Saturday, May 23, 2009

How conflict divides gender

I receive mails from a world-wide network of activists, and I've been meaning to post an email I received from one member of the group for some time. This is it... Better late than never:

A personal commentary by a life-long women's advocate and activist.

Kathy Sloan
West Hartford, Connecticut

Each new day seems to bring with it another unthinkable atrocity against the women and girls of Afghanistan. The roster of infamy reads like something out of the Nazi terror: a law passed and signed by the president sanctioning marital rape, acid thrown in the faces of girls walking to school, women forced to make themselves invisible with suffocating head to toe covering that puts the yellow stars of David Jews were forced to wear to shame. Never has misogyny been so blatant or so blatantly repellent.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Universal Human Rights. When ever-growing numbers of women in Afghanistan are literally setting themselves on fire due to the utter degradation of their very personhood while the international community allows this to go on, the Declaration is mocked and proven hollow. During the “Burning Times” of the 1400s through 1700s in Europe and the United States, when thousands of women were burned at the stake for “witchcraft,” agonizing immolation was administered by the state. In the 21st century in Afghanistan, patriarchal misogyny has regressed to the point where the state no longer needs to carry out femicide; ubiquitous and relentless terror, abuse and destruction of female lives accomplish the same goal through suicide.

Where are we as a global community when the biological existence of female identity becomes synonymous with “evil,” an essence so threatening, so repellent that it justifies exploitation, commodification, violence and the ultimate “punishment” – murder?

Nations go to war over possession of natural resources, rivalries and greed. “Wars” are declared on “terror” and “drugs” but where is the “war” on violence, abuse and degradation of women? Every country on the planet engages in human trafficking of women and girls for use as sex slaves – where is the “war” on this lethal trafficking? From the sexual commodification of females in Western culture to its ultimate expression as blatant loathing of females in Afghanistan, where is the outrage, where is the call to war? Where is the soul of humanity that demands we not allow, condone, participate in, or passively accept the abuse of females every day, every hour, every minute? The despairing women of Afghanistan demand an answer.

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