Wednesday, November 11, 2009



10th November, 2009

Who is scared of women? Apparently a lot of men are. From the dusty small villages of Afghanistan to the US Capitol Hill, there are men who literally shake at the thought of women’s freedom, and will do anything to silence them.

I came to this conclusion this past weekend watching the US Congress debate the healthcare on Saturday morning. The US healthcare debate, many will recall, has divided the US into two, those who support reform so that million of Americans can get medical coverage, and those who do not want reform. But what surprised me was the new tactics that Republican opponents of healthcare reform are using.

On Saturday morning, scared of what the Democratic Party women’s caucus had to say about healthcare reform, the Republicans led by Representative Tom Price of Georgia began yelling the word “I object” every time one of the women rose up to speak.

The chairman, Representative John Dingell from Michigan was powerless to stop these attacks on democracy. He tried several times to reel in the unruly Republicans by telling them that their objections were out of order, but they ignored him too.

I thought to myself, how is Representative Tom Price and all those men drowning out the voices of women in the US Congress any different from the conservative Taliban in Afghanistan who throw acid in young women’s faces to discourage them from going to school? Or how are these so-called enlightened Americans different from Somali’s ultra-conservative al-Shabaab stoning women to death for crimes labelled as immoral?

Seriously, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that when men speak about being conservatives about anything as these reprehensible Republicans were, it is often because they object to women doing certain things or acting in a certain way. Conservatism, from this perspective, is an exercise in objecting to women’s freedom but rarely about men’s behaviour. Take the aforementioned Taliban for example. A story is told about an Afghani woman nursing a feverish baby to the doctor. With no male relative around to escort her, she set out with her sick child in her arms. Unfortunately for her, she was spotted by a young Taliban who ordered her to stop. When she refused, he lifted his gun and shot the woman and child, sending both sprawling in the dust. The wounded mother and child were rescued by onlookers who intervened. What was her crime? She dared to walk outdoors without a male relative as escort, a crime in the days before the Talibans were kicked out!

Meanwhile, in their attempts to impose sharia laws in Somalia, the conservative al-Shabaab which controls most of the southern part of Somalia have been stopping women suspected of wearing bras that make their breasts look and feel firmer. Labelled as cheats, women with bras are stripped and whipped in public! Meanwhile, the BBC reports the stoning to death in al-Shabaab- controlled port town of Merka in southern Somali of 33-year- old Abas Hussein Abdirahman for adultery. The report said the dead man’s girlfriend was spared because she is pregnant and will be stoned to death on giving birth. Now, before someone says, well, at least, both man and woman are being treated with similar fates in this instance, my response is simply this—the woman is the real target of this murderous injustice, the man happened to be in the way, so he was stoned to death.

Meanwhile in July, Sudanese Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein made international news when along with 12 other women she was rounded up in a Khartoum café by the morality police for wearing trousers. The sentence imposed on her after she opted to go to court was 40 lashes to her back. Other women who pleaded guilty were administered 10 lashes on the spot. And in Geisy Arruda, a 20-year-old Brazilian female student at Bandeirante University in Sao Bernardo do Campo, outside Sao Paulo, was expelled from campus for disrespecting “ethical principles, academic dignity and morality”. What did she do? She wore a mini-skirt on campus.

My point is simply this, when a woman is beaten up for wearing trousers, and another shot for daring to walk alone with a sick child, and a bunch of others shouted down by men who claim to speak for the majority, you know there is only one reason for these actions—the men are simply scared of women’s freedom.

Representative Tom Price may consider himself an educated American who lives in the ‘Land of the Free’ but his actions on Saturday had much more in common with the actions of the Taliban and al-Shabaab than with the actions of a law-maker in a democratic nation.

As one disgusted American commentator put it on the internet, “… that those no good sons of dogs didn’t allow the female Congress members to speak, trying to claim that they are the ‘victims’ in having their rights restricted to speak is nothing less than reprehensible!!” I agree wholeheartedly with that comment.