A video posted to YouTube by a Saudi woman may land her in hot water with the authorities. Her purpose was to expose and embarrass her own spouse after secretly taking footage of him assaulting one of the female servants. She captioned the footage: “The minimal punishment for this husband is to scandalise him”.
But “using mobile phones with camera or other equipment to photograph others and defame them” happens to be against the law in that country, and now she could be facing up to a year in prison and a sizable fine (approximately US$134,000). And, it gets worse. In addition to the civil punishments, she appears to be in violation of Islamic law, which clearly favors males.
The video shows a man in traditional white male robes, appearing to try to kiss one of the maids in the kitchen while another woman continues to work. His victim attempts to resist.
According to The Qur’an, the testimony of four male witnesses is required to establish adultery: “And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses – lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. And those are the defiantly disobedient” (24:4).
A woman’s testimony is simply not acceptable. So the recorded evidence cannot be used against her husband but may well serve to justify charges being brought against her for committing an “information technology crime”.
Inside Saudi Arabia, where females can’t drive and have to get permission from a male next of kin before they can get a job, the wife’s effort was roundly applauded by other women.
In addition, it has shined new light on the rampant problem of servant abuse. Most domestic employees are migrant workers and find themselves having little recourse against against their Saudi employers.
The country’s overall human rights record concerning women is often criticized. The situation has improved somewhat in recent years, but there’s still a lengthy list of activities in which they cannot legally engage…including (but not limited to) opening a bank account, going anywhere without a chaperone, interacting with men, swimming and even buying a Barbie.
These bans are deeply rooted in religious and cultural tradition. The rationale behind them is that allowing women freedom of movement would leave them too vulnerable to sin.