This post could simply comprise links to work I've done in the past three years, in which I've documented, over and over again, that women matter less than men in the world. Not just in "Third World" countries, where women die at extraordinary rates in childbirth or as victims of "rape as tactic of war" epidemics that wipe out swathes of women in a marauding army's path.
Perhaps, I could talk, again, about what's going on in Afghanistan, a nation that we swore we were going to help restore democracy to, but which, since Barack Obama has become president, we have seen the ceding of control of parts of Pakistan to the Taliban, and new laws in Afghanistan designed to soften up Talibani members so they'll consider coming back to the Afghan government. Those laws, as you should all know by now, legalize rape in marriage. You should also know that girls attending school in Kandahar had acid thrown on their faces—for the simple crime of attending school. Or that Safia Amajan, an Afghan women's rights advocate, was gunned down for advocating women's rights.
Yesterday, on the OP-ED pages of the NY TIMES, Afghan women wrote the following:
That is why President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy speech last month and his administration’s related white paper are worrisome: both avoided any reference to democracy in Afghanistan, while pointedly pushing democratic reforms in Pakistan. The new policy represents critical shifts — such as a new emphasis on civilian work, and recognizing the regional nature of the problem and the inadequacy and abuse of resources. But a faltering commitment to the democratization of Afghanistan and ambiguous statements from Washington on an exit strategy have left us Afghans scratching our heads.
…there is a temptation among some in Washington to believe that if the zeal for democratic reform or women’s and minority rights in Afghanistan were relaxed, Taliban insurgents would find “reconciliation” more attractive and the war would end more quickly.
This belief is encouraged by the radically conservative forces that have increased their influence since 2005 over the Kabul government, which has been backtracking on its commitment to rights like freedom of the press and equality under the law. This was exemplified by two events last month: the upholding of a 20-year jail sentence given to a young journalist for printing a controversial article from the Internet that was critical of the role traditionally assigned to women in Islam; and President Hamid Karzai’s signing of a law affecting the country’s Shiite minority that places restrictions on when a woman can leave her house and states the circumstances in which she is obliged to have sex with her husband. That law prompted the protests this week in Kabul.
Before anyone objects that the mistreatment of women is the "Afghan way" in which we must not interfere, let me further quote the article:
As for women’s rights, the troubles that brewed in Afghanistan during the 1990s — civil war, followed by the Taliban’s totalitarianism and harboring of Al Qaeda — were in great part the result of the female half of our population being deprived of social and political participation. Like everyone else, Afghans crave security, justice, accountability, educational and employment opportunities, and a promise of a future.
Democracy and progress are not products to be packaged and exported to Afghanistan. Afghans have to fight for them. Last month, the two of us helped organize “Afghanistan: Ensuring Success,” a conference led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Speakers included Afghans from all walks of life and there was broad agreement that, in the words of President Obama, it was time to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off” and strive for genuine democratic progress and self-reliance.
But as we approach Afghanistan’s second democratic elections, in August, we cannot afford to have our allies falter — through rhetoric or policy — in supporting our nascent democratic forces. Those brave and burned young women of Kandahar did not give up. How could we?
I find myself wondering what would happen if, in our commitment to "human rights," we were insistent that "women's rights" were part of the word "human."
Even in our own country, over and over again when the Democrats were struggling to come back to power, I found calls to soften our commitment to abortion rights, gay rights, women's equality—the so-called "culture war" issues—in order to attract the "swing voter."
I even watched as gay activists asked women to throw themselves under the bus in order to help gays get rid of a reprehensible U.S. Senator.
As I wrote then, you could only ask women for so long to put their rights on the back burner before they would turn around and tell you to go piss up a rope.
So. Again. I ask. When, when will defending the rights of women be as important in foreign policy decisions as is considering strategic oil reserves, or the mistreatment of ethnic minorities, or the threat of "Communism" in certain Latin American countries? When will we cut off diplomatic relations with a country that stones its women for adultery or forces them to stay in their homes?
When will we stop with this idea that a woman's right to control her own fertility, to choose what enters and lodges in her flesh, that her right to own her own body are "culture war" issues, and are instead, human rights issues. Basic issues? Non-negotiable demands that all humans are entitled to make?
Please tell me when women will matter. All women. Not just those who have risen to positions of authority in their country. All women. Perhaps when we care as much about the schoolgirls in Kandahar as we do about the men of Cuba, I might finally believe that human rights matters to us.
My bona fides in writing about these issues: