This is one of those posts I wish I didn’t have to write. Its one of those topics that I shouldn’t have to contemplate. But its also one of those things that happens in the world and when you read about it you just can’t not think about it or say nothing. To be honest, when I read it in the news, I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. Maybe that is because I just finished posting about one of the worst and ongoing atrocities toward women in the world – honor killings – or maybe its just that this ongoing battle of fighting for something that is so basic its hard to comprehend why we’re still fighting for it – women’s rights.
A new family law has been approved in the Afghanistan government which further limits the rights of Shia women there. Now it will be illegal for them to leave the house without their husband’s permission, to have custody of their children, and (this is the real kicker) to refuse sex from their husbands. TO REFUSE SEΧ FROM THEIR HUSBANDS! This is a LAW that is being passed in a GOVERNMENT! To some, I suppose, this may not be surprising. We are talking about Afghanistan after all – the place that made “burka” a known term in households across Canada. But I guess I thought now that Afghanis have emerged, barely, from the clutches of the Taliban, the new government would be moving away from tribal laws and customs. If not for doing the right thing, at least to get their country back from the brink of collapse.
But Politics is a tricky beast. One that’s motivations I’ve never fully understood or, quite frankly, stomached. Elections are around the corner in Afghanistan (in which I’m sure the Shia women won’t be voting) and the government in power is trying to appeal to “ethnic Hazaras — a Shia Muslim minority that constitutes a crucial block of swing voters” (CBC). So what’s a mammoth step backward in human rights for the opportunity to stay in power? So a few women are put out? It’s all in a days work. Of course the Canadian government is all up in arms. And they should be. But what bothers me is that this has become a topic in parliament because Canada is there in Afghanistan as supporters and defenders of the new government not because of a grave concern for the women’s rights there. In some context, yes, by defending the new government (as an alternative to the Taliban) one could claim Canada is defending women’s rights there but lets look at it in a different context. If our soldiers weren’t there cleaning up after the Americans how much discussion do you think this issue would have gotten this week? Do you think Stephen Harper would have stood before parliament and suggested that something be done for the women of this Shia minority? The uproar is more about our connection there than the effect of the law on the Shia women. Please, tell me I’m wrong. I would feel a lot better.
On the positive side, an uproar is an uproar and, regardless of the motivation, perhaps its outcome will safeguard the already frail rights of these women. Perhaps if enough of the G20 rail against the law, there will be sufficient pressure on Karzai to withdraw his approval and to have the law overturned. But my hope is limited. Because when you get right down to it, its ludicrous that in this day and age we should even have to think about this – that such archaic crap is still happening somewhere in our world. Yet, here we are and I’m sure we shall be again.