Protesting the “Marital Rape” Law in Afghanistan

There’s a new law being reviewed in Afghanistan, one that would deny women the right to refuse their husbands for sex. On April 15th, a brave group of 200-300 (articles vary in the number they quote) women staged a protest march against the law. They were met by approximately 1,000 counter-protesters, who threw rocks, spit at them, and screamed insults. The counter-protesting crowd attempted to overrun the march, but the women pressed onward, and police did their best to keep the protesters and counter-protesters separate, including female police officers joining arms to form a human chain.

Let’s just sit for a moment and reflect on that.

First off, how amazingly bad ass are those protesting women? And the police officers who used their bodies to shield them? I admit, I got a little choked up. That’s fucking inspirational right there. That’s the kind of courage and strength that I don’t even have a context for. I have never had to face that kind of adversity in my life, and I don’t know if I could have responded with the same strength. I absolutely admire all of those women.

However, I am deeply distressed that such a protest was necessary in the first place. In some ways, it isn’t surprising. We had legal marital rape in the United States until 93–that really isn’t that long ago. There’s still a subtle belief that women provide their husbands with sex as part of the marital contract in exchange for his support and sheltering. I have heard many jokes about how marriage is just glorified prostitution, and there is, I think, a grain of belief in those jokes. As much as I want to believe that it should be a universal knee-jerk reaction that “no, it is WRONG to deny women the right to refuse sex!” that just isn’t the case. There were even women amongst the counter-protesters (once again proving that “womanhood” is not monolithic; we do not all think the same, feel the same, or act the same. There is no universal female experience, and we do not have a hive mind).

Something else I want to cover is the idea that this is about Islam–it is not. Just as Christianity is not about denying women their rights, neither is Islam. There are members of the faith who will use the faith as an excuse to try to lend validity to their agenda, but this is NOT about Islam. I am horrified by the anti-Islam sentiment I have seen cropping up because of this.

Check out some articles on the goings-on: Times Online UK, CBC.

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04/16/2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized.

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