A picture of a young man getting whipped by soldiers in front of a large crowd in Somalia was released to local and international news sources on March 9th, and brought controversies out in the open. The headline reads: Somali Islamic Court Publicly Lashes 4 Accused Of Gang Rape. Even without looking at the picture, it is possible and natural to imagine a horrendous and appalling situation where not only did the accused not get a fair trial, but they were also punished physically in front of spectators brutally. And even with the knowledge of the seriousness and heinous nature of the crime that these young men were accused of committing, the first question that arises from this is, isn’t this a violation of fundamental human rights? Was it necessary to beat them in front of people? These would be the typical thoughts that come into our heads. However, this case differs from our usual imagination.
These four young men were found guilty of gang rape in the Somali capital, Mogadishu and it was a Judge Abdul Haq who designated four men to deliver the punishment immediately in front of a crowd of around 100 onlookers. Judge Haq genuinely believed that the punishment would deter other rapes. Despite his belief, many say that the lashing was not severe enough to make them regret their actions or help decrease the rape rate. Two of the youths smiled and laughed as they were punished. It was stated in the news that the lashing was administered through the clothes of the accused and did not break their skin. They admitted that they were guilty of raping a girl and welcomed the punishment. Although I am not by any way suggesting that the beating should have been more severe to a point where these men are suffering physically, I do not believe that it was an appropriate punishment for them.
In the very same land, an Islamist rebel administration in Somalia has had a 13-year-old girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, stoned to death for adultery after the child's father reported that she was raped by three men last October. When the father tried report to the police about her rape, she was detained and found guilty of adultery. None of the men accused was arrested. Even though convicting a girl of 13 year old for adultery would be illegal under Islamic law, stoning occurred anyways and the little girl died in front of thousand men watching.
What is more shocking is that the Court authorities have said the woman came to them admitting her guilt. She was known to be 23 years old until her father came forward and said that she was only a child. They said, while she was asked several times to review her confession, she stressed that she wanted Sharia law. And also that she believed that she deserved the punishment. Before more than 50 men started throwing stones at her, she begged for mercy and cried “don’t kill me, don’t kill me.” BBC reported that eye-witnesses said that she was forced into a hole, buried up to her neck then pelted with stones until she died in front of more than 1,000 people in a stadium. According to Amnesty International, nurses were sent during the stoning to check whether she was still alive. When they removed her from the ground and declared that she was, she was replaced in the hole so the stoning could continue.
These are two rape cases with very different outcomes. Injustice took place in both cases in different ways, and it is not necessary to spell out what would have been just. A 13 year old girl’s crime was being raped, where as the four young men’s crime was gang rape. Yet, the result both ended up with public flogging that was not remotely adequate to the punishment each accused deserve. No court or religion should allow or sanction the execution of victims by any method. Furthermore, public flogging, lashing or stoning cannot be the appropriate measure of punishment for any crime.