No one can fail to have been shocked and disturbed by the recent case from Iran of a woman condemned to death by stoning for a conviction of adultery. The obscenity of the punishment, against a woman half buried and defenceless, for what we see as a private act, mirrors our feelings of sadness at a regime which has used violence against a passive civil society to maintain itself.
But this dark shadow that has reached up to us from a forgotten age also serves to remind us of how law can be made to serve the ends of repression. And although we may be comfortable with the gender equality we have now, the legal systems of the West have certainly participated in this history of repression by men of women. So, how has the law's approach to adultery changed in this country? And can a parallel evolution of sharia be expected or possible?