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05 April 2009 @ 18:06
Abhorrent laws  

"Abhorrent" is the word that President Barack Obama used to describe the new Afghan law that denies women certain extremely basic rights, such as the right to leave their houses on a whim, or the right to decline to have sex with their husbands. This law would, in effect, place all Afghan women under a particularly malign form of house arrest in which their captors would be permitted to rape them with impunity.

I have to agree with Obama here; abhorrent is definitely the word for it. And while we're on the subject of abhorrent laws, it is perhaps worth noting that in many states in Obama's own country, spousal rape has been outlawed only quite recently—1993 in the case of North Carolina, to take one example. Even now that spousal rape is illegal throughout the United States, it is still the case in many states that a woman who has been sexually assaulted by her husband has less recourse to legal protection than one who has been assaulted by a stranger. In some cases, the period during which such an assault can be reported is shorter; in some, a narrower range of unwanted sexual contact is prohibited; in some, the standard for demonstrating that force was used is stricter.

I think that this, too, is abhorrent. I suppose the idea behind these laws is that a husband has some cause to expect that his wife will consent to have sex with him—but then surely a wife has some right to expect that her husband will not assault her, and isn't this a rather more important right? And, of course, these laws are different from the Afghan law in their gender-neutral reference to spouses—in general, they give a wife just as much latitude to sexually assault her husband as they give him to assault her. But this is not, I think, the sort of equality that does anyone any good.

Abhorrent is the only word for it. I hope that with all the moral outrage going around, there's enough there to fix more than just the Afghan law.

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