Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Watchin' the Law

Hello, internet.

It's that time again. We're about to get global up in the Athena blog. This week, we're looking at some contemporary laws concerning women. It's a feature that may become regular, because knowing where the law stands on women's rights internationally is a great foundation for understanding of how we, as a planet, are doing with respect to establishing and maintaining gender equality.

So let's go ahead and take a look at what's happening in this big, crazy world.

We'll start in Uganda. A new marriage bill has been proposed there, and it's causing a bit of a fuss (as marriage bills tend to do everywhere they go). The new bill is a nice big step forward for equality in Uganda by imposing several new rules. Perhaps the most controversial changed proposed by the bill is giving a woman the right to divorce her husband if he is impotent. This may sound a little strange, but it's a good move. In Canada, we have the right to no-fault divorce. That means that any married person can file for divorce for whatever reason they feel divorce is necessary. We don't have to prove that the other person is a lousy spouse. If it's just not working, we can call it quits. In many, many countries, divorce is a far more complicated legal process where somebody has to be proven at fault, and that fault has to be great enough to warrant divorce. Opponents of the bill in Uganda argue that it's unfair to allow a woman to divorce her husband just because she wants sex or children. They say it's cruel to allow a woman to divorce her husband if he becomes impotent many years into the marriage. Is it fair to divorce somebody you married because they got sick and sex is no longer an option? That's up to you. But is it fair to give everyone the legal right to decide whether they want to divorce their spouse for reasons that are important to them? If you ask me: it's imperative.

Heading to Lebanon:
activists for women's rights are antsy for parliament to start up because they've got a bill to propose, too. The bill aims to move domestic violence cases from religious courts to civil courts. Lebanon has an interesting court system. The country has been striving to separate law and religion, and for the most part the judicial is pretty secular, but the two realms are still complexly interwoven. Religious courts are where people go to settle personal and family matters. And these courts operate on traditional laws that are centuries old. For those concerned with the rights of women, this can be a problem, as the laws usually favour males. It's a tricky situation because Lebanon's delicate religion/law balance is anything but simple. But recognizing domestic violence as the serious matter that it is, and granting women the basic human rights to promote their safety, is something to applaud.

Further east, Japan's Democratic Party is trying to give women the right to keep their maiden names when they marry. The proposed bill says that kids can ultimately choose which surname they want. It could come into effect as soon as next year. How is this not a good thing? The only real argument anyone has is that women who don't adopt their husband's name threaten "family unity." Right. Family unity. I guess we'll have to see how many Japanese children end up in therapy over the fact that Mom's surname doesn't match Dad's. Until those numbers come in: big props to the democrats in Japan.

That's all I've got for you today, folks--a psych lecture is calling me. It's not very patient. But Yamina will have something for you next week, and following that I'm aiming to bring you the story of an individual woman who is doing great things in for global gender equality.

Happy Wednesdaying!


1 comment:

  1. I often wish feminism would focus on forging lasting marriages, rather than fighting for more simple divorce.

    I understand the necessity for no-fault divorce in furthering individual liberty, but it is a double-edged sword that can be counter-productive to feminism. Young men who grow up without a father, (as is often the case. Women generally raise the children in divorce cases), are prone to have faulty views on manhood and masculinity. Without a suitable male example, their definition of masculinity is shaped by the media, who tell them to be a man means to fuck and fight.

    In essence, they become chauvanists. Some grow out of it, but many don't.

    People, including girls and women, deserve better than huge divorce rates and the challenges of growing up in a single-parent home.