21 August 2012, 19:59

Pussy Riot triggers unease

Pussy Riot triggers unease

The recent trial of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, 3 members which were sentenced to 2 years in a standard regime penal colony, continues to trouble the world. Currently the reaction of the authorities to their act - from Switzerland and France to Israel - is not liberal.

They are nervous because one thing is to support what could be termed as “artistic provocations” in Russia and quite another matter is when similar acts occur in your own country and enter into confrontation with the local laws.

For example, several supporters of Pussy Riot who gathered outside the Russian consulate in Marseilles in France were detained by the local police some days ago. Thus, an attempt to stage a demonstration was foiled because it was broken up by the police. The policemen immediately arrested 7 participants in the balaclavas, accusing them of violating the ban on face veil.

The relevant law was adopted under the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. True, in order not to cause irritation among the Muslim community in France that makes up the largest proportion of Islam followers in Europe, this law bans face coverings of any kind. The first breach of law is punishable by a fine of up to 300 euros, and forcing a person to wear a face veil is punishable by a fine of up to 15,000 euros and by imprisonment of up to one year.

In Israel which has one of the toughest legislations in the world regarding the insults of the believers’ feelings 4 feminist activists belonging to the organization Women of the Wall were detained near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem for behaviour posing a danger to public order. They simply made an attempt to pray with the use of tallits (prayer shawls worn exclusively by men).

The law on the protection of shrines was adopted in Israel in 1967, and theoretically, the violator can be sentenced to 7 years in prison. However, it was never applied in practice in such a tough form.

It is very difficult to say what urged the activists of Women of the Wall to stage the latest demonstration. Possibly, what they did was an act in the Pussy Riot style, despite the fact that people in Israel understand very well that only a madman in Israel can dare to hold a performance similar to the one that was organized in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The officials from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Israel say: Should something like this happen, possibly the women would be shot dead. The members of Women of the Wall have been visiting the Wailing Wall for nearly 20 years now, regularly and quietly, and equally regularly the courts have been imposing a 2-week ban on their appearance in the women’s section of the Wailing Wall.

In 2003 the Supreme Court again put a ban on their wearing tallits and reading out the sacred text of the Torah Scroll, which has been men’s privilege for more than 2,500 years now. And this is exactly what the Israeli feminist activists are strongly opposed to.

Generally speaking, similar laws exist in almost all European countries. They differ in punishments and fines and in the span of law-enforcement practice though.

In Germany and Austria such acts of hooliganism are punishable by imprisonment of up to 3 years. In Britain violators are fined 300 pound sterling or are sentenced to 240 hours of manual labour. Punishment can be even tougher but in each case it is for the court to decide. Of importance here is also the choice of the precedent by the judge to base his (her) ruling on.

  •  
    and share via