The term “perversion of justice” is not an exaggeration here: Human Rights Watch recently reported that a Saudi Arabian court has doubled its sentence of lashings for a rape victim who had spoken out in public about her case. The court also harassed her lawyer, banning him from the case and confiscating his professional license:
An official at the General Court of Qatif, which handed down the sentence on November 14, said the court had increased the woman’s sentence because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.” The court sentenced the rape victim to six months in prison and 200 lashes, more than double its October 2006 sentence after its earlier verdict was reviewed by Saudi Arabia’s highest court, the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.
Click here to read the full HRW report. Here is the contact info for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington if you’re feeling like conveying your outrage.
Meet Maya Escobar: a talented young interdisciplinary artist, JRC member who grew up in our congregation, soon-to-be graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago (and regular commenter on this blog…)
Here is Maya’s artist’s statement, which will give you a good sense of the artistic depth and intensely personal power of her work:
Through the performance of actual and fictitious moments of my life, I explore my personal identity as the daughter of a Guatemalan father and Jewish mother. I compare the complexities of projected societal, cultural, and gender-determined roles to the lived experiences of Latina and Jewish women in our contemporary American culture. My work translates ongoing anthropological and sociological investigation into accessible narrative forms, incorporating technical skills in multiple mediums. As a commentary to the objectification and exoticization of otherness that I have personally experienced, I reclaim ownership of myself; I transform my body as well my “self” into an object used within the performed ritual, which is then documented through analog and digital photo, video and collage.
Maya’s latest work is a called “Acciones Plasticas,” which includes four short videos that she refers to as “satirical characterizations” of the many roles that have been projected upon her as a woman of Jewish-American-Guatemalan heritage. The videos have made something of major splash in the Jewish blogosphere after they were discovered on YouTube by Jewschool. The extensive discussion provoked by the videos has been quite powerful, which, I believe, was precisely Maya’s intent. For those of us who want art to challenge, to dig deep, and to confront preconceived notions of identity, I would say Maya’s work succeeds brilliantly.
Maya has asked me to encourage you to add your comments on her blog. If you are a Chicagoland resident, you should also be aware that “Acciones Plasticas” will also be presented at her undergraduate thesis exhibition. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, March 31, from 7:00 – 10:00 pm at Gallery 2 and Project Space, 847 W. Jackson Blvd, Chicago.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I encourage you to check out this very informative link from Women’s Human Rights Net. It contains a wealth of important articles and interviews ranging from abandoned girls in India, sex trafficking in Latin America, the “One Million Signatures” campaign in Iran, and much much more.
Just as slavery was once considered a natural and even divinely ordered phenomenon, but today belongs to a dark and embarrassing chapter of history, the era of patriarchy and sexism (in modern as well as traditional pre-modern forms) will come to an end sooner or later. Today, we are confronted with those who are still trying to justify male-domination and perpetuate patriarchy and violence against women by resorting to patriarchal constructs of religion and male-centered interpretations of scriptures as some religious proponents of slavery did in the past. But the women’s movements and global feminism, despite its young age, have made important inroads in many realms of culture and society. Purposeful convergence of diverse groups of women at both grassroots and elite levels can only expedite the process of change toward equality, justice and peace.
As perfect a statement for International Women’s Day as I can imagine…