Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Human Rights

So we invaded Iraq and killed thousands of Iraqi civilians and over a thousand of our citizens because (so the current story goes) Sadam was such a bad man -- and I agree, BTW, that he was a really bad man. But here's the thing: bad people are everywhere. I'm thinking we could have found better uses for all that money and effort, not to mention all those lives. I'm thinking there are better ways to mend the world.

Nicholas Kristof has a column in the NY Times today about a woman sentanced to be gang-raped in Pakistan -- under the insane justice system there -- who, instead of either doing the "right" thing by custom or seeking some sort of revenge, seeks instead to better the world.

Read on:

From : Sentenced to Be Raped


.....Usually we journalists write about rogues, but Mukhtaran Bibi could not be more altruistic or brave, as the men who gang-raped her discovered. I firmly believe that the central moral challenge of this century, equivalent to the struggles against slavery in the 19th century or against totalitarianism in the 20th, will be to address sex inequality in the third world - and it's the stories of women like Ms. Mukhtaran that convince me this is so.

....instead of killing herself, Ms. Mukhtaran testified against her attackers and propounded the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped. The rapists are now on death row, and President Pervez Musharraf presented Ms. Mukhtaran with the equivalent of $8,300 and ordered round-the-clock police protection for her.

Ms. Mukhtaran, who had never gone to school herself, used the money to build one school in the village for girls and another for boys - because, she said, education is the best way to achieve social change. The girls' school is named for her, and she is now studying in its fourth-grade class.

"Why should I have spent the money on myself?" she asked, adding, "This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children."

I wish the story ended there. But the Pakistani government has neglected its pledge to pay the schools' operating expenses. "The government made lots of promises, but it hasn't done much," Ms. Mukhtaran said bluntly.

She has had to buy food for the police who protect her, as well as pay some school expenses. So, she said, "I've run out of money." Unless the schools can raise new funds, they may have to close.

Meanwhile, villagers say that relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place by slaughtering her and her entire family. I walked to the area where the high-status tribesmen live. They denied planning to kill Ms. Mukhtaran, but were unapologetic about her rape.

"Mukhtaran is totally disgraced," Taj Bibi, a matriarch in a high-status family, said with satisfaction. "She has no respect in society."

So although I did not find Osama, I did encounter a much more ubiquitous form of evil and terror: a culture, stretching across about half the globe, that chews up women and spits them out.

We in the West could help chip away at that oppression, with health and literacy programs and by simply speaking out against it, just as we once stood up against slavery and totalitarianism. But instead of standing beside fighters like Ms. Mukhtaran, we're still sitting on the fence.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company Home Privacy Policy Search Corrections RSS Help Back to Top

1 comment:

zelda1 said...

Human rights are only used when they serve a political agenda: like to invade a country and take its oil. Women are raped and burned and tortured, young girls bodies are mutilated and little girls and boys are sold on the streets for sex and yet America does little to intervene. Even in our own country children are hungry and mistreated and denied even the basic comforts of life. Social issues and human rights are just not priorites for this administration. But then the republicans have never shown an interest in spending money on people, they would rather spend money on wars and ways to fatten their own purses. I agree that Sadam was a bad man, but he wasn't a threat to our country. And there had to be a better way. All those billions of dollars being spent to guard and protect the oil and make Iraq a safer country for American buisnessmen makes me sad. Especially when I think of how hard it is for students in colleges here in the USA who sturggle to make ends meet, or the poverty that single women raise their children in, and of course the total disregard for the suffereings of humans in other countries. There has to be a way to take care of soical issues and security issues at the same time. Bush has remained so focused on his revenge for Sadam that he is like a horse with blinders, gotta get to the end and he sees nothing else.