Friday, December 2, 2011

It's a good thing we're fighting for women's rights in Afghanistan

One of the justifications for the continued war in Afghanistan is that women are likely to lose whatever freedom they've obtained now that the Taliban is not in charge. Remember this Time Magazine cover? Although I don't think it's a good enough reason to keep the war going—we'd have to fight forever in every woman-oppressing country on the planet, ultimately—it is enough to give one pause.

But ... this is the regime that we're actually fighting to preserve:
KABUL, Afghanistan — When the Afghan government announced Thursday that it would pardon a woman who had been imprisoned for adultery after she reported that she had been raped, the decision seemed a clear victory for the many women here whose lives have been ground down by the Afghan justice system. 
But when the announcement also made it clear that there was an expectation that the woman, Gulnaz, would agree to marry the man who raped her, the moment instead revealed the ways in which even efforts guided by the best intentions to redress violence against women here run up against the limits of change in a society where cultural practices are so powerful that few can resist them, not even the president. 
The solution holds grave risks for Gulnaz, who uses one name, since the man could be so humiliated that he might kill his accuser, despite the risk of prosecution, or abuse her again. 
The decision from the government of President Hamid Karzai is all the more poignant coming as Western forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, underscoring the unfinished business of advancing women’s rights here, and raising questions of what will happen in the future to other women like Gulnaz.
Read further into the story, and you'll discover that European Union officials have silenced a documentary about the plight of Gulnaz and women like her—supposedly for their protection, but also for cravenly political purposes. It's all very depressing. And it leaves me with a question I don't actually know how to answer: How do we actually help these women? Fighting an un-ending war doesn't seem to be the answer, but an alternative solution seems really necessary.

No comments: