What a strange few days it’s been for me. It’s 25°C today, and it’s been about that for the past several days. And all the while, while sweating and cursing the unnatural heat, I’ve been working crazy hours and basically ignoring the goings-on on the intertubes. I honestly feel something like one of those Sims characters, whose Fun meter has completely bottomed out and is waving frantically at the camera and yelling about a video game controller or something. For some reason, I consider mocking ridiculous nonsense on the internet to be stress relief in a way.
But, where to start? There’s just so much! I guess I’ll just have to pick the most execrable piece of news I’ve come across; the piece of news that makes all my own personal travails seem like the first-world problems that they are. Something so damning of humanity that I can retreat comfortably into the crazy amounts of overnight work I need to do tonight as though it was a candlelit warm bath with a glass of wine.
Something like this story. Emphasis mine.
The suicide of Amina Filali, a Moroccan 16 year old instructed by a court to marry her rapist, has sparked outrage on the internet and protests in the streets of Barat, Morocco’s capital. A law allowing rapists to escape prosecution if they marry their victims is an “embarrassment”, campaigners say – which is one way to put it, although some might prefer “psychological torture” or “total disgrace”.
This sort of horror is not limited to Morocco though.
There are eight other countries where marrying your rapist is part of the penal code, and still more where tradition means it happens regardless of the legal system, because the loss of a woman’s virginity outside marriage also means the loss of family honour. Honour is often associated with sharia law, but the rape-marriage practice exists far beyond the Islamic world – perhaps unsurprisingly, since it’s recommended in the Old Testament. Less than 15 years ago, there were 12 Latin American countries which married women off to their rapists, while women from Romania to India have experienced the same treatment. A recent comment piece in the Times of India ran under the headline “Should a woman marry her rapist?” with the provocative intro, “When a rapist offers to marry the victim, one would think it’s the perfect solution”.
The paper of record in the world’s fastest-growing democracy ran an article that accedes, even superficially, to the idea that making a woman marry the man who raped her is a viable solution, or that “some people” might think so. This is rather disturbing in and of itself. I am gratified that the article argues against it, but in doing so, it gave way too much ground to the old religious demands codified in that Old Testament, which are predicated on the idea of women as chattel.
It is the year 2012. 2012. How is it that this persistent and horrendous meme, this idea that some human beings exist only to serve as chattel or property for other human beings, persists? How is it that a religious tradition so steeped in such inhumanity, all three of the Abrahamic Religions in fact, persist to this day unchallenged? Are we as a species not better than these very old and very immoral ideologies? These rotten philosophies whose core ideals only serve to underscore and codify, rather than compensate for, our species’ frequent lack of empathy for one another? And why are we giving so much credence to these memes when they came into being multiple thousands of years ago, and in light of all the destruction and human hardship these philosophies have wrought on our planet in the interim? How did these memes not simply die out as better ones emerged through our collective experiences?
If anything, we humans have improved our morality such that the majority of us, those of us unfettered by the dogmas of ages past, recognize that the use of women as chattel and the societal mores where a man’s honor is tarnished when that chattel’s worth is stripped are grossly immoral. We recognize that this chattel is a living, breathing, self-aware, sentient human being, who deserves every inch of the self-determination that every other male human being enjoys in those societies. It is because of this improved morality that so many people find the idea of a sixteen year old rape victim being ordered by the religious court to marry her rapist completely repugnant. However, if you believe the very old ideas in the Old Testament were passed down by some sort of divine, all-loving being whose will must be followed or you face eternal torment, it’s only natural that these very terrible and inhumane moral judgments emerge in any system of justice built on the foundation of those ideas.
If this isn’t proof positive in your eyes that religion itself is an atavism, a throwback to our earliest attempts at building moral codes by which society would run for the betterment of all humankind, I honestly can’t think of anything that might convince you.
The “perfect solution” is to dismantle those religious memes whose moralities we’ve long since surpassed. The perfect solution is to punish the villain who violated this child’s integrity, not to gift this villain with the girl and drive her to suicide. The perfect solution is to recognize how this travesty came to be, and to end the framework that allowed it to happen. To end this framework, in fact, with prejudice — with all the fury and scorn and righteous anger it deserves. Kill these ideas so they can never re-emerge. Take what few good parts there are in any religious philosophies and recognize that they are good on their own merits.
Raze the rest to the ground, and salt the earth.