Christian-Like Ethics


Content Warning: Rape and humans behaving horribly badly

This is nearly unbelievably bad at every level. So, I am trying to contextualize it in a way that I can even get the idea into and across my brain without something exploding.

In Pakistan, a “revenge rape” was ordered. Fortunately, it appears that authority has gotten somewhat involved and is trying to sort things out a bit now that it’s all too late, but everything – and I mean everything – about this story is off the chart horrible. [bbc]

Some 20 people from Multan, Pakistan, have been arrested for ordering the rape of a teenage girl, in revenge for a rape her brother allegedly committed.

Police said the families of the two girls are related.

Members of both had joined forces to decide what should be done.

“A jirga [village council] had ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl as punishment, as her brother had raped a 12-year-old,” police official Allah Baksh told AFP.

He said the village council was approached earlier this month by a man who said his 12-year-old sister had been raped by their cousin.

The council then ordered the complainant to rape the sister of the accused in return – which police say he did.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that the girl was forced to appear before the group and raped in front of them and her parents.

The reason I entitled this posting “Christian Ethics” is because that’s what this is: A wronged B, therefore B wrongs C, and the scales of justice are… what? The words “utterly broken” come to mind. Rather than righting a wrong, this perpetuates it, as Miles Vorkosigan says, “A policy of ‘Death before dishonor’ leads to a world of nothing but the dead and forsworn.”

Retaliation must result in an inevitable knock-on effect, because A wrongs B, B wrongs C, therefore D is now justified in retaliating against B on the perfectly reasonable grounds that C never did anything to deserve being attacked by B. Etc. Pretty quickly, everyone is blind and toothless from a chain-reaction of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” and if anyone escalates, everyone winds up dead. I used to wonder how this worked for Hammurabi’s code, because eventually someone has to put their foot down (assuming it hasn’t been cut off) and say “Stop! Justice is Done!” So now, in Pakistan, what will happen to the members of the jirga, who conspired to rape the 16 year-old girl? Perhaps a firing squad can be drafted from the next village over? Then “who will fire on this firing squad?”

I’ve been meaning to do some postings about the question of retaliation and its role in ethical systems, but this incident has left the taste of blood and ashes in my mouth and I’m not sure I can bear thinking about it for a while.

------ divider ------

“Thou shalt not kill” is a famous dictum, often ignored. Who kills the executioner?

I was thinking “what would Moral Philosopher Sam Harris say?” and I realized he’d probably just blame it on their islamic beliefs.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    A wronged B, therefore B wrongs C

    That’s not even what happened. A wronged B, so B’s brother, C, complained and was instructed by the “authorities” to wrong D.

    It’s important to note that neither C nor D had any part in the original wrong.

  2. John Morales says

    Basic payback — eye for an eye, rape of a relative for a rape of a relative.

    Old Testament stuff.

  3. says

    John has it right, that’s pure Old Testament, notable for making sure it’s always women who end up raped and/or dead for the ‘sins’ committed by men.

  4. says

    John Morales@#2:
    Old Testament stuff.

    Yup. Which is Hammurabi stuff. Which is probably Akkadian stuff.

    It tells me how much progress we’ve made with humanist values, consequentialism, deontological ethics, etc. I.e.: not much.

  5. says

    Caine@#3:
    it’s always women who end up raped and/or dead for the ‘sins’ committed by men.

    Yes, that kind of jumps right out at you, doesn’t it? Why didn’t they have the boy rape the other boy in retaliation? Oh, right, we don’t want any of that same-sex stuff.

  6. says

    sonofrojblake@#1:
    It’s important to note that neither C nor D had any part in the original wrong.

    It’s hard to sort out who’s wrongest in this little trolley car experiment of horrors. I will note that C did carry out the retaliatory rape, he had the option of refusing.

  7. says

    Yes, this is a particularly nasty example, but you ought to be aware that this is a ridiculously widespread phenomenon.
    * Americans, angry about terror attacks and unable to get their hands on terrorists themselves, decided to get their revenge by dropping bombs on some Muslim civilians and waterboarding some other innocent people who just happened to be Muslims.
    * Russian soldiers in the aftermath of WWII, unable to get their hands on Hitler, decided to get their revenge by brutally gang raping millions of German girls and civilian women.
    * Europeans who have their wallet stolen by a single non-white pickpocket retaliate by hurting innocent asylum seekers.
    * A person who gets abused by a single cop retaliates against the whole country (for example, by avoiding paying taxes).
    * Or just look at the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. One side kills some civilians. The victims retaliate by killing some innocent civilians who happen to live on the other side. And so on…

    A particularly silly example happened with one woman I knew. On one occasion a public transport ticket inspector stole some money from her. He forced her to pay a fine despite the fact that she had a ticket. She got really pissed off and decided that from then on it was a matter of honor to “earn back” the money she got stolen by taking public transport rides without tickets. She couldn’t retaliate against that single dishonest and abusive ticket inspector, so she chose the public transport provider as the substitute target.

    Pretty quickly, everyone is blind and toothless from a chain-reaction of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” and if anyone escalates, everyone winds up dead.

    To some limited extent I can accept a situation where you get revenge against the person who hurt you. If A rapes or murders somebody, I definitely do not mind to see A spending some years rotting in jail. I have also personally gotten revenge on some occasions. For example, years ago when a foolish school classmate attempted to bully me, I got my revenge by publicly humiliating him in front of the whole class (I was good with verbal abuse even back then).

    The big problem starts when A is too mighty to hurt, therefore you end up hurting A’s little sister or just a random person from A’s ethnical group. Another problem is with disproportionate retribution. For example, somebody steals a wallet and gets his hand chopped off for punishment.

  8. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#7:
    you ought to be aware that this is a ridiculously widespread phenomenon.

    I am.

    To some limited extent I can accept a situation where you get revenge against the person who hurt you.

    Well, I want to set up the foundation for an argument that consequentialist ethical systems don’t take retaliation fully into account, but I’m not sure where that leaves me. For the record: I am pretty skeptical about game theory and “tit for tat” frameworks (standard objection to game theory: it’s oversimplified to the point that it rarely teaches anything about the real world) There appears to be a positive case for retaliation, as you say – we embed punitive damages and asymmetrical responses to wrongs in a lot of places in civilization.

    This incident, in particular, makes me want to reject civilization entirely.

  9. says

    There appears to be a positive case for retaliation, as you say – we embed punitive damages and asymmetrical responses to wrongs in a lot of places in civilization.

    If criminals can get away with their actions, that’s a big problem, because it motivates people to commit crimes. (“Can’t get a date? Just rape somebody. You’ll get away with it anyway.”) I would even argue that lack of any punishment is a direct reason why some crimes are extremely widespread (for example, there are way too many men who grope women’s butts on the street and I suspect they would stop touching strangers if there was any punishment for this).

    Moreover, knowing that the wrongdoer was punished often helps victims get over the pain and move on with their life.

    I cannot argue in favor of “an eye for an eye”, because it cripples people to the point that they cannot normally live in the society after getting the punishment. Same goes for emotional damage (any punishment, which causes PTSD, is not acceptable).

    This incident, in particular, makes me want to reject civilization entirely.

    Firstly, I don’t believe that they had a good example of “civilization” in that place where this incident happened.
    Secondly, if we rejected civilization, what would we be left with? The same “laws” animals have in the jungle? Whichever male (it’s almost always some male) happens to have the strongest fists can do whatever the hell he pleases?

  10. anat says

    Punishment doesn’t need to be particularly harsh to be a deterrent but it has to be highly certain and predictable. Our system does the opposite – severe punishment at a very low percentage of occurrences. Worse than useless.

    And we don’t even try other ways of responding to crime such as restorative justice.

  11. brucegee1962 says

    Just to be absolutely clear here — we’re talking about two entirely separate ethical issues in this case. There were two assumptions made by the elders in this case. What makes the case monstrous is the first assumption: “Women should be treated as their male relatives’ property.” That’s what makes this sickening for most readers. The second assumption, the one our host latched on to, is “Retaliation can be a valid form of justice,” which seems far less clear-cut to me and other commenters. And if you want to make a case against retaliatory justice, then I’d say this makes for a particularly bad example, simply because it’s so emotionally charged from the first assumption.

  12. says

    Ieva Skrebele @ 7:

    I got my revenge by publicly humiliating him in front of the whole class (I was good with verbal abuse even back then).

    I really dislike humiliation, altogether. I think it’s responsible for a great many ills in human interactions. I grew up in a highly abusive household, and humiliation was a favoured tactic of one of my abusers. I can still recall a specific incident when I was 5 years old, and when I recall it, I still feel what I felt then, and I am 59 years old now.

    Humiliation leaves very deep scars, and people who are humiliated will, generally, find a way to strike out against it, thing is, it doesn’t much matter who they strike out against, so it’s very often not the person who humiliated them. Humiliating someone is one of those things that start a chain, and nothing good happens.

  13. Siobhan says

    @Ieva Skrebele

    Moreover, knowing that the wrongdoer was punished often helps victims get over the pain and move on with their life.

    I don’t know where you got that idea. I, for one, have never relished the thought of retaliation (either myself or with a legal system) against the people who have hurt me. If they were all incarcerated it would do nothing to help me “move on with my life.” It doesn’t take back the things that already happened. It doesn’t even guarantee it won’t happen again. They can hurt someone else while incarcerated. They could (and all evidence says “are likely to”) try again if their incarceration ever ends. There is nothing about this system, no choice I can make, that doesn’t just strike me as shuffing off the problem to someone else–either myself later on, another prisoner, or another person.

    None of this rests easy with me and I don’t know what to do about it, but I do know that it is patently false that my current options put me at ease.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    hard to sort out who’s wrongest

    I dunno… I’m comfortable with this ranking:
    C, the guy who rapes to order
    A, the guy who rapes
    E et al, the guys who order rapes.
    Note absence of B and D from list.

  15. sonofrojblake says

    “if you want to make a case against retaliatory justice, then I’d say this makes for a particularly bad example”

    This. If the council had ordered some unconnected person to cut an extremity off the original rapist, we’d none of us have heard of this case.

  16. says

    Siobhan @ 13:

    I, for one, have never relished the thought of retaliation (either myself or with a legal system) against the people who have hurt me. If they were all incarcerated it would do nothing to help me “move on with my life.” It doesn’t take back the things that already happened. It doesn’t even guarantee it won’t happen again.

    I struggle with this, and I greatly dislike the idea that revenge/retaliation/punishment is seen as healing. I cannot deny that knowing the man who raped and tried to murder me will die in prison is not a comfort of sorts. It is one, only because he has stated that he’ll go right back to raping and murdering if he’s ever released. The thought of one more woman…I can’t cope with that, so yes, I’m grateful he’s in place where he cannot harm others.

    That said, I think the amount of people who are truly too dangerous to be free in society is a small percentage, and even in such a case, there is no reason for the brutal way prisoners are treated here in uStates. If someone has to stay out of free society, they should still be able to have a reasonable life in which they can be productive in one way or another. At least, that would be the ideal to reach for. The penal system here only produces more criminals.

    Having been immersed in the so-called criminal justice system for too many years of my life, I met way too many people who well understood that any notion of revenge was hollow, and tended to make things worse. As you say, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t bring people back to life. It wouldn’t give me myself before the rape. That self is gone, and coping and coming to terms with that has been a lifelong process.

  17. says

    To Siobhan @#13
    I don’t know where you got that idea.

    Don’t you read literature? Plenty of novels are about a protagonist who was hurt in the past and has revenge as their goal. Or the Bible? There are plenty of bloody stories about God’s chosen people happily getting revenge (for example, prophet Elisha who got revenge when two bears mauled a group of kids).

    Personally I can’t stand the idea that somebody hurt me and got away with it. I really want revenge in such situations. And when I get revenge, I feel great and consider the problem solved. So, yeah, I suppose I am vengeful. And I can’t help how I feel about this. Intellectually I am well aware that getting revenge isn’t going to improve anything, but this doesn’t change how I feel.

    Incidentally, why do you think crime victims sue those who hurt them? There are plenty of situations when victims can choose whether to sue or not. And people often choose to sue even when it is obvious that they won’t gain anything besides revenge in case of victory.

  18. says

    Ieva Skrebele:

    Don’t you read literature? Plenty of novels are about a protagonist who was hurt in the past and has revenge as their goal. Or the Bible?

    Fiction is not actual life. It may resemble bits of actual life here and there, but it wouldn’t be a good idea to take any of it as gospel, as it were.

    Incidentally, why do you think crime victims sue those who hurt them?

    A good many of them do it for a semblance of justice. That’s different from wanting revenge. You know, it’s fine, if being vengeful is your thing, and it makes you happy, but that does not discount one point that Siobhan or myself has made. Your point of view is perhaps not quite as popular as you seem to think.

  19. says

    To Caine @#12

    A classmate attempted to bully me at school. What do you think I should have done instead? Silently endured bullying? Hell, no, I won’t. Punch his face? Sure, I would have loved to actually punch him instead, but there was a problem. I have been unlucky to be born with a female body. The wannabe bully was male, he was taller than me and he had more muscle mass. Starting a fist fight would have been risky for me (what if I lose?). Being born with the wrong body means that I have no other option but to use words instead of fists. My experience is that a bit of verbal abuse is enough to make any wannabe bully scared of getting near me (meaning: they won’t try bullying me again).

    And things aren’t that much better now that I’m adult. There are plenty of sexist men who believe that it’s OK to harass me or tell sexist jokes in my presence. I find that publicly humiliating them by using words is the best way how to make them understand that it’s a really bad idea to test my patience. If instead I politely say “please, stop doing this”, they tend not to understand and simply ignore my words.

    And I only use these tactics against those who deserve it. If somebody behaves like a jerk in my presence or attempts to hurt me directly, I consider myself free to retaliate. They started it and they challenged me.

    Speaking of shame and humiliation, I find it interesting how it’s used for controlling others. Humans aren’t born knowing when to feel ashamed. If a small child was stripped naked, had her hair shaved off and rotten food thrown at her, she wouldn’t feel ashamed, because she had no idea that one ought to feel humiliated in the given situation. The society teaches us what humiliation is and when to feel ashamed. But why should a defenseless victim feel ashamed about being abused? Logically it makes no sense. Victims feel humiliated only because centuries ago somebody established that this is how victims should feel. And those who have power use humiliation or threat of humiliation to enforce obedience. Personally I believe that logically there is no reason for victims to feel humiliated simply because they were unlucky to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s never the victim’s fault when something is done to them.

    I’d say that people have a reason to feel ashamed only for their own actions. Actions done while they can control the situation and are able to decide upon a course of action, yet end up doing something bad or stupid. Rude words and insults say nothing about the person to whom they are addressed, but they say a lot about the person who utters them. They say a lot about this person’s poor vocabulary and lack of decent manners. Same goes for attempts to humiliate another person by abusing her. Such actions cannot say anything about the person who happens to be defenseless, but they say a lot about the perpetrator of such shameful acts. And hurting somebody weak and defenseless is just pathetic. It only shows that the perpetrator doesn’t have the guts to face somebody capable of fighting back. (By the way, I never hurt those who are weak and defenseless, I target only jerks.)

    I think our society gets it wrong. A rape victim should never feel humiliated. It’s the rapist who ought to. Same goes for children who are unfortunate to end up with abusive parents.

    Things also get very interesting when you compare cultures. It turns out that different cultures have different “sets of rules” about when a person ought to feel humiliated. For example, in Muslim countries a woman having extramarital sex results in her whole family feeling humiliated. In Europe it’s perfectly normal with nobody feeling humiliated. Or sex work. In some cultures sex work in inherently humiliating while in other cultures prostitution is just a normal profession.

    Humiliating someone is one of those things that start a chain, and nothing good happens.

    Not necessary. Some years ago shortly after I joined my university’s debate club, my debate teacher absolutely humiliated me by making a brilliant rebuttal to an argument I had made. Sure, I didn’t enjoy it. And I still remember it very well. But this incident forced me to become a better debater and not make such a sloppy argument again. Being aware that I might regret my words forced me to think before I open my mouth. And as for my former debate teacher, we are still very good friends (probably I should call it “friends with benefits”).

  20. says

    To Caine @#18

    Your point of view is perhaps not quite as popular as you seem to think.

    I’m well aware that many people are different than me. And I never claimed that “everybody enjoys getting revenge”. I only claimed that I’m pretty certain that I’m not the single person on this planet who enjoys hurting those who have hurt me. And it’s better not to make assumptions about what others “seem to think” but haven’t actually stated.

    A good many of them do it for a semblance of justice. That’s different from wanting revenge.

    How would you define both of those? I mean, where is the difference between desiring justice and desiring revenge? I see both of those as desiring an identical outcome (in both cases you wish for the criminal to suffer).

  21. says

    To sonofrojblake @#14

    I dunno… I’m comfortable with this ranking:
    C, the guy who rapes to order
    A, the guy who rapes
    E et al, the guys who order rapes.

    My ranking would be very different. Starting from the worst:
    1) the guys who give orders to commit a rape;
    2) the first guy who rapes;
    3) the guy who rapes on orders.

    Without knowing the exact circumstances, I always tend to consider those who give an order for an atrocity worse than those who just follow this order and do the deed. Moreover those men were entrusted with solving a problem. They “solution” was the worst thing imaginable. This is why I rank them as the worst.

    As for the guy who raped on orders, he was under some pressure. He was influenced by his stupid culture, which gives some nasty rules about how one ought to behave in such situations. And he was also raised to believe in some stupid version of “family honor”. And he was given an order and some instructions about how he ought to “fix” the problem. For these reasons I would rank this guy as the last among the “wrongest”.

    The bottom line: everybody involved were so awful, that’s it is hard to conclude, which ones were the most wrong.

  22. komarov says

    Disclaimer: Having read the article, post and comment I must conclude that I have no idea what justice is. Makes me appreciate living a life where I’m not subject to violence, abuse or theft.

    That said, my ranking, as per sonofrojblake, would be
    1) E, the council
    2) A, C, the rapists
    3) F, the second victim’s family

    My reasoning: The rapists are catastrophic arseholes, period. I don’t see any point in differentiating between the two. I would grant no reprieve for being ordered to do it because the outcome is the same for both: someone innocent was raped. I’m no fan of mitigating circumstances anyway, they just tend to muddy the waters. It leads to fantastic excuses like, “I was angry”, “I was drunk”, “They provoked me”*, which are generally just bad attempts at re-casting oneself in the role of the victim. Nope.

    The village council gets the top spot because they apparently decided someone ought to be raped. They then went ahead and ordered the victims family to show up. “Please report to have your underage daughter raped immediately.”** Like I said, I have no idea what justice looks like, but these people are looking in the wrong direction, yet pride themselves on being authorities on the subject. They probably had little or no stake in the matter and decided someone who happened to be in the family of the alleged rapist should submit themselves to this abuse. That’s dictatorship on a very local scale: I have decided you should suffer for no other reason than my decision. They make the problem worse, perpetuate it and probably thought they were doing good work.For the response I again refer you to (**).

    *”And thus, by the time it was all over, the alligators didn’t even have to chew.”
    **Adding the second victim’s family to the list now on account of malicious idiocy and obedience. While I may be ignoring massive cultural and / or social barriers here I still think the correct response should be, ‘Go fuck yourself with a red-hot poker!”

  23. bmiller says

    One common trope is that modern justice systems are the worse. And the tales of police abuse certainly illustrate this. But “village law” tales such as this prove to me that devolving law all the way down to the small village level is not always the answer either. Bureaucracy is not always bad.

  24. lanir says

    I think the goal of justice is to keep awful things from happening again. It’s always reactionary so the simpel fact is you’re never going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again the same way. You just find a way forward that doesn’t involve more of the same. Certainly punishments and suffering have been one tool used for this. I think it’s only a problem when we get too caught up in it.

    There are great swathes of people in the US who seem to buy into the idea that once someone is convicted of a serious crime, they will try to repeat it. Most job applications ask if you have a felony. I don’t have one on my record but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on there. You’re a last resort. You’re selected out wherever possible. You become part of a group that is not as good as others. The options for how to live your life from that point on become limited. It’s a form of discrimination. Not entirely unwarranted, but then there are bad apples to point at in any group. Generalizing from the worst elements to the rest of a group is how discrimination works. And isn’t the whole point of the justice system to reform criminals where possible?

    I can’t help but feel that revenge ties into that somehow. You take revenge on people who don’t really count as people to you anymore. As an individual person, I’d be hard pressed to justify saying that was wrong; sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re backed into a corner where the only way out is through whoever is causing your problem. But a society has no valid reason for falling back on such a justification. If an individual can mortally threaten a society then that society has some obvoius areas open to improvement. This is a key difference between societies and individual people which cannot be ignored when choosing a path to find justice.

  25. Holms says

    It’s worth noting in the OP that the wronged party is considered by the authorities to be the family of the rape victim, rather than the girl herself. Her (male) relatives feel shame, therefore inflict the same on the family of the rapist… perhaps the clearest sign that the Islamic throcracies place zero value on women in and of themselves, there are merely accessories to the men.

    #23
    The great advance that codified law brings is that punishments become consistent, rather than being up to the whims of the local authorities. This advance is considered to be nearly 3,800 years old; non-codified local law is thus quite a step back.

  26. says

    Holms@#25:
    perhaps the clearest sign that the Islamic throcracies

    Part of the point of the whole discussion is that it’s not just islamic theocracies that do this kind of thing. Islam certainly figures in it, but travesty justice goes back thousands of years before mohammed.

  27. Holms says

    Sure, historically it existed in many societies… but the Islamic theocracies have clung to it the hardest in the modern era.

  28. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Caine in post 16
    I just want to applaud your post.

    However, in post 18, you say:

    A good many of them do it for a semblance of justice. That’s different from wanting revenge.

    I might dispute that. However, what you wrote is unclear. What do you mean by “justice”? The usual justifications that are trotted out in defense of after-the-fact punishment is:

    Deterrence effect. Forward looking. Prevent future harm by changing the internal cost-benefit calculus of future would-be criminals.

    Quarantine. Forward looking. For particular persons who are very likely to commit a crime again, keep them in a situation where they cannot.

    Rehabilitation. Forward looking. With targeted punishments (often in conjunction with other methods), one might be able to change a person into someone better for themself and better for society.

    Retribution. Backward looking. For the supporters of the retribution justification, retribution is its own moral good. I personally find this justification of punishment to be grotesque and barbaric.

    Revenge for the victims. Forward looking. The offenders are punished in order to make the victims feel better (or family of the victims feel better). I personally find this justification of punsihment to also be grotesque and barbaric.

    Honor punishments. Fucking horrible. Ugg, not even going to comment further.

    Offhand, I suspect that of the people who try to pursue legal action against people who have wronged them, many do so out of a thirst for retribution and revenge, as I’ve just defined the terms.

    So, given this context, could I politely ask you to clarify your statement? I’m just curious of your belief.

    To Holms

    Sure, historically it existed in many societies… but the Islamic theocracies have clung to it the hardest in the modern era.

    I’m sympathetic to your position. However, you need to recognize that it can be often quite difficult to disentangle religion from other elements of culture and politics. I think that’s particularly important in this example, given that IIRC there is no literal commandment anywhere in the Koran or the Hadiths that when a girl is raped, a man of the victim’s family should rape a girl of the first rapist’s family. Instead, in this case, it’s much more nebulous and hard to pin down how much religion is at fault. I’ll agree that religion has some element of fault, but it seems to me IMAO that honor systems of this sort thrive independently of religion, and it’s wrong to put a majority of the blame on religion.

    Then again, the Abrahamic religions do all have history that women shall be the property of men, and insofaras that have helped shape the culture, I’ll attribute some blame to religion, but IMAO the bigger part of the story is a self-sustained misogyny where women are viewed as second class citizens or outright property of male relatives, which can only in some small part be traced to religion.

  29. VolcanoMan says

    Moral Philosopher Sam Harris (as you call him) makes a compelling case against free will, which in turn leads him to find that all consequences for crimes that are not either rehabilitatory or protective of society are immoral. In his book Free Will he acknowledges that society has a right to protect itself from people who have harmed others and who may possibly harm others in the future. But if nobody is truly responsible at a deep level for who they are (personality, mental health, beliefs about the world) and therefore not responsible for what they do, there is no sense in retributive justice, and certainly no sense in retributive justice dispensed to an individual who had no part in any crime beyond being related to a criminal. Whatever his flaws on other issues (and he has a few), here at least he is on-point and probably correct.

    On another note, I find these “honor”-type features within cultures particularly revolting (I don’t actually know how the word “honor” got associated with this type of belief because for me, beliefs like these are the very antithesis of honorable). But here we have a man who ruined another family’s perfectly good virginal future-bride, and they punish him by getting a member of that family to ruin HIS family’s perfectly good virginal future-bride. There are so many toxic ideas associated with this kind of thinking that I don’t even know where to start!

    On reflection, there are at least three MAJOR issues here that I’d like to raise.

    Virginity is one, the idea that a woman can be devalued, either by a rapist, or by her own choosing to have sex before marriage. And certainly, there are places where being a victim of a rapist automatically leads to others suspecting you chose to have sex before marriage if you didn’t sufficiently try to fight the man off. Biological virginity is a scam though, since hymens don’t always break during sex, can break in other ways, and often heal after being damaged. And it’s a concept that is exclusively applied to women, even though the facts I just mentioned make it impossible to determine in almost all cases (I say almost all because women can get pregnant or have genital trauma that proves penetration, especially at younger ages). But the real issue I have with the idea of virginity is that people’s value should be in their brains, their identities, their relationships, not the pristine status of their genitalia. Maybe back in the pre-20th century when sex always meant a chance of pregnancy and there were sexist inheritance laws on the books, bogus attempts to prove sexual conduct had utility (even though they usually didn’t work). Nowadays, places where virgin brides are the most highly-valued are some of the most backwards, misogynistic places on the planet (and that includes many places in the Americas, including many US states). We really need to push back against this idea that sex is bad, and virginity is the sexual ideal.

    Second, is the idea that your female family members are like chattel, and therefore that a rapist will FEEL harmed by having his victim’s relative rape his own sister, that the shame he brought to one family is brought back to his own. Now naturally, nobody wants their sister to be raped, but the idea is that by hurting her you’re hurting him, and that is barbaric. Clearly the first rapist is a sexual predator and maybe a pedophile – he needs to be locked away from society for society’s protection, and he needs rehabilitation. The criminal justice system should serve to decrease crime, not cause further injustices.

    And finally, the very idea that a normal, non-sexual predator man whose sister was raped would agree to be the agent of supposed retribution just blows my mind. As far as I know, most men don’t want to rape women (or girls). Nevermind the very compelling moral reasons not to rape, which in that culture are strengthened by knowing that you’re trading a few minutes of maybe-pleasure for the lifetime value of the woman you’re raping. Sex is enjoyable only when you know your partner is enjoying it; honestly I’m not even sure I could maintain an erection if I had even the slightest doubt that my sexual partner was fully, actively consenting throughout a sexual encounter. The fact that this man was prepared to do this, and thought it was JUST is absolutely sickening.

  30. jws1 says

    Lex Talionis (I think that’s how it’s spelled), or “eye for an eye”‘, is often interpreted as opening a never-ending escalation of retributive justice but I think this view is incorrect. It actually is a hard limit on just what one can do to another who has wronged them; you can only take your neighbor’s eye if they take your eye. You can’t take their kids, their spouse, their friends, their property, etc.

  31. says

    jws1@#30:
    Lex Talionis (I think that’s how it’s spelled), or “eye for an eye”‘

    Yes, that’s it. Modern term for it would be “retorsion” or “retaliation” – people seem uncomfortable with “vengeance.”

    You can’t take their kids, their spouse, their friends, their property, etc.

    Well, in principle, yes.
    Hammurabi’s code is actually (in my view) fairly reasonable. Most of the penalties paid are by the wrongdoer. It doesn’t have the kind of monstrous third party punishment that we’re seeing in this case from Pakistan [hammurabi’s code]

  32. John Morales says

    Christian ethics is schizoid; on the one hand, you should love and forgive everyone — even your enemies and malefactors — but on the other you should smite the evildoers and the ungodly*.

    (That’s the Judeo-Christian tradition, of course. Because the OT remains part of Scriptures for Christians)

    * Iron chariots on their part is acceptable reason for failure.

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