When a 20-something Saudi woman walking in an amusement park with an unnamed male was stopped by a Virtue cop (a Saudi religious policeman) and questioned about her and her companion’s identities, her friend passed out. The policeman was on the look out for illegal socializing as woman and men who are not married or related are not allowed to mix in public. When her companion hit the ground, the Saudi woman beat the crap out of the cop, hitting him so badly he had to go to the hospital.
As Jezebel reports, “While we don’t usually condone violence, her actions are pretty remarkable – even kind of awesome.” It’s pretty great that when her male companion dropped out of the conversation (literally), the young woman stood up to the virtue cop on her own. Speaking out against harassment by the religious police is probably a safer route then kicking ass, but I can’t say a shiver of pleasure didn’t run throughout my body when I read the headline of this story.
The incident marks a real change in women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. According to Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist quoted by The Media Line, “To see resistance from a woman means a lot. People are fed up with these religious police, and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years. This is just the beginning and there will be more resistance.”
“Saudi law does not permit women to be in public spaces without a male guardian. Women are not allowed to drive, inherit, divorce or gain custody of children, and cannot socialize with unrelated men,” according to the The Jerusalem Post. If charged, the unnamed woman could receive a lengthy prison sentence or even lashings. I’m pretty surprised that there’s a question about if the woman will be charged or not, but also excited that public opinion seems to be on her side.
Nadya Khalife, the Middle East women’s rights researcher for the Human Rights Watch, explains:
“There is clearly a shifting mentality regarding to the male guardianship law and similar issues. More women are speaking out, there are changes within the government, there is a mixed university, the king was photographed with women, they want to allow women to work in the courts and there are changes within the justice ministry. So you can witness some kind of change unfolding but it’s not quite clear what’s happening and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
Don’t be lulled into a sense of security just because you can’t see a woman’s face, she might still beat the crap out of you!