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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Up On My Soapbox

It had been my intention to take the week off from blogging to focus on some other stuff going on in my life, but a friend sent me a link to this news item and I feel compelled to comment on it. I don't particularly like to get political here, seeing as this isn't a blog about politics, but this is the public forum that I have, so this is the one I've got to use.

So here's the deal: Afghanistan is going to have an election in August. The current President, Hamid Karzai, is seeking re-election but is unpopular as his regime has proven to be ineffectual and corrupt. He is, however, the man favored by Western leaders to lead the embattled nation. In an effort to win votes, he's signed into law a bill which erodes the few rights that Afghan women have and which, according to the UN, "legalises rape within marriages and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands' permission." Now, to anyone with an ounce of decency this sounds archaic and, well, gross, but according to an Afghan MP the law is actually is means of "protecting" women and isn't really that bad:
"The law g[ives] a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she [is] unwell or [has] another reasonable 'excuse'... [and] a woman would not be obligated to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission."
An emergency like... being raped? Oh, no, an emergency other than that.

So far Western leaders' response to this (at least publicly) has been silence. Why? "Because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture." What about respecting Afghan women? This isn't a cultural issue. It's an issue of basic human rights. If I recall correctly, human rights was one of the major justifications for going into Afghanistan in the first place. It shouldn't have to be said, but women are humans, too. You can't ignore their right to be treated as such and still claim that you're fulfilling your mandate to spread democracy to the Middle East. Furthermore, it's an insult to the men and women over there fighting - and those who have died - to support a government so eager to sacrifice those rights and freedoms that people fought so hard for.

Anyway, that's my two cents and I sincerely hope that this story gets enough attention that leaders around the world feel compelled to actually, you know, do something before the bill is ratified and the law put on the books. For more information, click here, here, or here.

All quotations come from the Guardian article by Jon Boone


Vanessa said...

Thanks for sharing. This is absolutely disgusting! How can the other leaders not do anything about it? Hold on, how can this bill even be thought of in the first place? What kind of men even want a woman that they can command like this?

Anh Khoi Do said...

So much for trying to "root out terrorism"! Speaking about Westerners who are too afraid of condemning the bill in question, it's disgusting that most of us have come to apply cultural relativism in every aspects of our life. To that matter, what should prevent you from calling a disrespect for women for what it is? I hear some soft people saying: "Have some respect for Afghan culture!" This is not a matter of culture. None of us, Westerners, have to apologize for defending the idea of equality between both genders.

Shubhajit said...

Afghanistan, like Iraq, is beyond salvage - a country unofficially ruled by clerics and fundamentalists is no place for humans, so human rights is a moot point there. And Pakistan is well and truly on that course. No disrespect intended, but the only thing that Messrs Bush and Obama seem to be capable of doing is sending the army or announcing a 100 mil relief package - either way they end up supporting the things they claim to despise and fight against. I really feel sorry for the common people there at the receiving end of draconian and repressive laws which fail to distinguish between humans and dogs.