This week a young man in Saudi Arabia was convicted and sentenced to 90 lashes and four months jail time after being caught on mall security cameras kissing a woman, reported the Associated Press. The man, seen in the company of two females, was arrested by the Saudi religious police for publicly “exchanging kisses and hugs” with one of the women accompanying him. The two women were also arrested.
According to a local newspaper, the man will receive the 90 lash punishment in three separate sessions and is forbidden from malls for the next two years, reported the Associated Press. The arrested women will be tried in a separate court at a later date.
The Saudi religious police enforce a strict moral code which forbids unrelated women and men from interacting. According to the Associated Press, officers regularly arrest unrelated couples dining in restaurants or mingling in coffee shops.
Saudi Arabia’s legal guardianship system, which requires women, both minors and adults, to be accompanied by a male guardian outside the home is also enforced by the religious police. If women wish to conduct themselves in public business, work, or to drive, they must obtain permission from or be accompanied by their male guardian, who may be her husband, father, brother, or even a minor son, according to Human Rights Watch. The Saudi Arabian government promised in June 2009 to follow United Nations suggestions to remove this restrictive system, but has not made this change.
In May a Saudi Arabian woman punched a religious police officer in the face while he was interrogating her for illegal socialization with an unrelated male. The couple was reportedly walking together in an amusement park when they were stopped by the police. She may face prison time and lashes.
In March, another Saudi Arabian woman, Sawsan Salim, was sentenced to 300 lashings and one and a half years in prison for filing harassment complaints about government officials and appearing in court in the northern Qasim region without a male guardian present. Salim appeared without a male guardian because her husband, her sole male family member, was in prison at the time. Similarly, in March 2009, Khamisa Sawadi, an elderly Saudi woman, was accused of fraternization with men after two men outside of her family brought her bread. She was sentenced to 40 lashings, 4 months jail time and deportation. In February 2008, an American business woman was arrested for being in the family section of a Starbucks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a male colleague.