Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2003
I have long been horrified at the USA's constant belief that our way of life is the "correct" way and should be forced upon the rest of the world. Believe it or not there are other civilizations, cultures and societies out there that have been around far longer than our measly 220-some-odd years, and it is the height of ignorance and stupidity to suggest that they are somehow "unacceptable" because they don't live the way we do or believe the things we believe. I've lost count of the number of times I've been visiting a foreign country and been embarrassed by some stupid thing our government is doing in the global community or (more likely) some stupid thing being done by other American tourists right in front of me... all because they just can't get it through their fat heads that the "American Way" is not for everybody.
Keeping that in mind, it is a rare event for me to come out and condemn the actions of another nation because I feel what they are doing is "wrong" according to me belief structure. I understand that other people have different beliefs, and not everybody should be required to think about things exactly as I do. But there are times when actions transcend beliefs, becoming "basic human rights" issues, which makes it impossible stay silent when I read something like this:
In Nigeria a 30-year-old woman named Amina Lawal has been sentenced to be buried up to her neck and then have people throw rocks at her head until she is dead, all because she had a child out of wedlock.Now my first reaction, naturally, is one of shock and horror that such a brutal and senseless act could be sanctioned by any government (let alone the people living under it). But I accept the fact that other societies have different views on "moral behavior" and fully realize that Nigerians have the right to live according to beliefs that are not my own. If adulterous sex is a known crime that is punishable by torturous death and you get caught breaking that law, then you should expect to pay the price your society places on such actions. Do I think it is wrong? Certainly. But I look at the situation from an entirely different cultural viewpoint so what I think shouldn't enter into the picture.
Except it really does. First of all, I cannot condone torture in any form, and death by stoning is just that. Furthermore, it's not like this woman is a mass-murderer or child rapist or anything. Her crime is having a baby. A basic human instinct is propagation by sex and a consequence of this is pregnancy and birth. Such an instinct is what enables the human race to survive, and being punished for such a primal part of our nature is just wrong (well, unless you are the parents of Pauley Shore, Carrot Top or Martha Stewart)... I don't care what your "culture" or "society morals" dictate, bringing forth life is not an act that should result in death. Some might argue that birth outside of a family is a bad thing and justify it with all kinds of ridiculous reasons, but I just don't buy it. If this woman were married and had a child, but then the father died and she were no longer married, would she be put to death then? Of course not, but this is a logical extension of such backwards thinking in the first place.
And then we get into the whole area of women's rights. The problem here is that the (alleged) father of the child denied he had sex with the woman, and was released. Apparently no further action is being taken to confirm the man's innocence or find the real father if he is telling the truth. Never-mind that modern technology (like DNA testing) is available to verify facts, he just gets to walk. So even if I could get behind the death penalty as punishment for having a baby, I absolutely cannot get behind selectively applying death by gender (or race, or eye color, or any other intrinsic criteria that is based on who you are... not what you believe). Women and men are treated differently in all cultures and, since men and women are different, this is understandable (though not always within bounds of reason). But to be punished selectively because of something you cannot change is a gross violation of human rights that should not be tolerated on principle, it has nothing to do with religious or cultural beliefs.
You can read more about Amina Lawal's struggle at Amnesty International's Australian site. You can also make a donation to Amnesty International and help them make a difference.