After the recent case of the Saudi rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes and a prison term, there's better news from Iran. A young woman who was sold into prostitution at the age of nine, and who had been sentenced to death for incest after her brothers confessed to raping her, was saved from the gallows by the intervention of human rights activists, including Shadi Sadr, a lawyer who was herself imprisoned earlier this year for taking part in human rights demonstrations.
But the verdict in this case should not be taken as an indication that Iran is a less misogynist country than Saudi Arabia. Sadr points out that the Iranian judicial system remains deeply conservative and unfair to women: 'These male judges have not had any training about sexual charges. They all have a chauvinistic point of view and they see the woman as guilty'. And she points out that in many poor Iranian families 'a girl is considered one of the first commodities or properties that can be traded or sold in the eyes of a parent'.
More optimistically, Shadi Sadr believes that constant pressure from human rights campaigners is making Iran's judges more sensitive to public opinion: 'There will be so many protests or so much complaints from the human rights activists that the judges are under pressure not to issue a death sentence.' So, perhaps those Amnesty letter-writing campaigns do have an impact, and change is possible, even in Ahmedinejad's Iran.