Thursday, April 7, 2011

Preserving Honor


Hi. Another rant coming. The title might tip you off.

A word of advice: Form your own opinion about this issue. A situation can change depending on the words you use. I'm going to use strong words that will convey MY opinion and how I view this issue.

Yesterday we talked with someone. We went somewhere. We learned, spent money on taxis, went about our lives. But someone didn't because, "there was another honor killing yesterday (and by yesterday, I mean the day before yesterday--I'm quoting)." Yesterday I learned a little more about how women are treated, and I learned this from a reliable source, I promise. We went to talk with a woman about honor killings yesterday. Murder. Women are murdered by a family member, sometimes based on suspicion. It's an act commited when a family member feels that a female member of the family might be committing aldultery. It's a way for a family to uphold and preserve its honor, but it's still murder. Of a family member.

Anyway, as I was thinking about preserving honor, there seemed to be a lot of backward ways that people and state actors have been trying to preserve their own honor. Honor killings and crimes happen all over the world, which is a shame, but I'll just be talking about Jordan for a little while. I've heard different numbers for the amount of women that are killed to save a family's honor, but it's somewhere around the 20s. Other countries have different numbers, some larger than others. Regardless, women are dying because someone interprets the Qur'an that way. In the Qur'an, there is a passage about adultery. It says that 4 pure people (who have never even stolen a piece of gum or told a lie) have to witness the adultery happening. Who's gonna let ONE person watch if you're committing adultery? Even if these four pure people witness it, the Qur'an never states that a woman should be killed. Never. Who interpreted it this way? Now, it's gotten worse. Women are sometimes killed even if they're not married. Sometimes they get killed for speaking, or looking (!), at a man.

However, there are wonderful organizations that work to protect women from being harmed by their families. They're doing good work with the limited resources they have. Civil Societies Organizations and NGOs are severely underfunded and undersupported. If a change is going to come, then we need to start funding the right people. But do you know how some women are protected? They're put in jail. Women who could be entirely innocent (or who cares, might not be innocent) are put in a jail, paid for through taxes, for their own protection from family members. How disgusting. Some women are in these prisons for years and years. Imagine being threatened by your family, a group of people supposed to create a safety net of love, trust and respect and get put in jail, locked up and alone. These women can't be let out until someone from the family releases them or the governor grants permission. Usually he wants to protect HIS honor, so he doesn't let the women out. If he did and the family killed her, it would be the governor's fault and his honor and prestige would be tarnished. Within the recent years, IGOs have targeted Jordan and discussed the women's prison situation. The government has encouraged NGOs to work with and free the women to preserve Jordan's honor. This culture of pride is constantly getting in the way of truly understanding the value and weight of a human being. What about a woman's honor? Are people thinking about this? What about HER pride?

I've noticed that people are really nosy here. Back in America, people may have the same questions, but it's not like they just blurt them out. I'm being super cynical right now because of this topic, but people get into each other's businesses all the time. I've had five (count it, FIVE) strangers ask me about the acne on my face. That's what children do. Children don't understand the context of situations, and excuse me, taxi driver, you don't need to know anything about it either. I want people to live freely. Who cares if a woman is chatting with a man on facebook? Who cares if a woman and a man look at pictures together? Who cares if a woman and a man start dating? Also, whose business is it, other than the parties directly involved, if someone is committing adultery? I'm really starting to feel sorry for celebrities. Personal lives are so wonderful to have.

So, sometimes women get out. Sometimes families come and reclaim their daughters, sisters, wives, neices, aunts and cousins and sometimes the NGOs working on a woman's protection gets them out. But, I'm left empty. I just can't understand. It's a cultural misunderstanding, and maybe I refuse to understand but... If a family could treat one of their own in such a spiteful, harmful and destructive way, why is it so hard for the girls to cut ties with them? How come people can defend the abuse? There is no excuse for the violence that happens, but the cultural reprocussions for a single woman to live on her own here is sometimes worse. How is it fair that a woman whose life is threatened is the one to become imprisoned or orstracized, or dead?

Also, how can a religion be an excuse for violence and hate and completely hinder friendship, love, relationships, etc? Islam is a beautiful religion, and people can do wonderful things with it. I believe that there are people who harnass the good out of the religion. I don't believe that all Muslims are bad. Nor do I believe that Islam produces terrorists. That's just insane. But there are so many different ways that people interpret things. There are thousands of Christian sects that incite terrible and crazy fanatics to, for example, commit hate crimes like buring the Qur'an or disgracing someone at their funeral. Organized religion scares me, but I think it can be a good thing for people. But the thing is, religion is a personal thing. It's something that people can feel together, but it's really all about a single person trying to connect with a greater being (or many greater beings, who knows?). I could go on about this, but that'll be saved for another post.

Earlier this week I had a taxi driver look directly at me and say, "All women are stupid." Okkaayyyy... How am I supposed to react to that?? I did react, for all you curious readers out there. I indignantly said, with my limited Arabic in times of stress and emotion, "La'a!" and "Khallas!" (No!/Enough!) and got out of the taxi, without paying him. It bugged me all day long. Women aren't stupid. I don't believe that anyone is. Everyone has capacity to learn and to love and be worthy of respect. Even this taxi driver. So. With all this, rolling around in my head, I went for a walk and I saw a little boy drawing on the sidewalk. So cute. Then I got really sad. I remember thinking, "Ohhhh, pleasepleaseplease don't end up like that taxi driver. I want you to be taught differently." Now I'm at the whole Nature vs. Nurture argument. Oh boy, this is such a long post.

But basically, I'm just really tired of people being mean. There's a lot to care about in this world. Duh. I just wish that people would respect one another. You don't have to like everyone, but I believe respect is the fundamental part of an important relationship. Boy, oh boy, that would be nice, wouldn't it? Then maybe we could have a healthier planet (BP Oil), more peaceful discussions (Palestine/Israel), less tyranny and dictatorship (Gaddafi/Mubarak, etc, etc, etc)... Right now we're spending money on things that perpetuate violence and hate, globally. America funds wars and sends lives to areas outside of the country, for some supposed reason. Some businesses profit off of conflicts that not only harvest commodities like diamonds, coltan, bananas but also take advantage of cheap labor in dangerous situations. We all have the power to shape conflicts and make sure people stay safe. It's incredible how easy it is for people to perpetuate the violence and continue the hurt, just because it's what's going on now. Women can be horrible too. It's not just the men. It can be reciprocal. Blahhhhh, I'm so tired of people being mean.

But, I guess I'm just being close-minded to those who are closed-minded. How interesting!

Picture: Chestnuts (not on an open fire) at home.

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