Human Rights Badasses

From the LA Times via feministing:

Nujood Ali was pulled out of school and forced to marry a man 3 times her age, even though she is well below the age of consent in Yemen.  He beat and sexually abused her.  She went to court and got a divorce!  Now she’s back in school.

“When I left school, I learned how to count from one to 100,” she said. “Now, I am going to learn how to count until a million.”

Sometimes people say that feminism is bad because it made divorce rates go up.  Looking at this story, I can just say, “Fuck yeah.”

Sorry I’m not as eloquent as Nujood (she’s just outperforming me all over the place).


Habiba Sultana is a 13 year old girl in Bangladesh. Her father needed money and decided to marry her off to a 23 year old man. She didn’t want to, but what did that matter? She told some of her friends about it at her all-girls school, and they decided that it did matter. Well, that, and it’s against the law to marry off a minor. As usual, my sources conflict on some details. El Pais says a friend told her father (her own father, not Sultana’s) about the issue and asked him to report it to the police, but he didn’t. BBC says Sultana’s friends parents tried to get her father to call the wedding off, but he didn’t. Either way, patriarchy would have the story end there, but these high school girls decided they could accomplish something without depending on men to do it for them and without giving up when a man says no. 50 girls from her school protested the marriage, and sure enough, it was called off and Sultana’s father had to sign that he wouldn’t marry her off until she was of age.

There are lots of things still wrong here, and there are a lot of root problems that need to be fixed before child marriage will end. Poverty, for one, patriarchy, for another, the commodification of women and girls, for yet another. But I can’t help but smile to think about these girls. When I was 13, I would’ve been too self-conscious to protest against something and risk getting in trouble or looking weird. And this is in Bangladesh, not the be-an-individual United States. Quite impressive. And it worked! Sure, she’ll get married off when she’s 18, and there’s no guarantee that guy will treat her properly, but the girls protested and people listened and their demands were met. Females got their voices heard. Kids got their voices heard. Double whammy against patriarchy right there. I hope this experience makes them confident to keep speaking up in the future. Good times.

You can also find the story in the Bangladeshi paper The Daily Star, and I got this from feministing.

Dowries, money that the bride’s family pays to the groom’s family, have already been outlawed in India. India’s problem when it comes to the mistreatment of women is not so much that it lacks the proper laws. Enforcement, however, is another story entirely. It’s against the law to dedicate your daughter as a devadasi, a sex slave to the goddess, but it still happens. It’s against the law to decide whether to abort a fetus based on the fetus’s sex, but somehow lots more female fetuses get aborted than male fetuses. (No, women’s rarity will not help them. It will increase sex slavery and the buying of foreign brides.) And so on. Not that enforcement trouble is in any way unique to India, but there’s your background information.

Pooja Chauhan’s husband and parents were (allegedly*) “physically torturing” her to get her to pay a dowry. The Times of India says it got worse when she bore a girl child. She reported her husband and his family, but nothing happened. In her desperation, she tried to set herself on fire but the police stopped her. So she cried about it. Just kidding, she’s a Badass, of course. (No offense to women who would cry about it, I sure would.) She stripped down to her underwear and paraded in the streets of the conservative neighborhood to embarrass her husband and his family. Brilliant! Of course it got people’s attention, and all the sudden the police became a little more cooperative.

Bad news: 1) Some people commented on the TOI website that even though this shouldn’t have happened to her, she was wrong to go to such extreme measures as to walk around in her underwear. Please join me in a collective exasperated eye roll. (Not that I don’t understand different standards of modesty, but seriously, even trying to immolate herself didn’t work. I think extremes were called for and people need to stop victim-blaming. Remember, women are killed over dowries sometimes.) 2) Although the BBC said police denied charging her for indecent exposure, the Times said they did (but that they would take into account her mental state). Are these the same police who ignored her plight for so long? Good job.

Back to the good news: Here’s another story about a Badass, Nisha Sharma, who didn’t put up with this dowry crap, risking shame in another way by calling off her wedding. She’s in Indian textbooks now :).

*I saw on another blog that the law under which the husband and his parents were arrested is a law that provides for the accused to be guilty until proven innocent, which is a violation of human rights. I’m not an expert on this case or Indian law, but regardless of what people do, violating human rights is not ok.

et cetera