Last week in Jeddah, a court ruled against a male minor barely 17 years of age, sentencing him to 100 lashes and one year in exile, after he confessed to having premarital sex [zina]. The condemned did not retract his confession which would have limited the number of lashes, and he accepted the ruling issued against him, thereby losing his right of appeal.
This decision raised a legal and educational debate. Dr. Amr al-Kholy, a Legal Adviser in the Human Rights Commission said that he wished that a lawyer was present at the trial to inform the minor of his legal rights, especially those resulting from accepting the ruling issued against him, which denied him the right of appeal.
As a writer with a background in education, the exile of this minor makes me fear for his future. This minor has proved that he is susceptible to sin, and he committed this crime even though he had friends, family, and acquaintances; therefore the question is how will this minor behave if he is exiled to a city where he will be completely free of parental supervision? His age indicates that this minor is still in the education system; therefore imagine the scale of the difficulties that he and his family will face as a result of this exile. How will it be possible for him to secure accommodation, education, and daily necessities such as food, clothes, and transportation, among other things? More importantly, how will it be possible to monitor, instruct, and reform him, while he is living alone in a city where he does not know anybody and where nobody knows him? It is inconceivable for this minor’s family to move with him to wherever he will serve his one year in exile otherwise this sentence would have been a punishment on the entire family.
This issue leads us to the importance of thinking about sentences issued against minors. These sentences are supposed to have educational, social, and psychological purposes that aim to change the course that the lives of these minors are taking towards righteousness, repentance, and good behaviour. This particularly applies to minors with no previous criminal record; this is to ensure that committing one crime does not result in this minor falling into a bottomless pit of perpetual sin. Exiling minors – without first providing a proper environment for the minor to serve this exile – will have the opposite result than that desired by such punishments. Do the courts take this fact into account when issuing their sentences?