Saturday, January 21, 2006

Memo to UN: Grow Some

The UN has once again proven that it is an organization without the balls to tackle controversial issues that may "offend" member states. Despite the laudable intentions of the UN's creation, it has become completely lacking in principles and merely exists as a group of enelected, unaccountable elites who refuse to take a real stand on human rights abuses around the world. Today's example that has me irate is the story that they have cancelled a talk by Mukhtar Mai because the Pakistani government opposed her speaking to the UN. Mukhtar Mai is a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in her village in Pakistan to be gang-raped for crimes committed by her brother. Rather than commit suicide in this situation, as usually occurs, she challenged the rapists in court, and won a settlement. The UN demonstrates it's illegitamacy by refusing to unqualifiyingly condemn this action, and by placing the feelings of those supporting barbaric, outdated practices above the feelings of a woman raped by order of the court. I can't imagine it could be any more clear as to which side is "right" in this situation. And spare me any discussion about cultural differences and moral relativism: practices like these are wrong, and any country that refuses to put a stop to treating women in ways like these has no business being part of the UN.


At 11:48 AM, Blogger Molly said...

Although Scott and I have already had a part of this conversation, I figured I’d weigh in as one who is, by most accounts, quite sensitive to cultural relativism. There is a vast different between allowing cultural groups the space that they need to engage in practices which do not mesh with our own cultural values (on one hand) and turning a blind eye to human rights violations (on the other). In canceling Mukhtar Mai’s talk, I think that the UN is dangerously close to the latter (while they have not condoned what happened to Ms. Mai, they’re certainly being more sensitive to Pakistan than to her right now I’d say). The UN’s behavior is problematic in two ways. First, they claim to seek to work against human rights violations, but then cancel (for all intents and purposes) (for political reasons) a talk by a woman who has spent years working toward this same goal. Second, if Pakistan is in the UN, which is an organization that has at its very roots a Declaration of Human Rights, then the UN should not be concerned about any embarrassment that this situation would cause to a country that so clearly failed to live up to the rules stated in that Declaration, rules that, I would like to think, are so basic in their sense of the dignity and worth of every life that they aren’t so difficult to follow. I do believe in cultural sovereignty, provided the decisions of any culture leave all within that culture a chance to live without violence and fear.

I strongly support the UN’s mission in theory, and believe that venues like the one it provides will be critical for handling the problems we face in a post-WWI world. That said, it is not above criticism, and it needs some now.

See, Scott, we can agree on some things!


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