While most of the Western Hemisphere has been debating whether Susan Boyle should get her eyebrows plucked, on the other side of the world 300 brave Afghan women risked their lives to march in protest against a shocking new law that strips Shiite women of even the most basic human liberties. Yes, in the same country — Afghanistan — where the United States has spilled American blood and spent American money in support of the Karzai regime, the government recently passed a law that enshrines some of the most horrific forms of oppression of women ever imagined by the Taliban. The law now requires Shiite women to submit to their husbands at any time on virtually any matter — whether for sex or permission to go outside or what clothing to wear. Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed this law without a word of protest.
Until this recent law, women’s rights in Afghanistan were actually improving according to many reports. Yet, the attacks on women’s rights and women’s lives continue, and even little girls are endangered on their way to school. Recent commentaries have raised a concern that the United States is turning away from vigorous support for women’s rights in Afghanistan, and instead, pursuing a path of appeasement. Read “Afghan Women March, America Turns Away” from the New York Times.
Around the world, women continue to face levels of oppression — not simply discrimination, but real oppression — that we cannot begin to imagine in our relatively free and privileged lives here in the United States, and especially on a campus like Trinity where we live and work in a small universe where “girls rule” quite literally. But our work in women’s empowerment is only self-indulgent if we fail to raise our heads and look beyond our comfort zone to the places where the tyranny we read about in books is practiced every single day against women.
What can we do about the plight of women half a world away? We can start by insisting that the United States take a stronger stance for women’s rights and human rights while it’s writing checks and sending troops to support the Karzai government.
PS— if you haven’t read it yet, Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a compelling story of women’s lives in Afghanistan