Monday, March 16, 2009

When Culture Leads To Harm



The other day on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com I was appalled by the numbers of callers who said I or "we" had no right to speak out against the court-ordered flogging of a 75-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia because it's a culturally based practice. The Saudis have the right to their culture, it was argued. And I had no right to speak out against it. I was accused of cultural insensitivity.

Now comes a story in today's Times Online in the UK which reports that government health statistics there indicate that thousands of girls in Britain have been subjected to genital mutilation. And that there have been no prosecutions. To its credit, the government is launching a campaign offering medical procedures that reverse females genital mutilation.

Would one argue that we should remain silent about this as well, as it is a cultural tradition?

Of course, in a general sense, cultural differences are to be respected not demeaned. But when those traditions bring harm to others, then isn't it time to speak up?

We tend, these days, to choose which human rights violations we will speak out against and which we won't based on the political fallout. But since when should our defense of our fellow human beings against repressive or harmful actions be limited based on who is creating those actions?

So it's OK to speak out against the Guantanamo Bay detention facility but not against giving a 75 year old woman 40 lashes for being in the company of two men not her close relative? We remain silent about genitle mutilation because we fear being accused of being culturally insensitive. We speak out against Israel's recent "disproportionate" response against Hamas but genocide in Darfur is an issue we have to think twice about before opening our mouths.

Even the United States government picks and chooses which human rights violations are worthy of attention. Clearly those perpetuated by the Chinese government are off limits for political reasons.

OK, maybe it's a cultural thing as some have argued. But the culture I grew up in says I have a responsibility to speak out against human rights violations. So I will continue to do so. And those who criticize me for it better realize they are offending my cultural sensitivities.

We talk issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com

--

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ren84/2912048016/

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

we have become a group of people afraid to step on anyone's toes and it sickens me!!! right is right wrong is wrong. beating a woman (or anyone) is WRONG!!! If i "spank" my child the police can be called. Yet people today are MUTILATING and allowing their daughters to be disfigured and that is OK?? What is wrong with this picture? saying its ok because that is what they do....wrong is WRONG!!!

Sepialove said...

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing". - Edmund Burke

We know what is right and what is wrong as humans. Slavery was and IS wrong, it was abolished, by law, although it still may exist secretly in some countries and cultures. We know that child molestation is wrong, although in some cultures, marrying under 13 is allowed.

But we have to be strong and convicted enough in TRUTH to shed light on that which is wrong.

Female mutilation is one of these times.

RICESKI said...

Seems the Islamic traditions are being called into question in many countries. Here in the USA as you know recently a Muslim man cut his wife's head off and calls this one form of legal divorce or punishment to a cheating wife.
Islam is not culture it is torture.
If the world at large finds a culture that is still sacrificing their virgins to the god of the mountain by killing them like cattle then should we also take a 'hands off' approach as well?
To each his own path to their own destination.

Jake UK (paltalk nick) said...

OMG, I am absolutely horrified both at what i read in Garys Blog and in the Times article.

As a British Citizen I Cannot believe this goes off in our country, these poor girls who have no choice but to allow this to happen, it really does border child abuse.

In the UK from a cultural point of view, we are taught that the choice has to be our decision and often left to our own devices until we are old enough to make the decision. How can a 5 year old be old enough to make the decision, or be old enough to allow others to make the decision for her as to whether or not she will be allowed children in the future.

As a supporter of the labour government for many years, When gordon Brown came in to power i was beginning to loose all confidence in the morals of the Labour government and what they stand for.

In the last couple of days Gordon has u-turned on increasing the cost of alcohol on a price per unit basis, as the government think they should not spoil enjoyment for the responsible drinker, it is the irresponsible youth of the UK who are making the social alcoholic culture in this country an absolute sham, I stand up and support the government for making this decison, they tax us enough on the cost of many things, including food, and cigarettes, they would have made even more money in the increase in alcohol per unit.

Now to find they are offering the reversal of female genital mutilation on the NHS gives me faith once more along with the u-turn of price per unit, I am beginning to think that Gordon Brown is once more starting to listen to what the people of the country want, which is a United Britain, a "freedom" Britain and a country we can be proud of again.

At Last My faith in the labour party is returning, and at last these poor women and girls who had their rights taken away at such a young age, will have the right to have it reversed if they wish without questions, without infringement and with the right support.

Well done Gordon Brown!

Anonymous said...

This issue is not a matter of 'culture', it is a matter of being civilized, and uncivilized, and of control over fellow human beings. In the Civilized world, where people realize that the only thing we have to fear and prepare against is Nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings is one of respect, respect for their humanity, and respect for their rights to do as they please, provided they do not step on the rights of others. We call this right "Liberty", or the Freedom of Man from Men.
We have adopted the concept of Liberty, because in the end, it promotes peace, and provides us an avenue on which we can pursue Happiness. It allows us to think on our own, to be our own persons, and as such, allows us to look on our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.
This does not exist in the Collectivist Societies of the Eastern, and Middle Eastern worlds.
There, Liberty is something to be feared, as a person not in direct control, is to be feared as someone "Out of Control. The key word here being CONTROL .
The result of this: Complete submission to a Ruling Class, whether that class is secular or religous, it is involved in the total submission of everyone not of the ruling class, to the arbitrary whims, and rules of those who are placed above them. No one has any individual Identity, or Dignity, other than his place in the pecking order.
When this sort of ideology exists, and the ruling class have the ultimate power to enforce their will on the people, It is 'anything goes', and no atrocity is too great if it bends the wil of the general population to the dictates of the ruling class.
Since the dawn of time, this has existed in the middle east, and every society that left there, and went seeking other lands, was seeking an escape from the Collectivist ideology that made their lives pure hell. Each time they relocated, they would enjoy a period of peace and prosperity, until such a time as the old collectivist Ideologies would creep back in, and again, demand submission.
I am convinced that each society that got up and left these Collectivist Nightmares, was seking peace, and some form of individual rights, and time and again, they found themselves leaving the old ways, becoming more civilized, and moving on. This movement away from Collectivism, and Toward Human Dignity and Individual rights, spread mankind in all directions, untill he covered the globe, and ended up here in America, where mankind is making the final Stand, against all of the ancient, tribal collectivist systems, which have kept him repressed.
As the proprietors of this Last Stand, it is our duty, to point out the atrocities, and the unhuman actions people take against each other, as a reminder to the world of where we came from, why we left, and the inhumanity and uncivilized behavior we left behind.
For too long we have been ignoring this behavior, and have dismissed it as 'their culture'. Well one of the things about that culture, is the fact that submission, rarely leaves room for innovation, Invention, and rarely allows the inhabitants to engage in the activities that help a society progress toward an easier, and more fulfilling life. The result, living in the backward ways of their ancient ancestors, depleting their resources, and causing a general poverty to ensue. As a result, they must spread their idology out, to gain the resources they need to ensure some small measure of survival. They look with jealousy on the rest of the world, and in their hearts desire what the rest of the world has, their lands, their crops, their prosperity. What they do not see, is that all of the prosperity that the rest of the world has, is a direct result. of the amount of freedom the rest of the world has, and their poverty is the direct result of the Freedom they refuse to allow their people. This thinking is exactly Backward, there fore UNCIVILIZED. This is not a CULTURE but more properly the exact LACK OF CULTURE.
We should always point out the inhumanity, and the undignified and brutal nature of this. because this is where we came from, what we left behind, and what we certinly will become, should we lose our way, and revert back to the Collectivist thinking that is at the root of it all. .............Bebe_Zilla

Anonymous said...

"First They Came for the Jews"
By Pastor Niemoller, I think that sums up the feelings of those who do not wish to watch wrongs committed to others. Then comes the school of thought, who are we to decide what is wrong and what is not? Sometimes idiocracy does not deserve an answer. Some things simply are what they are. Flogging old ladies and mutilating female body parts are such things.....wrong....period, You can't dress it up with a bow and call it anything else. It is simply wrong.
Shannon

Anonymous said...

Gary, you have hit on a subject matter that I have fought against for years. Many people do not understand fully the brutality of this practice, nor do they understand that many young women die of infection, or simply bleed to death. Lets also consider that these procedures are done to young girls without the benefit of anesthesia. Young girls are held down by other women of their community, in a horribly terrifying and painful event. There is actually 4 types of female mutilation, the best known is clitoral removal, this being the LEAST brutal. I urge people to learn more about this practice before they decide its a "cultural" practice best left alone. This type of mutilation has one purpose, to destroy the womans sexual pleasure to keep her "clean" and "faithful". I believe its a womans human right to enjoy her sexuality, and a right to have her body intact.Male circumsision does not destroy the mans ability to enjoy sex, nor does it make sex painful, as female mutilation does to females. I URGE people to please educate themselves further on this subject, I don't believe any thinking person could believe this is OK. I usually post anonymous here, but today, on this subject, I'll sign with my paltalk ID.

Turley x 2

Anonymous said...

Well for my outview , I think Gary have a reason why He speak out about this 75 yr old woman from Saudi Arabia . Dont listen if the people criticized you for being cultural insensitivity, for me you did a right thing. You speak out bec this culture can leads to harm.Genital mutilation is not good. if we base on the BIBLE.

Lorrie said...

i feel that every law is different depending where you live , and thats fine BUT depending on what the law requires , and for something like this is not right , how can they do this and get away with it , i have to agree what the anonymous said about if we spank our children right away the police and children and youth are called , but with the mutilating and letting the daughters be disfigured that is just wrong , they should be allowed to make there own choices when they get older if they want that done or not , why would the law take that away from them , these laws should be changed to the better , i mean i know that where people live has there own culture but there are some things that should be kept , CULTURE OR NOT , we need to have this world for the better not worse .

Andrea said...

Great blog Gary. I agree with you that while there are culture differences that can be respected, causing harm to another human being needs to be further examined. Sometimes the "harm" is not so readily apparent as the subject of this blog, but clearly flogging of someone (anyone, not just an older woman) for speaking out against atrocity is HARM. As is stoning of women or even killing women for speaking out, being raped, or even as far as cheating on their husbands. I can't imagine the horror of being raped, but to add to the torture by stoning the victim!

We have liberty in our country (at least so far) to say what we feel, and we are duty bound to speak up against irreparable harm and evil. If political and cultural correctness overcomes common sense, I have great fear for our leaders and our country.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Gary for bringing this topic to the service. But in Britian? I had No Idea!! These women need to speak out and everyone involved need to be prosecuted. And to JAKE UK you said " it really does border child abuse." Female Mutilation is Torture, Enslavement, and UnCivilized to Say the least! Please call him out on it Gary.

Kila said...

We have become a group of people afraid to step up for what we believe in.I think Gary had a reason why He speaks out about this 75 yr old woman from Saudi Arabia. I wouldn't listen to the people criticized you for being cultural insensitivity,for me you did the right thing. You speak out because this culture can leads to harm. Genital mutilation is not good if we base on the BIBLE.

Anonymous said...

How is speaking out against something you abhor being culturally insensitive? Like you, Gary, this sort of conduct upsets MY cultural sensitivities. This issue of female genital mutilation is just that MUTILATION! How can anyone uphold it? It does not just border on child abouse, it IS child abuse as defined in the UK. The children who are subjected to this should be removed from their parents and placed in a 'place of safety'.
Political correctness is the scourge of the 21st century. It is used as a stick to beat the people with who may disagree with an action. The minute you allow the minority to dictate the actions of the majority you have dispensed with the concept of democracy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the post here. We all have been so "mind altered" to feel we shouldn't step up and say when someone is wrong. This is beyond wrong. It's horrible, probably worse than Saddam Hussein killing his people by the hundreds. And now its spreading across the world. Where does it end? Honor killings? Beheading as a means of divorce? Female genital mutilations? All for a culture that is in itself degrading and horrific. Peaceful???? I don't think so but maybe now the world is seeing their practices for what they are. Its about time.
TJonna

Anonymous said...

After listening in the room I wanted to add one more comment on this subject in particularly what was said about circumcision being the same. It is more cruel to not circumcise a male and him have to have it done for medical reasons later in life as did my father. He said it was the most horrible thing to go thru at 8 yrs old.
TJonna

Monique Lester said...

Rumblings, perhaps even small storms of discontent are happening here in the UK too. The citizens of this country are sick of hearing about their soldiers being opposed by those who were given a place in British society but take pleasure in fighting us back instead of being thankful for the privilege of their freedom.

We want our kids to be taught by teachers whose faces can be seen, not a woman in a bhurka.

We don't want Sharia law, we want freedom of speech.

We believe in girls being given equal opportunities. We are fed up with hearing about british women being abducted and killed in so called 'honour killings' and only being receptacles for their mens pleasure while their bodies are ruined so that they can be child making machines here and nothing more. Sickening.

Old ladies deserve dignity and peace. Not judgement and punishment.

I hope the world is looking.

nancy bas mo 3agram said...

It is not a religion thing, it is happening in Africa NOT the middle east. Yes, its a tradition, not religion (for girls). They do it for a reason, so go do your homework and figure it out.

Monique Lester said...

I think that plenty of people have 'done their homework'. And what reason could possibly make it acceptable to those of us who believe in freedom and freedom of choice?

This is mutilation. No more no less. Abhorrent.

http://www.lindamaykallestein.com/Linda_May_Kallestein/Blog/Entries/2009/3/20_Facts_and_Myths_of_FGM.html