Editorial, Globe and Mail, March 7, 2012
Canada, and its NATO allies, must speak out against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s attempt to appease the Taliban by taking away the rights of women. Ottawa should reconsider its support of the Karzai government in light of his apparent willingness to ignore his country’s own laws.
Mr. Karzai has publicly supported an edict from the Ulema Council, composed of 150 Muslim clerics, that classifies men as fundamental and women as “secondary.” The council’s code bans women from travelling without a male guardian, prohibits women from mingling with men in offices, schools and markets, and allows men to beat their wives in certain circumstances. The clerics, who call the code “voluntary,” believe it is in line with a literalist interpretation of Islamic law.
But gender apartheid cannot be justified in the name of Islam. A state where men have one set of rights and women another is not only morally repugnant but contradicts the country’s own 2004 constitution, which re-established equality between men and women. If Afghan’s female parliamentarians cannot work with their male counterparts, then Parliament cannot function.
With international forces set to withdraw by 2014, Mr. Karzai is under increasing pressure to appease the Taliban. He must resist the temptation to sacrifice women in order to bring the insurgents and other hard-line conservatives to the negotiating table. “While the code is not legally binding, it comes at a critical time for Afghan women. Many are already concerned about the future, especially if peace talks with the Taliban move ahead,” said Robert Fox, Oxfam’s executive director.
Part of the justification for the 2001 military overthrow of the Taliban was the regime’s shocking treatment of women and girls; girls were prohibited from going to school and women forced to cover themselves in head-to-toe burkas. Some of the 158 Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan since 2002 no doubt felt they were fighting more than just the insurgents; they were fighting for justice.
Canada has also spent millions of dollars in international aid to strengthen the country’s institutions, with an emphasis on improving the lives of women and children. Today, 2.7 million girls are enrolled in school, and 30 per cent of the country’s teachers are women. A record number of female candidates ran in the 2010 parliamentary elections.
It would be wrong to reverse a decade of progress. A peace process that excludes women is not sustainable. Afghanistan’s leader must stand up for all members of society. If he cannot defend justice, it is right to ask whether his government is worth defending.
In Afghanistan, women fear Karzai's appeasement of the Taliban will render them as puppets to their male "dominators"....while in America, women fear the appeasement of the church as the Santorums threaten to ban contraception, abortion and effectively remove a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own body.
In their defence, Hillary shed her self-imposed silence on domestic issues last Saturday when speaking to a woman's conference. Paraphrasing her, she told her audience that she was appalled that extremists consistently make women a target for their extremism. What a polite way to call apartheid tendencies demeaning!
It is time these men wakened up to the 21st century and the realities that men no longer control the world, the corporation, the politics or the family. In the best case scenario, there is an equal partnership between both genders, whether that means running a company, or raising a family (including families of two gay or lesbian partners). In the worst case scenario, one gender quite literally dominates the other, leaving little or no room for "the other" to breathe.
Quite often the "other" simply withdraws from the relationship, effectively "quits and stays" and too often this withdrawing partner is the male, leaving the woman wondering whether or not she married a scarecrow...so similar to the straw-man of the farmer's field has he become.
As we watch men clinging to their masculinity, by denigrating women, through blind ignorance and even blinder arrogance, it is the weakness of those same men that must be highlighter. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid of the empowered women that we have seen, some of whom are now mentioned as potential candidates for the job as President of the World Bank. One accomplished woman now serves as head of the International Monetary Fund, while others serve admirably as CEO of major corporations, while still functioning effectively as mothers, spouses and friends of their communities.
It is long past time, whether for religious or political or other reasons, to bring men to their senses about the need to regard women as full equal partners in every endeavour on the planet, and to shape male attitudes into such a model that will make such a full partnership flourish, and not wither through detachment and disinterest.
That's called passive aggression, and it is no longer tolerable in domestic relationships, nor in political leadership.