From the Dark Ages…

This lovely item, via the BBC:

An Indonesian housemaid has been executed in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing her employer, the Saudi interior ministry has said.

The woman was beheaded in the southern Asir province, in what was the second execution in the country in 2008. The maid was earlier found guilty of suffocating her female boss and stealing her jewellery. Rape, murder and other serious crimes can carry the death penalty in the conservative desert kingdom. Beheadings usually take place in public. Last year, Saudi Arabia – which follows a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law – executed more than 130 people, compared to fewer than 40 in 2006.”

Rape can carry the death penalty, huh? Let’s see what happens when a woman actually gets gang-raped in Saudi Arabia:

A lawyer for a gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail says the punishment contravenes Islamic law.

The woman was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes – she was in an unrelated man’s car at the time of the attack.

When she appealed, judges doubled her sentence, saying she had been trying to use the media to influence them. Her lawyer has been suspended from the case and faces a disciplinary session. (…) According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in Qatif in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago. Seven men were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. (…)

The rapists’ sentences were also doubled by the court. Correspondents say the sentences were still low considering the rapists could have faced the death penalty. The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia’s laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man. On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.

I guess she was asking for it first for being out with strangers and then for appealing to the media. The woman ended up being pardoned by the King who did mention that he agreed with the judge’s sentence but that there was a higher interest (translation: international pressure) at stake. I guess there was no higher interest at stake in the beheading case.

The contrast between the two cases could not be more striking though. It is not surprising in light of Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights, well documented by Amnesty International. Saudi Arabia is faulted for its treatment of women, lack of due process, and death penalty, especially as applied to child offenders (that is, offenders who are children). To its credit, Saudi Arabia claims to have sentenced but NOT executed children since 1996 (the year that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was implemented).

Finally, minor liberalizations regarding the treatment of women (such as driving cars) do not compensate for the pervasive discrimination and violence experienced by women there.

Haven’t They Seen Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home?

Per the New York Times:

The United States is pushing Japan to suspend its hunt of humpback whales, and the American ambassador to Tokyo said an agreement to stop it may have already been reached. Japan dispatched its whaling fleet to the southern Pacific last month in the first major hunt of the endangered species since the 1960s.

Could we please leave the freaking whales alone?

Update: from the BBC, Japan decides to leave the freaking whales alone (for now).

Welcome to Global Sociology!

After much procrastinating, I guess I had to jump in and start blogging at last. What do I want to blog about? Anything related to my current professional and personal interests: anything pertaining to globalization from a sociological perspective (I am a sociologist after all).

I also hope to bring in contributors as well as my students to this blog, to discuss global social issues they are working on.

Being an avid reader, I will probably also write a lot of book reviews. I hope we can create a pretty solid blogroll and network of sociology blogs for our discipline. Sociology is often not taken seriously by the media and our pundits (it’s either psychologists or economists who get to discuss human behavior). Let’s change that!