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October 14, 2006

Vengeance Rapes

I think Tigerhawk asks, or hints, at a good question: What do you do about these sorts of abhorrent practices?

Pursuing justice is not easy for a woman in Pakistan, not if the crime is rape. Ghazala Shaheen knows.

Two years ago, relatives say, an uncle eloped with a woman from a higher social caste. The revenge by the woman’s family was the rape of Ms. Shaheen, she and relatives charge, after a gang of men raided her father’s home and abducted her and her mother in late August.

It is not uncommon in Pakistan for women to suffer callous vendettas for the wrongdoings of their male relatives. That was the case for Ms. Shaheen, a 24-year-old from a relatively poor family who had nonetheless managed to earn a master’s degree in education. She says she wants to be a teacher.

Under what are known as the Hudood laws in Pakistan, a woman must produce four witnesses to prove rape. A failure to do so can result in her becoming a victim twice over, and being charged for adultery. The stigma alone is enough to keep many women from trying to bring their attackers to justice.

Human rights advocates have repeatedly called for the repeal of the Hudood laws, which were enacted by the country’s last military dictator, Gen. Zia ul Haq, in 1979.

President Pervez Musharraf has vowed to introduce amendments to the laws, but critics say his efforts have been halfhearted. Under pressure from hard-line clerics, Mr. Musharraf’s government delayed passage of a proposed law in September that would have allowed rape to be tried in civil courts, where a rape victim needs only to provide a medical witness and other evidence.

As he asks, "if ugly brutality really is the exception rather than the rule, how is it that the military dictator of one of the world's most important Muslim countries knuckles under to pressure from "hard-line clerics?" And if the pressure really is that strong to continue oppressing, humiliating, and assaulting women, what are the chances or opportunities for combatting it?

October 14, 2006 | Permalink


Soft power.

Posted by: talboito | Oct 14, 2006 10:21:12 AM

The left is supposed to be polar opposite from Islam. #1, Islam is a religion. #2, Islam has a violent, oppressive fundamentalist strain that is tolerated by the mainstream Muslims. #3, Islam degrades Muslim women

Yet if you look at the anti-American, anti-Israel protests on American college campuses and in cities like SF, radical Muslims and and liberals are marching hand in hand. Calling for the downfall of the US and Israel.

Muslims coined the expression 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', i.e. Muslims and the American left. But if Sharia law ever became law of the land here, who's heads do you think would come off first?

The promiscuous, decadent liberals.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Oct 14, 2006 10:22:23 AM

What will we do about these abhorrent practices? Fuck all. What can we do about these abhorrent practices? Pretty much the same. What are the chances that any of this really bothers Tigerhawk? Pretty close to zero.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Oct 14, 2006 10:40:02 AM

...how is it that the military dictator of one of the world's most important Muslim countries knuckles under to pressure from "hard-line clerics?"

If you are truly concerned about the plight of women in the middle east, you should be focusing on the hard line regimes such as Syria and Iran, for instance. At least Pakistan's dictator is educated and wishes to play ball with the west. He doesn't seem to be all about killing the infidels and spreading Islam across the gbobe.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 14, 2006 11:28:48 AM

First, its a tragedy. Plain and simple. And I wish I could think of something we could do to put a stop to it. Diplomatic pressure is the type of thing that countries normally use in these situations, but I'm not sure that given what I've read about Pakistan that it would a) work or b) be something that the powers of the world would even want to try, given the precarious nature of power in that part of the world and the fact that Pakistan is a member of the nuclear club. We could offer asylum to women who want to leave, but how many people want to leave their homeland and their families behind like that?

And without a basic belief in inalienable human rights, you will not get traction on these issues. That is something that sets the secular Western philosophy apart from other belief systems - that we have certain rights that are not granted by temporal instituations such as governments or religions but are fundamental to our status as human beings. Until you have that baseline to work from, you're going to see things like this continue to happen. And until you have people living in a manner where they aren't constantly scraping by just to live day in and day out, high-minded ideals are going to take second place to survial issues.

I also think I'm frightened that someone who is supposed to be a "friend to the West" and a full-on dictator doesn't even have enough power in his country to alter a law like this without fear. It doesn't speak much for his remaining in power, or for continued "friendliness with the West" once he dies or falls out of power. Especially given that we're talking about a country with nukes - once he's gone, will those "hard-line clerics" be the ones who get to pick his successor? Will they at least have to approve of them? Will Pakistan stay even nominally friendly? Talk about a mess.

Posted by: NonyNony | Oct 14, 2006 12:16:01 PM

With peak oil and global warming, I think we have 50-100 years to fix this, to completely change these cultures. One of the more important aspects of this is how it affects the economies, with 50-60+ percent of the possible productivity underutilized. The chauvinistic oppressive cultures also help to create violent young men.

I originally supported the Iraq war with this in mind. I know Iraq was one of the most liberated of Arab societies, and Okay, I kiss all your collective butts. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

But this has to fixed, and fixed right about now. Or you can, in your lifetimes, watch them all die, and take many of you with them. But hey, as long as we aren't killing anybody, we'll just mourn righteously, huh?

It's all so sad. Let's have a conference and light some candles.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 14, 2006 12:54:14 PM

It's like a group of men sat around one day thinking about how they could brutalize women more systematically. Revenge rape is horrifying, and I have no idea what we can do about it. I wish we didn't have to play ball with any of these people.

Posted by: Stacy | Oct 14, 2006 12:54:40 PM

Our options as a state are very limited. Possibly the best thing "we" can do is to continue to publicize the issue. There have been some brave journalists who have done good work on this. The people in the cultures where this kind of thing occurs are capable of being embarrassed when their acts are seen through other eyes as brutal and inhuman. As the cultures become increasingly exposed to Western ideas, the effect of shame increases. Having a conference and lighting some candles may actually be a good thing in this case.

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 14, 2006 1:08:59 PM

The Harmonious Society ...via Mark Thoma, very much worth reading

"Guided by the scientific outlook of development, the whole country[China], from the top authorities on down, is on board for building a harmonious society. A harmonious society, in essence, is one that respects the rights of people, sticks to the principles of human civilization and abides by the laws of nature."

What has this to do with vengeance rapes? See comment one:China will be the master of soft power. I really see a lot of hope from China, and see that country as the solution to the problems America is creating and perpetuating. If China keeps growing, soon they too will be outsourcing, without the brutality and exploition that is intrinsic to the American character.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 14, 2006 1:47:29 PM

China will be the master of soft power. I really see a lot of hope from China, and see that country as the solution to the problems America is creating and perpetuating.

What makes you think that China has any interest in using its "soft power" in order to export a "harmonious society" ? Do you really think there will be a time in the near future where outrage on the party of Chinese citizens about revenge rapes in Pakistan will result in "soft power" pressue against Pakistan on the part of the Chinese government?

In so far as China wants a "harmonious society," I always figured that this manifested itself as a desire for the country to remain stable and unitary, not as a desire to create a world of "harmonious societies" outside its borders.

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 14, 2006 2:09:28 PM

Well, on the ways to stop it front, maybe it'll be helpful to see how rape rates in other countries are reduced and see if there's anyway to repeat the success. Vengenance rape seems like a different beast than most, but like all rape, it's upheld by the notion that women somehow belong to men. So I guess the only real effective way to combat rape is to combat the notion that women are property. How to do that? Gooooood question.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 14, 2006 2:23:44 PM

The one thing that is critical is finding the activists inside any country that are fighting sexist practices and, you know, ask what they think the best idea is.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Oct 14, 2006 2:27:27 PM

It is almost as if Toke has never heard of the ACLU. There will never be Sharia law in the United States unless the American religious right manages to tear down the separation of chrurch and state.

Feminists already work with NGOs and organizations of Muslim women in an attempt to undo much of the damage done by tribal practices such as this. This is tribal not Islamic, the hard line clerics are just giving a religious gloss to the exercise of raw power over women and men of lower social orders.

TigerHawk is either uninformed or just misleading his readers if he can't manage a mention of Shirin Ebadi in Iran or Neither Whores nor Submissives in France. There has been specifically Islamic critiques of the treatment of women from both those places and that is all I can think of from the top of my head.

Posted by: ellenbrenna | Oct 14, 2006 2:33:22 PM

"I always figured that this manifested itself as a desire for the country to remain stable and unitary"

But that is a whole and deep worldview, including the Confucianism, respect for bureacracies, reverence for learning, near-atheistic religion combined with love of family. I think socialism is very "natural" to the Chinese, in ways it is a very hard struggle for the West. Chinese culture and attitudes are non-threatening and exportable to the developing world, by example if nothing else.

I also think their foreign policy will be more non-exploitative. They will not threaten existing gov'ts, as long as they are productive, nor try to install Chinese corporations, like Americans do with Halliburton. As a market, as a capital exporter, as a paradigm for other developing nations, I believe they will very soon be incredibly powerful.

I do reduce too much to economics, and maybe overrate true socialism, not welfare-state capitalism, as a transformative factor. And China has a way to go in feminism. But I think religious intransigence and irradicable Christian capitalist competitive attitudes will forever make America a net negative for the world, and China will be a net positive.

"So I guess the only real effective way to combat rape is to combat the notion that women are property. How to do that? Gooooood question."

Get rid of the idea of property.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 14, 2006 2:47:11 PM

...the notion that women somehow belong to men.

There it is. What a maroon. When other crimes against persons occur, is it because one person thinks that others "belong" to him/her??? Happen with murder, robbery, assault?? Is this *really* a gender issue or is this person just sufficiently motivated to make any issue a gender issue?

Amanda, you are a one trick pony, just as Pam is. It's all you talk about, it's all you do (and on the University's time, too). Face it, the heavy lifting has already been done and all you are left with are the scraps. You were just born about 40 years too late.

I think I'm gonna puke.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 14, 2006 3:46:41 PM

Microcredit Pioneer Wins Nobel Prize ...from Feministe, most of the loans went to poor women. I don't think this has been blogged here.

Hey, if I contradict myself, or seem incoherent, so be it. I will try anything and everything.

"The one thing that is critical is finding the activists inside any country that are fighting sexist practices and, you know, ask what they think the best idea is."

Organize, organize, educate and organize is always good. But I seem to remember arguments at Pandagon and elsewhere about "choice feminism" that might be relevant here. Now when you are trying to stop vengeance rapes and honor killings ideological purity is a very low priority. But preserving a culture while allowing just a little bit of change will run into a wall very quickly. Kinda like Christian fundie feminists, things can just get confused.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 14, 2006 4:36:53 PM

I dunno, Fred, why do *you* think men would punish the daughter of a man who has committed a slight against them? It could be because they immediately jump to the conclusion that whenever anything bad happens, it must be a woman's fault (a conclusion with which you might hold some sympathies), but it could also be because they think raping a man's daughter is similar to burning down a man's house or killing a man's livestock.

Posted by: Stacy | Oct 14, 2006 5:55:28 PM

Fred is an idiot troll. I just thought it needed saying.

As far as stopping hateful misogynist practices, there is no one answer. Political liberty and economic prosperity (removing the average man and woman from the power of petty chiefs with access to resources) is often a good start. There are undoubtedly good men (these women have sons, brothers, fathers, after all) in some of these villages afraid to speak up because the leaders ordering the rapes have all the power.

Our inability to do much in the situation results from our bumbling leadership that doesn't know how to use pressure on Musharraf (not least because it is just as authoritarian in its thinking) and from a lack of commitment and vision to encouraging NGOs and other organizations to make a difference. Oil trumps human rights. The irony being, of course, that ignoring human rights abuses increases instability...jeapordizing our access to oil.

Posted by: emjaybee | Oct 14, 2006 6:08:07 PM

"It is almost as if Toke has never heard of the ACLU. There will never be Sharia law in the United States unless the American religious right manages to tear down the separation of chrurch and state."

Oh I've heard of the ACLU. Most lawyers are going to hell, but those lawyers are on the 'Hell Express'.

Show me one example of someone being forced to pray to Christ in America. I can show you lots of examples of the ACLU going to court in order to deny Christians their right to pray.

I can show also show you examples of people being forced to convert to Islam or die, let alone pray to Allah

Posted by: Captain Toke | Oct 14, 2006 7:09:41 PM

emjaybee is an formula one moron. I just thought it needed saying.

Toke, that is a very good point. It is beyond me how unwilling all of these idiots are to place any blame on anyone or any group unless, of course, they are white and/or Christian. They seem to have no problem then.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 14, 2006 7:16:09 PM

Bull. The ACLU consistently fights for personal religious expression over institutional religious expression using public money. They have defended non-Christians harassed and proselytized using public money. They have also defended Christian students in the past whose bible quotes were banned from yearbooks but twitchy administrators. The difference is being forced to sing songs praising Christ to earn your grade and deciding to praise him on your own. The latter is defended by the ACLU while the former is attacked. One has to do with the exercise of institutional power in favor of one religion and the other is about personal religious expression. If you cannot tell which of those represents true religious freedom than there really is not much hope for you.

People in public settings, in schools, government meetings are made to wait respectfully and quietly while Christ is proclaimed as Lord by government officials at all levels. The idea that Christianity is oppressed is the most ridiculous thing promulgated in the last 30 years.

Convert or die? Sounds like what Islamic society lacks is religious tolerance and a separation between religion and state power. You know those hallmarks of enlightened Western civilization you seem to disdain. No comment on the moderate Muslim activists mentioned above but why bother with information that does not confirm what you have already decided is true.

Posted by: ellenbrenna | Oct 14, 2006 9:29:40 PM

Why does the ACLU fight so vehemently to keep 'moments of silence' out of schools and high school football games? They have said because someone might pray.

They won't let someone speak about Christ, not proselytize, but speak about Christ in school. Yet anyone can speak about any other religion, especially Islam, and the ACLU will fight for their right to do it.

The ACLU has:

1) Sued over the fact that boyscouts include God in their mission statement.
2) Sued over the government funding of boyscouts.
3) Sued over a 50-year old crucifix being on a national landmark out west.
4) Sued over the nativity scene appearing on public property.
5) Sued over a Bible course being an ELECTIVE in a public high school.

The boy scouts are a private club. And before you say it, all kinds of groups I find dispicable use public land.

How is the memorial in SD prosteletizing?

Or a nativity scene? Especially when there is a star of David and a Muslim crescent on the same public land?

How is an elective prosteltizing? You don't have to take an elective.

The ACLU targets Christianity.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Oct 15, 2006 9:16:31 AM

The ACLU does, indeed, target Christianity. They will also include a few token cases to ward off criticism of their policies, but on the whole, you are correct.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 15, 2006 11:17:05 AM

Christians are the majority in this country so when someone abuses their institutional power to endorse their religion here they are usually Christian. This is about power not about distaste for one particular religion:


Individual Christian religious expression is defended:


The ACLU does not go trolling around looking for nativity scenes to tear down and graduation ceremonies to strip of prayers. These suits are brought by citizens who feel their right to religious freedom has been infringed by people in power promoting the majority preferred religion at their expense.

Once again you ignore how this construction allows for increased individual liberty and reduced state interference. Also how if you had such a separation in other countries you could avoid sectarian and ethnic struggle over control of government power becuase having a majority control the government would not have any effect on the liberty of religious minorities. Religious and ethnic diversity and tolerance makes our country more stable and guarantees more freedom than other places but you hate it and you hate the organizations that fight for it. Sad, to hate the things that make our country great.

Posted by: ellenbrenna | Oct 15, 2006 2:54:09 PM

Why would the ACLU support removing a nativity scene from public ground but say nothing of the star of David or Muslim crescent on the same ground? Is that in the interest of justice, or targeting one religion?

Oh, I bet it is cuz Christianity is the majority religion. That makes it fair, right ellenbrenna?

Does the ACLU have to take these cases? Why would the take a case saying an elective course is prosteletizing? Or that a memorial is offensive?

If someone finds a big cross offensive, I'd say they have mental issues. If the ACLU takes that case, they have the problem, not the 99.9% of the people who drive by that memorial every day and don't feel offended.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Oct 15, 2006 7:06:09 PM

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