Muslim life is guided by a set of laws and guidelines known as Sharia. Sharia law developed several hundred years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in A.D. 632, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Sharia law outlines strict guidelines for the rights and treatment of women in Muslim countries. Women in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia face varying limitations on their freedom in driving, interaction with men and dress codes. Violation of Sharia laws risks serious punishment or death. Controversy surrounds Sharia law's treatment of women. Organizations such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union fight for the freedom of women in Muslim countries.
Father David C. Trosch of Life Enterprises Unlimited outlines Sharia law and practices on his website trosch.org. Sharia law states that a Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man. She cannot marry without the permission of her current guardian. After the woman is married, her husband becomes her new guardian. While Muslim men can have several wives, Sharia law limits a woman to one husband. A woman who wants a divorce must have the consent of her husband. Once he consents to the divorce, the woman has to pay him back the dowry.
Sharia law dictates the treatment and expectations of Muslim women in legal procedures. Zohreh Arshadi, a former lawyer in Iran, wrote an article detailing Muslim laws on iran-bulletin.org. Arshadi states that Muslim women accused of adultery face lashing or stoning to death. Sharia law dictates that a woman is subject to this punishment after it is “proven by the witness of four just men or three just men and two just women,” according to Arshadi’s article. Arshadi states that the testimony of women is worthless in court. Crimes such as homosexuality, adultery, drinking alcohol and combat against the Islamic regime can only be proved by the testimony of men in court. A woman who has witnessed a crime such as rape or robbery has no right to bear witness in court. If she does testify, she can face the punishment for accusation, which is 80 lashes.
Under Sharia law, women and men face strict segregation guidelines. Women are not allowed to speak to men they are not directly related to, as outlined by an article at faithfreedom.org. The article, “Living Under Sharia: The Plight of Women in Saudi Arabia,” explains an incident in 2007 where a group of Saudi youths found a woman and a man in a car. The woman was not related to the man, and 14 youths raped her. The Saudi Court convicted the woman of violating Sharia segregation laws. She was sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes. The youths who raped her were given one to five years of jail time.
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