Protest Proposed Afghan Law on Women

The Feminist Majority Foundation writes:

We just heard that President Hamid Karzai has announced he will review the draft of Shia family law that would strip Afghan women and girls of their basic rights. Karzai is responding to the worldwide outrage over the draft law including President Obama who called the law “abhorrent”.

Afghan women leaders in Parliament in the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, and in non-profit organizations have been fighting the proposed law. We must lend our voices in support of our Afghan sisters.

While Karzai is reconsidering, let him hear from you and as many people you can reach. Urge him to withdraw the draconian law that would restrict women from leaving their homes, working, going to school and obtaining medical care without their husbands’ permission. The law also includes provisions that grants child custody only to men and revokes women’s rights to refuse sex with their husband.

And please join our Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls. As the Taliban have gained strength in Afghanistan over 1000 girls’ schools have been destroyed. Teachers have been murdered – some right in front of their students. Acid is being thrown on girls’ faces on their way to or from school. As US shifts it attention to Afghanistan, we must do all we can to make sure Afghan women and girls are not forgotten!

To send letters to Pres. Karzai and the afghan Embassy, click here. Thanks, Jender-Mom!

On “Afghanistan’s Rape Law” as a focus

I’ve written posts focussing on Afghanistan’s marital rape law, as have others here. (See elp’s below.) It’s an appropriate object of outrage. HOWEVER it’s important to note that this actually seems to be the same law that forbids women from leaving the house without male permission. (JJ mentioned this bit here.) Both of these are grotesque infringements on women’s freedom, yet the rape law is getting far more coverage. Non-western feminists have often criticised Western feminists for so strongly prioritising sexual matters, and I wonder if this is an instance of that. Though it may also be that the marital rape law has more resonance for Westerners– we’re not so far historically from allowing marital rape (1992, in the UK), but we’re very far from forbidding women to leave the house. (It’s worth noting that it’s not at all surprising for bloggers to focus on the rape law, since it’s getting all the press. What’s more interesting is the fact that this is getting all the press– and that even news articles which mention the other bits of the law still have “rape law” as their headline.)

Afghan marital rape law

Afghanistan has just passed a new law *in favour of* marital rape.

“As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night,” Article 132 of the law says. “Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband.”

What’s the US response so far?

The U.S. is “very concerned” about the law, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. “We urge President Karzai to review the law’s legal status to correct provisions of the law that limit or restrict women’s rights.”

‘Very concerned’? I really hope a lot more is going on behind the scenes. To urge US action, go here. We sure have done some great liberating over there. (Thanks, Jender-Mom.)

Afghan Women – passive in burkas?

Not exactly.  Jender’s report reminds us of how dire the oppression still is in Afghanistan.   But today I also discovered this story:

Approximately 500 Afghan women gathered in Kandahar to protest the kidnapping of an American aid worker, Cyd Mizell, and her driver, Abdul Hadi, the NY Times reports

In a strong show of support for Ms. Mizell, who has lived in Kandahar for six years, working on educational projects and women’s development, Afghan women’s associations called in speeches for officials, elders, ordinary citizens and young people to work for her release.

“This is against Islam, this is against Afghan culture, particularly against Kandahari custom, a woman’s abduction,” said the director of women’s affairs in Kandahar, Runa Tareen.

Soraya Barna, a member of the provincial council of Kandahar, said: “We are so sad and we want her to be released as soon as possible. We want officials and others to multiply their struggle to find her soon and hope she will be back safely.”

A welcome departure from the usual portrayal of Afghan women in the media!

Most Dangerous Places for Women

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll ranked the 10 most dangerous countries for women, based on the responses of experts. They considered gendered issues such as violence, healthcare, and economic access.

Here is a link to the reporting:

And here is a ranked list of the countries:

  1. India
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Syria
  4. Somalia
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Yemen
  9. Nigeria
  10. United States


Like many, I was up most of the night last night, patently unable to believe what was happening. I had a lot of time to think, albeit not thinking very clearly. Lots of people with actual expertise will be weighing in on what happened but here’s something I want to say. In laying out who They are, those who voted for Trump, I think a lot is missing. We see most often those “white working class” sorts who are willing to wear t-shirts calling Clinton a cunt or bitch, eager to call for her imprisonment, people in thrall to rightwing or alt-right news sources. Apart from the fact that wealthy white folk had a substantial, ugly share in this result, I don’t recognize the “white working class” or, more accurately, “rural whites” as I know them in these portrayals. I have no interest here in trying to rehabilitate the choice to vote for Trump as other than a catastrophic choice, but I’m struggling to find my way through my reactions, the most distressing of which is running up against the reality that many of these voters are “my people” in a deep sense. I come from them, I am them, and I love many of them.


When I’m not doing philosophy, I farm. I am the fourth generation in my family entrusted with a beautiful few hundred acres resting in the hills of the Ozarks, hillbilly country. Philosophy, I often tell myself, is just my town job: If you’re going to own a farm, you need town job since making a living at farming makes academia look like easy money. But because I do farm and come from rural white people, I live half my life with them.


My extended family and farm neighbors include many farmers, some schoolteachers, veterans, waitresses, folks living on government assistance, and some who make their money in mysterious ways best not closely examined. In my generation, my kin all did finish high school – I am, perversely, the lone high school drop out. Some have more than others but none are financially comfortable; some live on a financial knife’s edge and see collecting walnuts in fall at $15/hundredweight income they can’t decline, though gathering walnuts at this price entails getting far below minimum wage for pretty miserable work. Still, those walnuts are like money just laying there on the ground.

Read More »

Refugees welcomed in North Devon

Some of the children from Calais have been brought to Devon. Some quarters of the British press have, of course, had a field day screaming about how they’re not welcome and how the locals have been up in arms. But that’s by no means a complete or accurate story. There have been a minority of people protesting, but the much larger response has been one of welcome and compassion. It seems to me that these good news stories need repeating. We could do with some cheer in, what so often these days, seem like dark times. It’s also important not to let the haters have control of the narratives.

You may have heard that up to 70 child refugees have been temporarily settled in Devon. Indeed, refugees between 16 and 18 years old from Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea are currently in the community in which I live, North Devon, near a town called Great Torrington.

We couldn’t be more delighted to welcome these young refugees to our area, and the solidarity with which our community has acted to make them welcome is truly heart-warming, and only right. Indeed, Devon Country Council says it has been “inundated” with compassion since their arrival, with retired and current health professionals offering medical assistance, and others offering language skills and translation, as well as sports and other activities.

Local facility The Plough Arts Centre has offered free film screenings to the organisation responsible for the refugees, and is currently acting as drop-in centre for locals to provide aid. Indeed, The Plough has had to stop taking donations for the youngsters as it has ran out of space.

Dave Clinch, local resident and volunteer at the centre told me there has “easily” been four car and van loads of new – not second hand – clothing, footwear and other essentials delivered by local people in the past few days. “It has been very moving, people have arrived in tears bringing things in,” he added.

You can read more here.

On the Syrian Refugee Crisis

A few pieces on the Syrian refugee crisis have been published by philosophers in the last couple of days. If you know of others please do mention them in the comments.

William MacAskill writes in The Guardian:

The question of how many refugees to accept is purely a political one, not an economic one. Government officials have claimed that it’s a better use of public funds to help abroad. But that’s completely wrong. If we let refugees in and allow them to work (as they would be keen to do), the evidence shows that the standard of living and unemployment rates for UK natives would remain about the same; the main effect is to radically increase the quality of life for the refugee. Compare the situation now to the Hungarian revolution of 1956: Austria, still broken from the second world war, took in 2% of its population in refugees, and emerged even stronger as a result. The UK could welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees to work here without damaging our economy.

Calum Miller writes in the Huffington Post:

This is not about us. It is not entirely clear whether we would suffer from increasing our refugee intake. But suppose we did. How could we possibly lose anything close to what these families would gain from being here? And how is it that our being lucky enough to be born into affluence could possibly justify not sacrificing some of that for those born into warzones? How can we talk so much about our own economic growth and yet ignore the families torn apart around the world, who come humbly to us, knocking on our door for help? Economics is important. And practical politics is important. But it is all worthless if it is not put to the service of those who need our help most desperately.

And our own Jenny Saul writes in the NewStatesman:

To some, this attack [on the use of the term ‘migrant’] is baffling. A migrant is just a person who migrates, surely, and these people are migrating. What can be wrong with this truthful description? One thing that might be wrong with it, however, is that, according to the UN, that’s not what a migrant is:

The term ‘migrant’… should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without intervention of an external compelling factor.

While maybe among the desperate risking their lives to escape places like Syria and Afghanistan, there is a person or two who has joined them for reasons of “convenience”, these people are surely vanishingly rare. According to the UN, then, it is simply factually wrong to call these people migrants.

But why, a more compelling objection goes, should we even care about language? People are dying and need help, and there goes the left again worrying about words. The reason to care about language is that the language we deliberate in shapes our deliberations.


2013 Gender Inequality Index

The U.N. (Development Program) released the 2014 Human Development Report (and the 2013 Human Development Index within it) a few weeks ago on or around July 24, 2014. It incorporates data from 2013 for the latest Gender Inequality Index on pages 172-175 in Table 4. This index reflects gender inequality along three dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment, and the labor market – as rated by five indicators: both maternal mortality ratio and adolescent fertility rate for reproductive health, both shares of parliamentary seats and population with at least secondary education for empowerment, and labor force participation rates for the labor market.

This year, all 187 countries ranked in the 2013 Human Development Index are also ranked in the 2013 Gender Inequality Index. The U.S. ranks #47 (down from 42 last year), the U.K. ranks #35 (down from 34 last year), Canada ranks #23 (down from 18 from last year), Australia ranks #19 (down from 17 from last year), New Zealand ranks #34 (down from 31 from last year), and South Africa ranks #94 (down from 90 from last year).

Also out of those 187 countries (for the 2013 Gender Inequality Index…), Slovenia ranks #1 (up from 8), Switzerland ranks #2 (up from 3), Germany ranks #3 (up from 6), Sweden ranks #4 (down from 2), Denmark ranks #5 (down from 3 formerly with Switzerland), Austria also ranks #5 (up from 14), Netherlands ranks #7 (down from #1), Italy ranks #8 (up from 11), Belgium ranks #9 (up from 12), Norway also ranks #9 (down from 5), Finland ranks #11 (down from #6), and France ranks #12 (down from 9).

In addition, out of those 187 countries (for the 2013 Gender Inequality Index…), India ranks #127 (up from 132), Saudi Arabia ranks #56 (seemingly up from 145 – is that right?), Afghanistan ranks #169 (down from 147), and Yemen ranks #152 (down from 148).

Click here for a PDF of the full 2014 Human Development Report (with the Gender Inequality Index on pp. 172-175).

Click here for a more detailed account of the Gender Inequality Index that includes indicator data (for 2013 and also for some earlier grouped years).

Click here for a webpage that contains some frequently asked questions and answers about the UNDP Gender Inequality Index.

Click here and scroll down to “technical note 3” on pages 5-6 for a PDF file that provides details on how the Gender Inequality Index is calculated.

Unfortunately, the UNDP seems frequently to delete and/or change the URLs/web-addresses for the aforementioned links. Please report any changes (or updates!) in the comments and I will try to update accordingly.

Click here for links on/for the 2012 Gender Inequality Index

What do readers think? All sorts of data here for all sorts of comments…