Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pakistani lawmaker defends honor killings (AP)

Another world-wide war on women update.
A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament this week to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."
=> According to Human Rights Watch:
Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women. [....]

Abuses against women are relentless, systematic, and widely tolerated, if not explicitly condoned. Violence and discrimination against women are global social epidemics, notwithstanding the very real progress of the international women's human rights movement in identifying, raising awareness about, and challenging impunity for women's human rights violations. [....]

We reject specific legal, cultural, or religious practices by which women are systematically discriminated against, excluded from political participation and public life, segregated in their daily lives, raped in armed conflict, beaten in their homes, denied equal divorce or inheritance rights, killed for having sex, forced to marry, assaulted for not conforming to gender norms, and sold into forced labor. Arguments that sustain and excuse these human rights abuses - those of cultural norms, "appropriate" rights for women, or western imperialism - barely disguise their true meaning: that women's lives matter less than men's. Cultural relativism, which argues that there are no universal human rights and that rights are culture-specific and culturally determined, is still a formidable and corrosive challenge to women's rights to equality and dignity in all facets of their lives. [....]
All that sounds right to me.

Of course, this is a problem that takes many forms, and recognizing it doesn't automatically tell us the best ways to solve it. Figuring out the best strategies for doing that can involve genuine complexities and ambiguities and pose difficult dilemmas. And it's legitimate to argue that for such strategies to be serious and effective, they may often have to take practical account of the diversity of relevant social and cultural contexts.

But that's not the same as using diversity (or the rhetoric of diversity) to make excuses for oppression and injustice or to generate pseudo-sophisticated moral and intellectual distractions from the real issues. We don't have to go to Baluchistan to find people who do that.

On the other hand, here is the website of the International Campaign Against Honour Killings.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

=========================
Associated Press
August 31, 2008 - 2:18 AM EST
Pakistani lawmaker defends honor killings

A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament this week to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.

They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Zehri told a packed and flabbergasted Parliament on Friday that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers not to make a big fuss about it.

Many stood up in protest, saying the executions were "barbaric" and demanding that discussions continue Monday. But a handful said it was an internal matter of the deeply conservative province.

"I was shocked," said lawmaker Nilofar Bakhtiar, who pushed for legislation calling for perpetrators of so-called honor killings to be punished when she served as minister of women's affairs under the last government.

"I feel that we've gone back to the starting point again," she said. "It's really sad for me."

Accounts vary

The incident allegedly occurred one month ago in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district, after the women decided to defy tribal elders and arrange marriages in a civil court, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

They were said to have been abducted at gunpoint by six men, forced into a vehicle and taken to a remote field, where they were beaten, shot and then buried alive, it said, accusing local authorities of trying to hush up the killings.

One of perpetrators was allegedly related to a top provincial official, it said.

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