Riyadh, 28 Nov. (AKI) – In apparent recognition of rising rates of sexual violence in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has opened a specialised clinic to carry out tests on rape victims, Gulf News reports. The establishment of the clinic comes after a teenage gang rape case that has triggered debate. The Girl of Qatif, as she has been dubbed by the Saudi media, was sentenced to more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received, under a system which gives judges wide discretion. Doctor Saeed Gharamullah Al Gamdi, supervisor of the centre, said the clinic would also help dispell mysteries regarding cases of sexual assault.

“The clinic will undertake whole body check-ups to find out minute details of sexual harassment, including the type of internal and external injuries, if any, and even the psychological effect caused to the victim, especially minors,” he told Gulf News, noting that medical tests of rape victims will be carried out only with the prior approval from a judge.

“The tests will also focus on the extensive damage caused to female victims, such as deflowering and destroying their virginity and the physical and mental trauma,” he said, adding that the tests will address several problems likely to be raised during the trial proceedings of the accused in court.

Dr Al Gamdi urged that all the cases involving sexual assault or physical harassment should be referred immediately to the clinic to expedite legal procedures as delays could lead to losing key evidence.

This piece from the Italian news agency Adnkronos International notes something important. It’s taken rather a long time for the Saudi government to get there, but we should be grateful that it has.

There’s no question that by making rape a matter of forensic science, not just a socio-religious issue, this move will lead to more transparent justice in the courts. A solitary center in Riyadh, though, can only be a first step. Clinics like this need to be created in every major city throughout the country. Rather than waiting for public clamor for them, though, the government could be proactive in realizing that the problem is likely to be found nationwide, not just in the capital city.

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