It is a vulgar morning here in Halifax. The sidewalks are treacherous combinations of snow, ice, slush, and 6-inch deep water. Trekking through this disgusting combination at 6am is not the most enjoyable way for one to enjoy a Saturday, but sometimes you do what you gotta do.
No less vulgar is a story in today's Post documenting the unwillingness of the United Nations to name and shame countries that systemically abuse women's human rights. The story particularly focuses on the case of a U.S.-organized UN parallel conference called "State-Sanctioned Mass Rape in Burma and Sudan" that would address, you guessed it, state-sanctioned mass rape occurring in the military dictatorship of Burma (Myanmar to its friends and fellow juntas) and in the Darfur region of Sudan. It turns out that some very high-ranking officials at the UN sent some very strongly worded emails to the U.S. mission strongly objecting to the placement of the names of the two misogyny-endorsing countries in the title, and therefore asked the conference organizers to move the event somewhere off of UN property.
Should this move surprise anybody? Not really. We are talking about the UN after all. The same organization that has been impotent to uphold its supposed core principles and prevent genocide in Darfur and the Congo, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, WMD production in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea really shouldn't be expected to uphold other such lofty principles as promoting the idea that women are human beings and deserve to be treated accordingly. It is beyond contempt that they refuse to "name and shame" those states that are complicit and actively involved in targetting women for the most heinous of crimes and violations of the person. This is not the first time the UN has shunted women in order to protect the sterling reputation of the most vile states from being publicly embarrassed for their deplorable treatment of women. The story also notes a recent event in which a young Pakistani woman, Mukhtar Mai, was ordered by a tribal judge to be gang-raped because her brother had the audacity to try and make friends with a person in a higher caste was to appear at a film screening about this atrocity was cancelled because Pakistan's Prime Minister was at the UN that week and officials felt that would send the wrong message to his government.
I'm of the mind that silencing women who speak out against their government advocating rape as a legitimate form of penalty for the actions of other human beings sends the wrong message. However, that is what the UN does. Building a clandestine nuclear program and are worried that the US and other states may take action against you? Don't worry, the Security Council will make sure nothing happens to you. Have a terrible human rights record? Fear not, the UN will put you on its Human Rights Council and you can blame it on Israel. Practicing genocide and systemic rape against minority groups? As long as you keep it within your boundaries, we have no responsibility to protect those people. Need some extra cash because the sanctions we imposed in a fit of pique ten years ago are crippling your ability to build shrines to yourself? We can help with that; in fact, the Secretary General's son's phone number is right here.
It is deeply regrettable that the United Nations fails to take its mandate to advance the causes of women seriously, and prefers to protect decrepit regimes from suffering the humiliation of the world knowing that it is their custom to abuse, degrade, rape, and murder women simply because they are women. The women of the world deserve far better. They deserve to have an entity that will speak out and lobby hard for governments to publicly denounce those states which practice barbaric atrocities against them. 6-year old girls in Cambodia should not be locked in cages and suffer in silence while their government turns a blind eye to their pernicious rape industry. Women in Darfur should not have to suffer the indignity of being raped by soldiers who have just murdered all the men of a village. Young women in other parts of Africa should not have to live in the constant fear of being raped by HIV-infected men who believe the atrocious lie that sex with a virgin will cure them. These are types of issues that the UN and its member states, including and especially Canada, should be condemning with the full force of their authority. Instead, many of these incidents go undocumented or, worse, shoved aside to protect the guilty and complicit.