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Dec 04 2013

Respect for customs and traditions

The hostile amendments to that UN resolution on protecting the defenders of women’s rights did a lot of damage, as a matter of fact.

African nations, the Vatican, Iran, Russia, China and conservative Muslim states had sought to weaken the resolution passed by the assembly’s human rights committee, diplomats and activists said.

Fraught negotiations were held over the text.

African countries had insisted on highlighting respect for customs and traditions. Russia, Iran and China had called for language which insisted the rights defenders should follow national laws, diplomats and activists said.

In the end Norway agreed to delete a paragraph which said states should “strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and women human rights defenders and refrain from invoking any customs, traditions or religious consideration to avoid their obligations.”

African nations in turn withdrew a proposed amendment which said human rights defenders had to fall in line with “local situations,” diplomats said.

That’s pretty horrifying. More than 30 European countries, including Britain, France and Germany, backed out of the whole deal because of it.

The Vatican led opponents to references in the draft to the risks faced by those working on sexual and reproductive health and gender rights, activists who monitored the talks said.

Rights groups said the UN committee should have stood firm against the changes.

Women human rights defenders often “challenge traditional religious and cultural values and practices which subordinate, stigmatise or restrict women” when they take up gender and sexual rights, said Eleanor Openshaw of the International Service for Human Rights.

I’m so sick of Team No to Women’s Rights.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    MrFancyPants

    In the end Norway agreed to delete a paragraph which said states should “strongly condemn all forms of violence against women and women human rights defenders and refrain from invoking any customs, traditions or religious consideration to avoid their obligations.”

    What is WRONG with you, Norway?! Diplomacy has its uses, but there are some things that civilized peoples just do not negotiate. Accepting systemic violence against women as part of some cultural tradition is wrong, full stop. There is absolutely nothing worth gaining that could explain that kind of acceptance.

    I know this is preaching to the choir, but yeesh. Of all the countries that might cave in on something like this, one of that last that I would expect would be a supposedly enlightened scandanavian one. Multiculturalism is great, respecting culture and tradition is great, but passively accepting gender discrimination–much less outright violence–is… it’s… oh, bollocks. I just don’t have a vehement enough corpus of words to use.

  2. 2
    Axxyaan

    @MrFancyPants

    You shouldn’t idealise Norway. Last time I looked around Norway still had no laws that forbid rape within the marriage.

  3. 3
    brucegorton

    Funnily enough my column finally went up today – dealing with much the same thing.

    http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2013/12/05/sexism-religion-and-culture

    The gist of it being when we talk about human rights, religion, culture and traditions are precisely the problem.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    “Customs and traditions” was the exact same argument used by the Confederation to defend slavery. Imagine what would have happened if the Union had caved.

  5. 5
    quixote

    The human rights of half of humanity are negotiable.

    Boggling. Just boggling.

    Unless, of course, plenty of people think they’re not really human.

  6. 6
    Feline

    Axxyaan:

    You shouldn’t idealise Norway. Last time I looked around Norway still had no laws that forbid rape within the marriage.

    Wikipedia proposes that you haven’t looked since ’71.
    Still, one shouldn’t idealise any nation.

  7. 7
    Axxyaan

    Well this article suggest that what I saw needn’t have been that long ago: http://www.mommyish.com/2011/10/25/women-abuse-norway-marital-rape-study-563/

    Norway remains one of the 127 countries that do not recognize rape within a marriage to be a crime. Most western nations have managed to criminalize marital rape, but the notion that marrying a woman obliterates the need for consent remains intact in many parts of the world — even allegedly gender-egalitarian Norway.

  8. 8
    Feline

    And then we get to what I’m guessing is that article’s source, this New York Times article which states:

    But Norway is still one of 127 countries in the world — including 12 members of the European Union — that do not explicitly criminalize rape within marriage, according to a survey of women’s access to justice published by U.N. Women last July.

    Emphasis mine.
    It continues:

    While all Western nations have now removed exemptions for husbands from rape legislation, preconceptions about sexuality in marriage live on, said Laura Turquet, chief author of the U.N. 2011 Progress of the World’s Women report.

    Norway and other Scandinavian countries got there relatively early, in the 1960s and 1970s. But Germany only removed its spousal exemption in 1997. In 1993, North Carolina became the last U.S. state to do so. Until 1992, Britain had a common-law principle that assumed the marriage contract implied consent.

  9. 9
    Axxyaan

    The problem seems to be that removing exemptions for husbands is not enough for having an effective policy against marital rape. Not if you live in a society that somehow regards marital rape as a contradiction in terms or as a taboo. In that case you need an explicit mention of marital rape in law as an important signal or at least a serious public campaign to raise awareness. Not only to society at large but also to the police and procecutors that this is something they should treat seriously.

  10. 10
    Feline

    Be that as it may, it is an argument that is completely different from

    Last time I looked around Norway still had no laws that forbid rape within the marriage.

  11. 11
    Axxyaan

    You are right my statement was wrong as written. I apologize for that.

  12. 12
    Feline

    Now, misunderstand me right. If we have a law that is underutilised we should complain about it. If the reason for it is cultural we should assault that culture with all we have. But our attacks should be well aimed to ensure that they are not easily dismissed, if for no other reason.
    So saying “Marital rape is legal in Norway” is a bad idea because it’s not true, so it needn’t be confronted. Saying “Marital rape isn’t prosecuted in Norway as it should be according to the law” may or may not be true, but it can’t be dismissed by a simple reference to the lawbook, but rather it must be taken aboard as a serious argument.

    Now, looking at my first response I phrased it unnecessarily antagonistic, which was poorly done by me. I should have done better, and I apologize for failing to do so.

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