The Newest Battle in Afghanistan Begins

April 16th, 2009

The will to live freely is incredibly powerful and women in Afghanistan today are risking their lives to free themselves and their sisters. The battle will affect women in every country, including the United States. In today’s New York Times*, a courageous group of women held a protest against legislation, signed into law by President Hamid Karzai, which enforces local Shia customs eradicating the requirement for female consent in marital sexual relations. It also requires women to obtain the permission of a male relative to leave their homes, and to please male relatives in matters of dress, etc.

Lest we think this is a problem affecting only a few countries, we ought to look at the shelters here, devoted to the task of harboring women from violent partners. There are women who are too afraid to seek even these uncertain havens because their safety cannot be guaranteed, with or without restraining orders of dubious enforceability. Custom here is to politely ignore the abuse of women and children unless such activities disturb the neighbors. Inside or outside of their homes, emotionally and physically abused women are American ‘refugees.’

My comment was posted as follows:

April 16, 2009 9:20 am

The NYT asks this question of commenters, “Should the international community threaten to withhold aid if Afghanistan enforces laws that curtail women’s rights?”

How has ‘aid,’ with all the conditions placed upon it, even been delivered to women? Clinics have been closed down around the world because Westerners couldn’t stomach the words birth control being mentioned abroad. Instead, aid has gone to arm extremists in order to promote the acquisition of oil rights and the growth of pipelines. When aid is specifically ‘earmarked’ (yes, not all earmarks are bad) for the benefit of women and children, we will see benefits for the international community.

The education of women and violence prevention is all that can help any country to develop. Women raise boys to become men. If boys are taught that women are possessions best kept ignorant and under lock and key, boys become men who cannot govern effectively. The demise of discrimination based upon race and religion can never begin if gender discrimination is not merely prominent in the world, but actually mandated. Why would any segment of a legitimate society require law enforcement to help them prevent its members (male or female) from choosing escape? One has to question the legitimacy of the cooperating government ready to dispense with protections for its female citizens.

Stopping aid? Increase it to women in societies victimizing them with restrictive laws and/or threat of rape. Class them as political prisoners eligible for asylum. Fund schools and clinics exclusively for women, since gender mixing violates religious law. We have many gender-exclusive educational facilities around the globe, so this is not unusual. However, any singling out of a gender or class as unworthy of protection is merely a declaration that the phrase ‘human rights’ is an oxymoron.

— Barbara Rubin,

* “Afghan Women Protest New Law on Home Life” by Dexter Filkins (4/16/09)

Categories: NY Times, Published

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