Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mukhtar Mai


ABC News

Pakistani Rape Victim Becomes Beacon for Women's Rights

Oct. 21, 2005 — - Three years ago, Mukhtar Mai was brutally raped in her remote village in Pakistan. After a long struggle, Pakistan's supreme court convicted her attackers, and she's only able to talk about it now.

"I feel very happy, and God will look after me in the future," she said. "I am very, very hopeful that I will get justice."

Tomorrow Mai will travel to New York, her first trip out of Pakistan, to receive Glamour magazine's "Woman of the Year" award. And she'll travel around the country to speak on the plight of rural women.

"We look for strength. We look for persistence -- a woman of the year is someone who believes that women can do whatever they set their mind to, and Mukhtar illustrates those qualities better than anybody," said Cindi Leive, Glamour's editor in chief. "This is a story that's going to shock everyone who hears it."

Mai, 33, has never been allowed to attend school in a village traditionally dominated by men. In the rural Pakistan area where she lived, it is common for women to be used as an example to settle disputes, and sometimes women are even traded to resolve problems.

Mai herself was at the center of such a dispute three years ago. Her younger brother was accused of insulting a more powerful neighboring clan. Mukhtar was told that if she begged for her brother's pardon she would be able to clear the family name.

"It was in my mind that this is the tradition of the head of the council -- that if a lady goes there, then he places his hand on the head of the woman and he says, 'OK, you are excused.'"

But that's not what happened. Members of the all-male council attacked and raped her.

"There, in the presence of 200 people, four men took me and they abused me. I told them, they're like my brothers, not to do this. But they did not listen to me," she said.

When it was over, Mai was forced to walk home half-naked and publicly disgraced.

"Not only have you been completely shamed, you have shamed your entire family," said New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. "And the way to wipe that out is to commit suicide. And that's the expectation across rural Pakistan."

Fighting Back, Building Schools

But Mai's reaction was quite the opposite. She pressed charges against the rapists, and 14 men were arrested. Then, at great personal risk, she testified against her attackers in court. Six of the men were found guilty, and one was sentenced to death.

The case made international headlines. The embarrassed Pakistani government awarded Mai a sum equivalent to nearly 20 times the average annual Pakistani salary.

She could have moved away and started a new life. But instead, Mai used the money to build two local schools.

"Education is power. People can be trampled on if they are not educated. But if they are educated they can fight back," she said.

After the trial, the accused men appealed their sentences, and the province let five of them go free. Mai feared for her safety, but she pressed on.

Pakistan's supreme court later took the case and ruled in her favor. All 14 of the rapists and their accomplices are now in prison.

"Sexual violence is an issue for women in every country, and if a woman like Mukhtar Mai can speak out against it with such incredible odds, then really she can be an example for women globally," said Nisha Varia of Human Rights Watch.

In fact, Mai is doing just that.

"I've gained a lot of strength from building the school," she said. "I would not be alive today if I had not gained this strength, and I have more faith in Pakistan because of this."

Copyright (c) 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Cleanup and mood elevation

After writing about discursive determinism, I thought I'd make some simpler announcements about the state of reality in my blogworld...

I have temporarily turned my comments function off because my Coulter post (which I deleted recently) was bombarded with blog-spam. I don't know much about it, but I assume it functions similar to other spam. The comments were things like "Great blog! Do you want to date Black women? Go to this site!" and "Hey, I couldn't agree with you more about what you just wrote. Want to invest in gold? Click here!" Sheesh.

I will take comments in the meantime, at stannard67 [at] aol.com and will publish them here.

In the mood elevation/taking delight in the Republican quagmire department:

"I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars."(Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson forgetting Clinton on "Meet the Press," October 23)

Also, Delaware Dem has a Bush Disapproval Map Bush has net disapproval ratings in all states but Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Alaska, and Oklahoma, which net approve of Bush, and Montana and Mississippi, where his numbers are 50%. Bush even has net disapproval ratings in Texas.
Power, Externality and Consciousness

"Power concedes nothing without a demand" indeed. To attempt to be a conscientious opposition, not merely siding with the party not in power, but siding with the people against all misuse of power, requires an understanding of how power affects consciousness, how easily we are duped into docility and defensiveness, and how to find a way out of all that. And then, having isolated that precarious formula, one must absorb the realization that winning political struggles is only partially, and sometimes never at all, about having better ideas, or even the talent for communicating them to others. Most of us have, if we have at all, only localized and limited power to shape the contingencies that surround us and practically define us.

That last limiter is one that new age discursive determinists (translation: academic hippies who think we need a "consciousness shift, dude") find offensive. They think it gives the capitalists and their stormtroopers too much power. Of course, that begs the question; we don't "give" them power by acknowledging them; we didn't create them with our minds, we didn't otherizingly threat-construct them, whatever. If the argument is that we shouldn't "give them power" in our minds when trying to forge strategies and self-consciousness in order to fight for a better world, then point well-taken, but metaphor-based self-motivation is one thing (I'm actually a big fan of it in some contexts) while trying to understand the political world is quite another. If that makes me a dualist, then both of me is proud to call us that.

The explanation I offer does not strip us of our autonomy, while it does embrace the appeal to external facts, the representations of others, to understand the external limitations on our autonomy. It is not a discursive recognition of externality that limits us; it is the discursive failure to imagine remedies to limiting externalities, to imagine ways to transcend limits. What the new agers, the idealists, the lingo-fetishists fail to realize is that we need to give those externalities their due in the first place. It's solopsistic not to; it's stupid, and historically reflective of the naive elitism of thin-blooded aristocracy who, having never gone hungry, had no idea what hunger was really like.

Moreover, insofar as I concede that "truth" in the metaphysical sense is a rhetorical construct, and even find sympathy with Heidegger's awkward but effective attempt to explain the difficult distinction between constructed truth and "reality" in Being and Time, I would simply argue that such constructs, having the political weight they have, ought to be democratized and socialized along with all other public production facilities. If truth is a product, it should be manufactured to meet human needs, not the profits of a few. Undeniably, representation plays a determinative role in the political process, and even in economic exchange and production. Ideology shapes power and is power. To acknowledge that, and even to allow for a great degree of subjectivity in interpretation, does not require a radically subjective view of externalities, alterity, and actually existing structures. It merely requires giving others their due.