Human Rights Badasses

{July 30, 2009}   Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein wears the pants

I found this article via Pharyngula about a Sudanese woman who is sentenced to 40 lashes and an unlimited fine for wearing pants, which is against the Sudanese interpretation of Sharia law.  This woman is a journalist for the UN, and could have used her job to get out of the punishment, but she instead quit her job so that she would have to go to trial in an effort to be the test case that causes the overturning of this law.  That is exactly what badassery is all about.  I’ve been trying to make pants lately, and now I just love them even more.  She wore the same pants she was condemned for to her first court appearance, and she has been publicizing her case.  I mean, what can I say besides rock the fuck on.

I also applaud PZ Myers of Pharyngula for being straight-up about feminism and patriarchy.  He easily could have just said that this is what happens when people follow crazy religions, as he is a staunch atheist.  But he clearly stated that this is about patriarchy and that patriarchy is about more than religious nuts and that it is wrong.  This is heartening, because in the past I have seen a lot of (accepted) sexism among atheists and other people who are liberal but not specifically feminist.  He did kinda miss the point of being a test trial, but anyway.

So, about the law itself.  I’m for the separation of church (religion) and state, so Shariah law doesn’t fly with me unless people have the option of whether to submit themselves to it or something like that.  I also think laws that treat men differently from women are, in general, sexist and wrong.  I say in general because I recognize that there may be bizarre cases where it’s actually more appropriate to treat the sexes differently, but I think those are very rare.  I think it is sexist and immoral to blame the victims of sexual assault, and I believe that this law is based on the idea that women in pants will provoke men to sexually assault them, or at least lust after them.  That is completely backwards, not supported by any evidence, and a way of doubly punishing women.  I also think lashing is a terrible punishment for breaking a law.

With that said, I do not think all of this is proof that Sudan sux and the US rulez.  Or the same of Muslims and Christians, or whatever.  We have problems in the US with the separation of church and state (hello, we call it church instead of religion, that should be a hint), with sexist laws (still haven’t passed the Equal Rights Amendment, and we are the only industrialized nation that has not ratified CEDAW, which puts us in the same camp as Sudan on that one), with victim blaming (don’t even get me started), and with inhumane punishments (the death penalty).  That’s all of the issues I raised.  Our problems may not be as acute as those in some other places, but that is probably due to a mix of historical forces rather than anyone’s inherent rationality or whatever.  After all, this badass woman is Sudanese.

Funny story about the death penalty (since I definitely won’t get a laugh from anyone in my hometown about it): a friend of mine has a bumper sticker that says “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”  It’s supposed to be a conservative point against high taxes and that kind of thing.  Now, the person who has this bumper sticker is not blindly Republican, so she may be against the death penalty, but if she isn’t, tell me that isn’t ironic.  How many conservatives do you think there are out there warning that the government can take away your money and supporting a government that can take away your life?  And how many of them do you think would denounce Sudan as barbaric?


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