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.