A Step Backwards for Afghanistan


Many advocates of equality have cited the increase in a society’s overall well-being by the proportional increase in the empowerment of women.  There is an unequivocal correlation between the two, and anyone that wishes to see social and economic progress in their nation must acknowledge the veracity within this association.  When the Taliban was removed from power in Afghanistan, those that were once struggling to survive were given the opportunity to remake themselves.  For a while the world was pleased to see that steps were being taken in a positive direction.  Since the Taliban’s expulsion, more schools have been built and democratic elections – albeit questionable elections – have taken place.  The most significant progress, however, has come in the form of gender equality.  Women have been given rights and have enjoyed more protection under new laws such as the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW).  Unfortunately, progress is slow, and sometimes it takes a step backwards before righting itself.

A new law has been proposed in Afghanistan that will forbid the relatives of assault victims to testify against the defendants.[i]  Because the victims are predominantly female, and because the only interaction females generally have is limited to family members, this law essentially precludes any chance of justice.  Writing from a Western perspective, much of what I now protest against may be received as ethnocentric drivel, and perhaps it is, but I am afraid I find myself incapable of apologizing.  I am not encouraging the abolition of their traditions; no, I am merely advocating that each person, regardless of nationality, religious inclination or otherwise, has the right to equal protection.  If I am practicing ethnocentrism, then you will find me happily guilty.

It is repugnant that a rapist or a misogynistic husband may attack a woman with impunity.  It is repulsive that their brothers and fathers turn their heads, but it is disgraceful that such cruelty is now to be protected – nay, sanctioned! – by a democratically elected parliament.  If Afghanistan is ever to raise herself above foreign influences, she must first raise each member of her society above the influences of internal oppression.  As Christopher Hitchens was so fond of proclaiming, “…the only known cure for poverty, [is] the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”  Nothing has been shown to bring peace and prosperity faster than this, for peace and prosperity move in proportional oscillation with equality.


[i] Conant, Eve. “New Afghan Law Disastrous for Women, Says National Geographic Photographer.” National      Geographic. National Geographic Society, 08 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.



Categories: Politics

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7 replies

  1. In this case I would rather be guilty of ethnocentric drivel than stand on the side of that law. I am opposed to tradition whenever it comes in the place of treating people with dignity

  2. While overall well-being might be a good argument, even if it were not to be achieved, each person needs to be treated with dignity and respect. Groups that do not, be it a nation, a religion or any other, are probably consigning themselves to eventual disintegration and strife.

  3. Human rights are individual rights. They have precedence over rights of groups and rights of traditions.
    Some traditions are violating human rights. Think of the tradition of anti-Semitism, going back to mediaeval times. Think of the century-long tradition of slavery in western culture. It is absolutely correct to criticize traditions for violating human rights. Criticism of aspects of culture or tradition must be allowed. It must be allowed from inside a culture but also from the outside.

    Suppressing other people’s cultures is bad if it is a suppression of other people, if it is a violation of individual human rights. However, if certain aspects of a culture are oppressive and violate human rights, then the least that is allowed here is criticism. We should, in such cases, not accept any attempt of the other side to claim that this criticism is Euro-centric and therefore not allowed. Other cultures must be respected as far as they respect basic human rights. Likewise, expressions of western culture must be respected as far as they respect basic human rights. But I would not, for example, accept the culture of a white supremacy racist just because that is somebody else’s culture and all cultures are equal. I would not accept the culture of the Nazis. I would not accept the culture of a deep-south slaver.

    We must not interfere with the cultural choices of people as long as they are choices. These women do not choose. The respect for other cultures is based on the basic right of free development of the individual. We are living in a multi-cultural society, both inside our countries and globally. We must not impose our culture on others because that would deny them the right of free development of the individual. However, by the same logic, we must not allow cultures which deny individuals the right of free development of the individual. A culture in which women are de-facto slaves is not to be respected. So a multi-cultural society is not a society that allows any culture (including Taliban and Ku-Klux-Klan) but a society that allows individuals to choose and that removes any restriction, as long as the basic rights of others are not denied by it. Basically this means that cultures not acknowledging the principle of equality must be excluded.
    So, in my view, you are on the right track here. And you don’t need to apologize.

  4. RL, thank you for spreading awareness about this horrific injustice. Adam Lee, a contributing writer on Big Think wrote:

    “When a more enlightened future age arrives to tote up the harms done by religion, I am certain that the systematic oppression and denial of basic rights to one-half of the human race will rank near the top.”

    I believe it will rank at the top because these oppressed and tortured women are raising the children of their future. There’s significant evidence now that adverse childhood experiences lead to social problems, high risk behaviors, social, mental and cognitive impairment, disease, severe mental illness and early death.

    We also have studies where female mice who experience consistent stress during gestation gave birth to pups with larger hindbrains and smaller forebrains.

    How a country or culture treats at least half its citizens not only has a negative impact on their country but affects us all.

  5. There is a provision in the law here in Brazil for so-called “crimes of passion.” It’s retarded. Essentially, a man can kill his girlfriend, wife, wife’s lover etc. if he can prove he’d momentarily lost his mind because of, you guessed it, passion.

  6. What are traditions but statements of “but we have always done it this way.” As such they don’t carry much weight, other than historical inertia in my mind. If one thinks back to the recent era of the worries characterized by the phrase “the population bomb” we find no mention of it now. The reason? According to the U.N. the population bomb fizzled primarily because women were educated to a higher level (an eighth grade education seems to be the tipping point). So, if you think this is just bleeding heart liberal ideology, think again. And … oppression is oppression. Ask yourself if you think any of these barbarous activities would be acceptable for your sister or daughters or mother. Your outrage is not just cultural imprinting.

Please share your thoughts here. With the exception of blatant spam, no one will be censored. I invite criticisms and disagreement, but hope we can maintain a cordial and respectful dialogue. Thanks!

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