12 July, 2009

A Woman's Worth

So, supposedly, the Afgan government has changed the wording of its abhorrent law permitting marital rape Women's eNews reports: The law, which originally read "a woman must be ready to have sex with her husband every four days," has been revised to "a woman is required to do any housework that the couple agreed to at the time of marriage," the Associated Press reported on July 8.

The revision does not address some of the other conditions of the law, like denying your wife food if she doesn't give you any.

Call my cynical, but it seems like a farce to me. This law, in its original wording, seems to me like an honest statement of how Afghan men view their wives. They are in the midst of a media firestorm and are trying to appease our western ideas, but it doesn't mean the intent of the law isn't any less real. It's a cultural view of women, a religious view of their worth, cannot be changed just because the West hemmed and hawed.

In other parts of the world, being a woman in the Congo still sucks.  While some commanders have promised not to tolerate rape from the men under him,  as Texas in Africa asks, how is that going to be implemented? Her conclusion: It's much more likely that those accused of rape will either face a form of mob justice or that they'll be sent home, set free, or kept in the ranks to continue destroying women's lives.

It's like when the peace deal with signed in Goma but had no teeth outside the city. So men kept raping women, the conflict continued and now, 18 months later, nothing is different - it actually might be worse.

But TiA did bring up another point in her post: talking to the men about their actions, comparing their acts of rape to someone raping their wives and mothers. In Healing Invisible Wounds Richard Mollica points out that, "Cultural annihilation proceeds most effectively not through physical destruction but through sexual violence." When rape is being used as a weapon of war - when it is happening to disable communities, to break down family structures, to displace and separate people - it goes beyond a head thing. I would be interested to know if the men they are speaking to can make the connection between their women back home and the women they raped. Sometimes the breakage between raper and raped - especially when the rape is so severe and massive - turns the women they are violating into other beings. They are not human, they are not Congolese too, they are not women - they are objects to be dominated and abused.

Again, call me pessimistic, which I am, or realistic. But when 1,100 women are raped each month in the Congo (source) and so far there has been little (if any) justice or reprisals against the soldiers who have committed mass rape the probability that proper justice will ever be found is slim to none.

In either country being a woman is hellish because in both cases the government has, for all intensive purposes, turned its back on you. Women are second to men or second to the many issues in a conflict that made them victims. Maybe it's time other women stood together up and spoke out for justice.