Friday, April 6, 2012

Honor versus Autonomy

Amina Filali had a big problem. Under Moroccan law, the 16 year-old girl was forced to marry her rapist in order to protect her honor. By which we mean her family's honor. After several months of marriage, during which her new husband beat her regularly and her mother advised her to be patient, Amina solved the problem the only way she could. She swallowed rat poison.

Meanwhile, smug Americans - the socially conservative and right-wing extremists among them - clutch their pearls and Tsk Tsk over those barbaric Muslims and their mistreatment of women. But when it comes right down to it, the views of socially conservative Americans are of a piece with laws and policies which require women to marry their rapists in order to preserve their family's honor. The common theme is this: it is a woman's responsibility to sacrifice her own well-being and autonomy to protect and maintain the family. No matter what the cost. Her economic, physical, emotional, sexual and social well-being can never trump the interests of her family.

So maybe the vocabulary is different. Maybe the socially conservative crowd refers to it as "a woman's calling" rather than "her family's honor." But underneath it all, it's the exact same idea.

The difference is, in Morocco they have the balls to come right out and say that a woman's well-being, interests, and desires don't and shouldn't factor in. Wouldn't it be refreshing if social conservatives in America would do the same?

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