July 14, 2011


Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, “A Doll’s House,” was critical of marriage norms though Ibsen demurred that his work was not about women’s’ rights. Rather, he said, the play was about the human need to identify oneself beyond a role or job description in society. Nonetheless, women responded to his message and took it for their own. And why shouldn’t they, being half of humanity?

Still, for large numbers of women throughout the world, the right to define themselves remains a longing without a means of expression. Their roles are too rigidly prescribed by the civil and religious laws in patriarchal societies.

(courtesy: hazy.jenious.flickr.com)

A recent case comes to mind. Sulaiman is the father-in-law of an Afghan woman, named Aisha. When she ran away from his abusive son, Sulaiman punished her by cutting off her nose. Bleeding profusely, she escaped to her parent’s home but was denied access because her father said she had shamed the family. Despite her mutilation, Aisha survived and found the courage to press charges against her father-in-law. The police, however, let the man go… without an investigation and without a trial. Their decision was tantamount to granting all Afghanistan men abusive power over women.

I grieve for Afghan women and fear that once America’s troops withdraw the position of women will deteriorate further. They are in danger of being returned to the role of slave ghosts – good enough to provide male comforts but with no greater status than the beasts of the field. Those of us who are free to give our thoughts air should rage against the injustice done to Aisha and those like her. Let us demand that our President and our politicians speak out on behalf for these endangered women before they become invisible again, as they were under the Taliban.

Whenever a woman’s abuse is sanctioned by the mores of a society and the women in that society are allowed to be marginalized, a seed is planted that can spread.  Women with a voice cannot allow that to happen.  They have a vested interest in speaking out for those who have been silenced.