A political storm has been brewing when it was reported that the Afghanistan government has passed a law regarding how women must act. The law gives more power to men to control when their wives are allowed to leave the home. It also allows them to demand sex from their wives every 4 days. There is an approved list of excuses for limiting these demands.
These laws put into question the whole purpose for Canadian troops to be giving their lives to defend a society that is so disconnected from the Canadian view on basic rights of women. The Federal Government is saying that there are still rooms for changes to the law to make them more palatable to the International community. There are also reports coming out of Afghanistan that it is a done deal and the law is impossible to be amended.
This narrative seems very similar to history of the region some 2400 years ago. The Jewish Holiday of Purim commemorates events that happened under the Persian Empire that is recorded in the Megilat Esther. The Persian Empire extended from Ethiopia to Afghanistan and beyond. It was made up of 127 different countries amalgamated into one empire.
In the story of Purim there are 3 laws that are passed that get special attention. King Achashverosh orders his Queen Vashti to appear before him wearing nothing but her crown. When she refuses she is executed. The King's advisers are concerned the act of rebellion will be inspiration for women throughout the kingdom to rebel against there husbands. A law is drawn up and distributed stating that "each man will be the ruler in his own house and the family should speak his language." Many commentators feel that the first law was so ridiculous it would set the tone for the public reaction to the other two laws.
The second law passed was that all of the Jews in the kingdom were to be wiped out on a predetermined date. When the plot against the Jews unravelled the King wanted to undo the law. However once a law is declared it cannot be undone. Instead a third law was declared allowing the Jews to defend themselves from attack.
Are Afghan men that desperate they need a law to convince their wives to have sex with them? Are women going to comply to their husbands requests because there is a law on the books? Would a man be able to overcome the embarrassment and report his wife to the authorities? Any man who needs this law in his marriage does not have a good marriage. Taking advantage of the law will just further destroy other aspects in the relationship.
There is an important lesson from this episode. The west has assumed that bringing democracy to the Arab world will solve the cultural conflict with the West. There is more that goes into building a society than how the rulers are chosen. Democracy alone will not bring changes to the general social fabric of Arab society. This incorrect assumption is very dangerous. Often the approach taken is that they will react to a situation with values they clearly do not hold. This blinds one to believe that they will agree to things that they fundamentally oppose. This false assumption is the basis for people assuming that if only X approach is taken to Iran, Afghanistan, Palestinians etc... that everyone will live in peace and harmony. By looking at the world from their point of view it is clear that it is simply not true.