From our partners at DownWithTyranny!
Primitive man developed some relatively sophisticated social mechanisms to enforce male dominance over primitive women. Patriarchal religion was the biggie, of course, but even before than, ritualized violence worked wonders in establishing who the boss was and who was subservient. Stoning, later embraced by patriarchal religions– at least ’til Jesus came along with a forward-thinking perspective.
In 1969 I went to Afghanistan for the first time. I recall writing back to my friends and family in America that it felt more like a journey in time than a journey in space. Especially outside of Kabul, there wasn’t much that reminded me of the 20th Century. I spent a winter in a tiny hamlet in the Hindu Kush where no one recognized a country called Afghanistan, where no one had ever heard of the U.S., where no one knew how to read of write or speak the language (Farsi) people spoke in Kabul, and where no one had ever experienced electricity or had an idea of manned flight– let alone that the U.S. was landing a man on the moon that year.
While I was there, my friend, whose family compound I was living in, got married. I went to the wedding, of course– it was in the compound– but I never met or even saw his wife. No women were allowed at the wedding and no males were allowed to see the wife until after she had a baby– which was long after I was back in Kabul. In another Afghan town I stayed in, Ghazni, between Kandahar and Kabul down south, college pals of mine were Peace Corp volunteers. The wife told me that the Afghan women’s vocabulary was so limited that they couldn’t even conceive of the kinds or social progress mankind had made in the last 10 or so centuries. Their vocabulary was sufficient for serving the needs of men; that’s it.
I was in Afghanistan twice and spent nearly a year there all told. I travelled around the country in my VW van at first and then, when I realized there were no roads in our sense of what a road it in most of the country, on horseback. Thank God I never saw a stoning. And thank God almost everyone I met was kind, generous, friendly and courteous. The Afs had awesome senses of humor and, at least in the dealings I had with them, a very live-and-let-live approach.
Several decades later the U.S. had occupied their devastated country. Progressives wanted that to end– or at least most progressives did. I recall getting into a lively debate with some progressive congresswomen and progressive women candidates who felt strongly that the U.S. should “save” Afghanistan’s women from repression. I was dumbfounded. These were really smart women I was talking with. The U.S. military– and mercenaries– occupying Afghanistan were also going to change the country’s codes of behavior which had been set in stone long before the first Europeans set foot in North America and… started changing the mores here?
Last week the American puppet government announced that they were reintroducing stoning as a mechanism to keep women in their place. The beautifully named Ministry of Justice, was, in fact, drawing up a draft law that specified that stoning for adultery would be done in public, the way it was in the Taliban days. There was an uproar in Washington and the puppet government rolled its collective eyes and said, basically, “just kidding.” Karzai said it was all a big misunderstanding and that stoning would not be brought back as part of the legal system. Can we bring our troops home now?
The president, Hamid Karzai, said in an interview that the grim penalty, which became a symbol of Taliban brutality when the group were in power, would not be coming back.
“It is not correct. The minister of justice has rejected it,” he told Radio Free Europe, days after the UK minister Justine Greening urged him to prevent the penalty becoming law.
Afghanistan’s penal code dates back over three decades. The government is drawing up a new one to unify fragmented rules and cover crimes missed out when the last version was written, such as money laundering, and offences that did not even exist at the time, such as internet crimes.
The justice minister presiding over the reform is an outspoken conservative who last year denounced the country’s handful of shelters for battered women as brothels.
As part of the process, a committee tasked with looking at sharia law came up with draft legislation that would have condemned married adulterers to the slow and gruesome death; unmarried people who had sex would be flogged.
But after several days of silence in the face of growing international outcry, the justice ministry said in a statement that although stoning had been proposed it would not appear in the new legislation because there was “no need to regulate the issue.”
The country’s penal code already encompasses sharia law, but some controversial aspects of traditional punishments such as stoning have never been put on the books in Afghanistan.
“The legality of the crime and punishment is fully addressed and there is no need to regulate the issue in the new code. So, the ministry of justice does not intend to regulate it in the new draft code,” the statement said.
Rights groups who first highlighted the draft law warned that although the government’s quashing of the proposal was good news, its emergence in the first place was a sign of how fragile gains in human rights over the last decade had been, particularly for women.
Although stoning is listed as a punishment for adulterers of both sexes, in countries where it has been used in recent years women have often appeared on the execution ground alone.
As foreign troops head home before a 2014 deadline for the end of combat action in Afghanistan, and political attention fades with it, many activists fear that years of painstaking progress are at risk of being swept away.
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