Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What everybody's thinking

Several people (pundits as well as some bloggers) have remarked or implied that the lack of protection for women in the new Iraqi constitution (see prev. post) doesn't matter. It's possible that they just don't understand the notion of human rights or what it's like to have been born into the wrong category, but I think that Echidne has nailed the real reason here:
The usually unspoken argument of those who find women's social rights unimportant for democracy is that democracy in places like Iraq can take a different form: one limited to men only, because democracy elsewhere, including in the United States, once assigned equal rights to only some people, such as white men. Yet over time these rights were extended to others, including women. In other words, Iraq and other countries such as Afghanistan are viewed as outdated forms of our own country. Medieval, perhaps. But with the passage of time surely these countries will emulate what took place in the West? And if not, well, the men who are making the U.S. decisions right now are unlikely to suffer. And maybe the people "over there" are really different. Maybe they don't want democracy, after all. At least for the women. After all, we let the women vote, too, and look how they voted! Mostly they voted for their religion so they must want to be oppressed.
The latter part becomes the rationalizations, but I think that the first part is exactly what's going on -- we can't expect other countries to jump right to a modern concept of justice and equality without going through the evolution. Because, um, they're culturally and presumably personally backward (obviously!).

(Of course, they should expect to be trusted with a modern military, but perhaps their wives will be ok at home for a few centuries.)

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