not enforced by any governing body, the human rights that each persons deserves may never be recieved. Until these rights become enforced by the laws of every individual country, we will never see the true fulfillment of Universal Human Rights.

Tigist said...

Of course this should not take place, but we can only form our opinion. From our point of view it may be wrong, but they see this as the right thing to do. Woman in that society have been oppressed for numerous years, which still continues.
The woman is convicted because she violated the law of not having a male guardian with her, which is absurd. Why doesn’t the government see her as a victim? Why does this still continue when many Islamic women are stepping out of this backward society?

ERose said...

The problem here is that Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic state with the Qur'an as the constitution of the country. The nation is governed on the basis of Islamic law. This nation is run under a completely different set of principles than the majority of Western nations. Thus, "crimes" in Saudi Arabia (such as meeting with an unmarried man) are defined by a completely different set of devoutly religious values. Religion is the basis for all societal norms in Saudi Arabia. Thus, religious doctrine pervades societal norms, becoming much more than just holy text.
I see this as a very large problem. The issue here is much larger than cultural relativity. This country is bound by religious doctrine in all aspects of life. Man should be free to choose to believe in God, not forced into belief by law. I see the whole of Saudi Arabia as bound by Islamic law and tradition. When a country is run theocratically, all freedoms, laws, rights, and norms are all based on religious text. Unfortunately, Islamic text does not hold a very modern view of women. Thus, we need to view cases like the one being discussed in a different light. Yes, this is a human rights abuse. However, in order to understand the mindset of the nation, one must look at the roots of its legal code (i.e. Islamic law).

gchabrier said...

Although I think this is an absolutely horrific crime, I do not think that we can, as a country, intervene or impose our opionins on Saudi Arabia. It saddens me to think that this woman did absolutely nothing wrong, and because of the way their society treats and views women, she is being punished. However, I do not think we have the authority to intervene in this situation. We can express our opinions, protest,express outrage etc which may very well have some impact, as little as that may be, however I do not think we as the United States have the right to do anything about the situation.