11 April, 2009

Setting Priorities...

So I wrote last week about the new law if Afghanistan making marital rape legal (among other provisions - see bottom of post).

Since then Gordon Brown has spoken out against it, German Chancellor Merkel said it was wrong.The UN spoke out, even NATO said something against it. In fact many leaders have spoken out against it, against the human rights violations this law would make legal (even though are culturally acceptable now), and the injustice against women.

Many are calling into question why countries that support equal rights for women, and basic human rights at that (the right to say no!), should be sending their sons and daughters to die in a country that can treat a minority population this way. Many are threatening economic and troop withdrawal if this law continues to be in effect.

And Obama? Well let's just say that martial rape isn't on the top of the foreign policy agenda in the country. In a statement this week Obama said that "the U.S. got involved in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda and that is the most important thing."

So, essentially, we are there to protect ourselves, and women being raped because they have a wedding band on their finger, well that's to bad, so sad for them.

This is the first of what is surely to be many "are you kidding me?" moments for the Obama administration. I cannot believe that Obama's only comment on this issue is to call it "abhorrent," but it's not our problem. And he actually wants to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

And where is the public outcry against this? Where are the women's groups protesting outside the White House? Where is this topic in the line-up of Sunday talk shows? Do most Americans know a) about this law and b) that our President doesn't care to stand up against it?

Essential female human rights must become a priority. Whether it's against child marriage, the right to say no, the availability of health care, education, sanitation training - whatever - we cannot allow women anywhere to be turned into commodities and treated like second class citizens (if they are treated like citizens at all!). If this is how this administration is going to behave, treating global human rights issues as second to U.S. interests (sorry, as an American my "interest" lies with these women) then we will never get anything done.

I thought the lessons of the past showed that we cannot balance a human life against our political interests.

This decision is not the kind of change I can believe in.

"The new law denies Afghan Shi’a women the right to leave their homes except for "legitimate" purposes; forbids women from working or receiving education without their husbands' express permission; explicitly permits marital rape; diminishes the right of mothers to be their children’s guardians in the event of a divorce; and makes it impossible for wives to inherit houses and land from their husbands – even though husbands may inherit immovable property from their wives." (UNHR site)