Friday, March 19, 2010

What a world, what a world... Redux ***Strong Content Advisory***

This is a really hard topic to write about, but I'm sure it's just as hard to read. The quote at the end is why I wanted to write this post. She says it all and reminds us that we have to speak out.

So for the past day, I've been filled with thoughts about the kind of humans out there that do really, really vile and terrible things to women. In part because I'm looking at making a women's empowerment website with a friend, Steph, but also because of things current in the news, and closer to home.

Of course, by now everyone must have seen the story of Bibi Aisha, a victim of the brutal Taliban "justice" (truly oxymoronic) system. Aisha's nose and ears were cut off by her husband because she ran away from his family who were beating and abusing her, while he was away fighting in Pakistan. The Taliban court ordered him to do it, to make up for the offense to his family's honor that Aisha didn't wanted to go on being beaten and abused anymore. Aisha was left to die and miraculously survived. She survived and thrives in one of the only women's shelters in Afghanistan. Her family is, of course, noticeably absent. They gave her into this abuse, along with her sister, as part the despicable, and theoretically illegal, practice known as "Baad" (and it's every bit as bad as it sounds) in which girls are married off to sons of a family to settle bitter disputes. That's right, if you have a bitter argument with someone or have wronged them by sleeping with their wife or sister or stealing their goats, the way to get them to lay off you is to give them your daughter. And how do you think a man who hates you, or his family and sons who hate you, will treat your daughter? You have only to watch this video of Bibi Aisha to get some idea of how bad things might be. But, as reporter Atia Abawi points out, things can be even worse. After all, Aisha survived. Aisha got away.

Bibi Aisha is not alone in her suffering this treatment. The UN and Amnesty International report that almost 90% of all women in Afghanistan have some form of domestic abuse visited upon them in their all too short lives. And all you have to do is check out the archives of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (some of the bravest people on the planet, these women... they're the ones that would sneak video cameras into the public stoning and whipping of women in soccer stadiums by hiding the cameras under their burqas in order to document what the Taliban was really doing to women in their country). For instance there is Nafisa who met the same fate as Aisha.

You can read more about baad and the not much better Nikāḥ al-Mut‘ah or or sigheh which can also be used, against a woman's wishes (be sure to read that implicit consent part) to settle debts in some areas, or as a form religiously-condoned prostitution. A friend has told me that sometimes fathers will use Nikah al-Mut‘ah when a girl has been caught with a boy who was not in her family (not even in any sexual sense, either) and her reputation has been blackened as a result. Or then there are the girls who have been raped by a family member. They're spoiled goods, too. Since he won't be able to marry her off, at the least the father should get some money off of her to make up for the damage to his good name. Yes, this is for real.

I'm not under the misapprehension that our own corner of the world is devoid of heinous behavior toward young women and girls. For instance, I've taken on a new Guardian case,  in which a mentally handicapped young women who had been sexually abused by her biological family was adopted and then sexually abused by her adoptive father. Who clearly, mind you, knew of her history. I have a very hard time envisioning the mind of such a person who could further abuse someone who was already a victim and so very defenseless.

We're so fortunate to live in a country that doesn't show the Taliban brand of 'justice'. But there is still so much abuse here. And there are still girls who are submitted by their mothers for female circumcision even here in the US

The abuse that humans can heap on one another just never ceases to astonish or horrify me. Looking at what has been done to some women and children is my ultimate 'desire for nepenthe' scenario. I want to forget that there are people out there who are so despicable as to have done such horrifying things to their fellow humans, so many of them children. 

But I cannot forget those who have suffered at their hands. I cannot forget Bibi Aisha's face and the fact that she has learned to smile again. She has survived, and is so very brave. She and all her many sisters in spirit just haunt you, don't they?  They certainly haunt me. 

To help contribute to Aisha's reconstructive surgery, you can donate at:

Their server seems to have been overloaded, so you might want to give it a day or two if you can't get a connection.

"There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice." 
— Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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