Sunday, April 12, 2009


One of Afghanistan's top clerics has said that the controversial marriage law cannot be changed because it has already been passed by both houses of parliament and signed by Hamid Karzai.

He then proceeded to comment on why women deserve to be sexual slaves to their husbands, saying "it is essential for a women to submit to the man's sexual desires...this is the right of a man."

Disgusting though this statement is, his next comment was even more disturbing.

"The Westerners claim that they have brought democracy to Afghanistan. What does democracy mean? It means government by the people for the people. They should let the people use these democratic rights."

The horrifying reality of this statement strikes home amidst the controversy surrounding Western reaction to the Afghan marriage law. Leaders who are claiming to be liberators must now face the fact that Afghanistan is like a rebellious adolescent; having been provided for by the big Western parents, it is now declaring its right to act on its own. While there is no debate that the Taliban is a brutal and horrific regime, the fact is that Afghanistan had stability under said regime. Our mission in Afghanistan has done nothing more than serve to ignite nationalistic fury.

When a nation and way of life is threatened, its people often feel the need to revert to traditional behaviour in order to preserve their culture. By invading Afghanistan and waging war against their culture, we have served to push Afghans, particularly rural families, back towards traditional and radical patriarchal practises.

It is important to keep in mind that in Canada, until 20 years ago, a husband could not be charged with rape for forcing his wife to have sex with him. Even during the feminist movement of the 1960s, domestic abuse was rampant and even feminists like Betty Friedan admitted to having been abused by their husbands. Until the middle of the 20th century, a women could not divorce her husband without proof of his adulterous behaviour.

Who are we to condemn a way of life that until 20 or 30 years ago was very much in practise here in Canada? Yes, we do not forcee our women to wear burqhas, but the gains that women have achieved in Canadian society have been achieved by women who were unsatisfied with their positions in life. The North American feminist movement was not a movement of men fighting for women's rights; it was women who organized to demand better for themselves and their daughters.

We cannot force change and liberation for Afghani women when they are not willing to demand it for themselves. Change must come from a revolution of ideas within the Afghan culture, not from militaristic pressure from a room of old warring men. Any attempts to force cultural change in Afghanistan will only push men into trying to reassert masculinity in the traditional patriarchal way that they understand it. It will not serve to better the lives of women. The women themselves must stand up, take off their burqhas, and organize to fight for their rights. We cannot force our standards of gender equality and feminism upon them.


  1. Could you please provide some context for the following statement: "When a nation and way of life is threatened, its people often feel the need to revert to traditional behaviour in order to preserve their culture." I am not sure that I'm willing to accept this without further explanation.

    "Who are we to condemn a way of life that until 20 or 30 years ago was very much in practise here in Canada?"

    I suppose that we condemn our own bad behaviour. That is why we changed it. I think what you are trying to articulate is that, in maybe 20 or 30 years, the fledgling democracy of Afghanistan will progress on its own towards equality. I think however, that you fail to appreciate the history of the development of equality in our own society. Equality is not a mere manifestation of the last hundred years, but instead has been progressing since John Locke and even his treatise was founded upon, sadly enough for non-believers such as myself, Christian doctrine. We have to ask ourselves the following question, is Afghanistan, being founded on different dogmas, going to discover equality? Somehow I doubt it, because as the clerics there correctly point out, we in the west dogmatically accept equality without even understanding the origin or fundamental arguments for it. What do you think?

    "more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single cause- that, my friends, is true perversion" -harvey milk

    I saw this quote on your profile. I just want to point out that this is not historically accurate because more people have been slaughtered in regimes that have systematically renounced religion. See: Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

  2. Sure thing. I actually just wrote a research paper on this for my university's women and gender studies class.

    If you have the chance, check out a book called Violence in the Name of Honour by Nahla Abda and Sharzad Nojab. I was led to my belief about regression to traditional behaviour from this book, as it examines the effect of war in the Middle East as an aggravating factor in setting of extreme misogynistic behaviour by males in traditionalist Middle Eastern communities. The authors focused their examination of Pakistan and Turkey, but I feel that it applies equally to the situation in Afghanistan.

    I fully agree that there is a chance Afghanistan will never come to embrace the value of equality as we understand it. However, my argument is that we do not have the right to force Afghans to adopt our cultural values. Some may see my opinion as somewhat of a cultural relativist perspective, but I do strongly believe that while I feel Afghanistan's culture is wrong, I do not have the right to demand that they share my culture.

    About the quote on my profile; while in the last century there has been a huge number of people slaughtered by regimes that renounce religion such as the ones you mentioned, throughout human history the number is far more substantial in the name of religion.

    From the time of the Druids in Ireland, multiple Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the reign of 'Bloody Mary,' the Incas, Aztecs and Maya wars with the Spanish in South America, the Holocaust,and even the individual murders of gays, 'infidels', and the thousands of people murdered in the 9/11 attacks. To me, these acts are in the name of religion and constitute a massive number of people slaughtered for religion.