Work is quiet so I just spent the last hour reading through today's paper, looking for something to write about... I started off with one article and ended up with 5, so instead of writing multiple posts about each one, I thought it would make more sense to make one post and provide my own comments/opinions. Most articles come from the New York Times, but I've added other similar articles from other sources in some places. It's quite Middle East-heavy, but, then again, why wouldn't it be?
Afghan rape case is brought before the authorities (NYT article can be found HERE)
I've followed the plight of women in Afghanistan for many years now, long before 9/11 and the US invasion of the country. In the late 90's (I think) Marie Claire published an article about the treatment of women by the ruling Taliban power, something that most news outlets never bothered with, forcing the world to acknowledge there was a real problem in the country. Remember the recording of public execution that was released to world, taken via stealth, the camera concealed beneath a burqa by RAWA in 1999? That was some amazing investigative journalism - because if the reporter had been captured, he/she would probably have been executed in the same fashion. The video was sent to different press outlets at the time, none of which wanted to publish it because of it's ability to shock the world. However, when foreign forces invaded Afghanistan, all of a sudden it was all over the news. Yes, we went in to save these women that a year before we were turning a blind eye to. Nothing more than the usual hypocrisy of the world, another country's plight only becomes important to us when we actually have something to gain in said country. Anyway, this article is interesting because it portrays a few different points; one being that in certain places the laws haven't really changed, even if the Taliban has lost most of its stronghold. Another being that instead of following the unwritten law of the ages, the victim's family have decided to bring it to the public and gain their daughter's honour back by seeking justice via trial.
What we all tend to forget is that Afghanistan is a very unique country, where different ethnic groups/tribes live together, all with different rules of living, many unwritten. In many places, especially remote, rural areas, the honour of the family remains of most utter importance. To destroy or tarnish that honour means certain death, as death is the only way to rectify the balance, and restore the lost honour. To us this may sound backwards and horrific, but this is the way it works, and has worked for generations. I find it admirable that Lal Bibi is looking for her kidnappers and rapists to be brought to justice WITH the support of her family. I hope that they succeed, because if they don't, she will die, either at the hands of her family, or by her own hands (as seen in the article). What a brave, brave woman.
Mubarak is sentenced to life in prison (NYT article can be found HERE)
Life in prison for the deaths of the unarmed protesters last year, however, all charges of corruption were dropped. I'm honestly not really surprised at either ruling, although I think that it is interesting that the police commanders who gave the orders to shoot at the crowds were acquitted. Surely there were more than two people who were responsible for all of the deaths? In any case, I suppose at least some sort of justice has been done, even if the country is still without a democratically elected government (when will those promised elections ever take place?!), although how real this justice is will be seen if the ruling doesn't fall down on appeal. With all other charges having been revoked, if Mubarak wins on appeal he could walk away a free man.
What I found the most interesting about this article is the comment section. They go from right to left, zig-zagging through different opinions, some highly well thought-out and others just plain stupid and actually laughable. Yes, Mubarak was a US ally, but that doesn't make him a saint, does it? Let's all think back to the lovely Shah of Iran people and look at what the good that did to the world. Mubarak wasn't all evil, but he outstayed his welcome for more than a few presidential terms, and stole way too much money from the people he was supposed to be protecting to not be punished for it.
For those commenting on how the world is letting fundamentalists take the power in Egypt by the removal of Mubarak: if this happens, then it is what happens. The Egyptian people fought for change, and will probably stand up and fight again if they feel the government they elect is not acting in their best interest. In the end, we don't have a say what should happen in Egypt - it's up to the Egyptian people to decide what to do. The median age in Egypt is 24 years old, meaning that the population is young and will not stand for any further domination. I'm interested to see how it all plays out in this country. Read all those comments - it's highly entertaining to say the least.
BBC News articles on the same subject HERE.
Russia refuses intervention in Syria (NYT article can be found HERE)
Quelle surprise! Although I am completely against any type of outside military intervention in Syria, I do feel that more pressure should be put on Assad to stop the massacres that seem to be happening on a regular basis in Syria these days. Then again, I understand the plight: if he listens to the UN and withdraws his troops from the areas of uprising it will most definitely lead to civil war. I mean, he could stand down, and be replaced by a democratically elected president, haha, but we all know that is not going to happen. If he continues to let his troops massacre men, women and children in villages it will just create a louder uproar around the world. It appears that the bloodshed is not going to end too soon, and we may just have to sit back and watch it happen. Although, I have no doubt that the West is already smuggling weapons and agents into Syria, and helping the rebels.
Another article on the subject, BBC this time, can be found HERE.
Oh, by the way, there is renewed fighting in the North Kivu area of the DRC, strongly reminiscent of what happened in 2008, see the Al Jazeera article HERE. As always, no one really cares about what is happening in this country, even after years and years of civil war and millions of deaths. It breaks my heart that it is still happening.
Last, but not least, American nuns fight back against the Vatican criticism they face (NYT article can be found HERE).
Interesting how the Vatican plays down all of the child abuse allegations and insists on covering them up, while at the same time accuses a large group of American nuns of challenging "church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” So it's OK for priests to sexually abuse children, but it's not OK to promote free healthcare for all?! Because, oh no, this may promote the usage of birth control, and even worse, abortion! In essence this criticism goes completely against all of the real teachings of Christianity. My own thoughts on religion aside (having had a mix of Anglican, Catholic and free spirit education in my youth I decided to go with the latter, without scorning any of the former), I think this is highly despicable. Nuns dedicate their lives to educating and helping others, while giving up everything to live with their faith. The Vatican condemning them for promoting homosexuality and feminism is just plain old gender bigotry. It's time for the Vatican to get with the times and stop acting like they have the right to twist religion in a way that suits them best. Religious freedom means that we have the right to choose our religion and to live by it in the way we see fit. There is no place in this world anymore, or at least in the world I imagine, for men to dictate how women should live their lives. If these nuns are promoting radical feminism, then I really wonder what my views would be called! More radical than radical? I'm SO happy these nuns are taking a stand and continuing to promote what they believe in.
The article reads just as any other article would read, gives you the details, the facts and the story. But there was one sentence that really got me thinking, and raging in my head: "On a recent evening, one young man from Paris stood in the parking lot of Club Paradise, bragging about his sexual exploits while his friends looked on. The women, he said, did not talk about whether they were being forced to have sex.
“Maybe,” he said. “But I think they are having a good time.” "
OK, let's take a step back. I'm all for having the right to choose what I want to do with my life. If a woman wants to be a prostitute, a porn star, a courtesan, a stripper, then it is her choice to make it into her career and I fully respect that. I am sure there are many women who are happy with this choice, as I am also sure there are many who aren't (as with any types of profession). However, I am also sure that for many women it is a last resort, or, even worse, they have been forced into it and are technically slaves to the industry. We hear about these stories all the time, women and children who are sold into the sex industry, forced to prostitute themselves, never actually seeing any of the money themselves as they are also forced to give it all up. It's a widespread issue, in every country. SO how does one differentiate from the women who are actually selling themselves willingly, and those who have been forced into sexual slavery? How does one regulate this?
In Spain, for example, like in The Netherlands, prostitution is legal. Pimping is illegal, so the traffickers handle the women by threatening them with their lives and/or their family's lives. Women are smuggled into countries under the impression that they will be able to find a job and a better life, money to send back home, but when they find out the truth it is already too late to turn back. The police in Spain cannot arrest prostitutes, so if a prostitute is seeking a way out she needs to actively go to the police for help. This is where the circle never ends, the police don't have enough resources to help the women, and even if they did, the women live in constant fear of their lives.
The only reason why this industry exists to this extent is because of the demand for it. The supply follows the demand, and, according to the article above, the demand is getting higher and higher. I suppose the most simple of solutions would be to cut off the demand, that way the endless money brought in by prostitution would dwindle and effectively cut off the monetary benefits that the traffickers currently enjoy. Outlawing prostitution would probably not be as effective as it would drive it underground, making it even more difficult to help enslaved women. At least while they are outside in the open there is a way to at least monitor what is going on. So I think what my main question is... Is why on earth the demand is so high? Do most men looking to pay for sex really assume that the woman with the foreign accent selling herself on the street corner is doing this because she actually enjoys it? Do people get a thrill out of paying for something that I am sure they wouldn't have any trouble getting for free in a nightclub or a bar (although I suppose they would have to at least try to seduce a woman in a bar, making it more of an effort...). I just don't get it. It's common knowledge that there are so many women who have been forced into sexual slavery all over the world, so doesn't anyone stop to think that they are actually participating in this? Do they just not care?
Prostitution has always existed, and will most probably continue to always exist, but the fact that sexual slavery exists, in such an open and widespread fashion, in this day and age, makes me so angry, and helpless at the same time. Oh, and it also exists here in the US. It's just not as visible.
For more information on human trafficking and what you can do to help:
On The Ground - Nicholas Kristof's NYT Blog
I was perusing the New York Times online today (thanks to my lovely friend Meg I now have a subscription!) and came across THIS article about a man named Charles D. Snelling, who, after 61 years of marriage to his wife Adrienne, killed her and then himself. He had previously written a Life Report for David Brook’s column (read it HERE), in which he explains how his wife taught him unconditional love and nurtured him during their life together, and how, it was his turn to look after this wife as her struggle with Alzheimer’s got tougher and tougher. For anyone who has either cared for, or been close to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the decline of the sufferer is terrible and heartbreaking. To me, this was a wonderful story of love, one that lasted over many decades. That Charles chose to kill his wife and then himself was a choice he made, and I can’t really condemn him for it, not based on facts portrayed in both his essay and in the article linked above.
Then I read the reader comments and was quite surprised at how many people were completely outraged by his act, which got me thinking about all sorts of different points and arguments. Technically, Charles committed murder and then suicide, and we have no idea if his wife had any say in the matter, or if it was a common wish that they die together when it got too tough. To me it sounds like it was an act of love, and based on the portrayal of their life together, they had probably discussed and agreed to something like this. But I suppose there will always be a lingering doubt, did she really want this? How far gone was she when this happened? Was there no one who could have helped them both? If a husband of 35 killed his wife of 34 and then himself I think I would be disgusted and would consider it some type of crime of passion, but for Charles and Adrienne I just feel compassion. Such blurry lines…
I think this is really a question of personal opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs. If one day I am sick with a degenerative disease then I will consider euthanasia as an option of escape. Not because I don’t want to live my life, but because I don’t want to be a burden on my family. But I also wouldn’t want anyone to go to prison for helping me to die in as much a humane way as possible, and in most countries euthanasia is still illegal and will probably never be legalised. For good cause really, because there are so many fine lines that can be crossed, and so many different opinions to watch out for and to listen to. What kind of criteria do you use to determine when you want to die and how? I’m assuming that all sorts of documentation will need to be put together while you are still conscious and able. What if you change your mind at the last minute and can’t communicate this to whoever is helping you to die? If I decided to end my life today it would be considered suicide, but if I asked someone to assist me in dying because I was physically incapable of doing it alone that would be considered murder. I’m not religious, but I believe in choice, as long as my choices don’t hurt another human being.
For those who believe in religion, I assume that the idea of killing another, be it because it was requested (euthanasia), an act of love (see above), or because of more despicable means (hatred, envy etc), is always going to be condemned. The fifth Commandment in the Bible states that “Thy shalt not kill”, meaning murder is murder, whatever the reason behind it. Every single question I ask myself in this regards is followed by another question and another question and yet another one. I don’t think there is a real answer as to what is right or wrong on this subject; it’s just a case of opinion based on a separate case at a time.
In any case, in my opinion, Charles Snelling showed love and courage in his final act, and I would like to imagine the couple together somewhere, holding hands and looking down on their children and grandchildren, wherever they may be. I feel like I am going to be thinking about this for the rest of the weekend and I am not going to be able to come to any conclusion about it being right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. I actually don't think there are any real answers or conclusions to this entire topic to be honest. Everyone is going to be right because everyone has the right to their own opinion...
Jack Kevorkian information (famous for helping many of his patients die in peace, and convicted for this).
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Saturday, September 17, 2011 -- 6:00 PM EDT
President Obama to Seek Higher Tax Rate on Millionaires
President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, administration officials said.
With a special joint Congressional committee starting work to reach a bipartisan budget deal, the proposal adds a populist feature to Mr. Obama’s effort to raise the political pressure on Republicans to agree to higher revenues from the wealthy in return for Democrats’ support of future savings from Medicare and Medicaid.
Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the Buffett Rule, in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate.