Amnesty International (AI) used to be a respected human rights watchdog, founded by a British lawyer in 1961. Starting in the early 1990s, their definition of human rights was expanded to include legal, social, and economic disadvantage to introduce issues specific to women.
This may not be bad per se, though it raises a couple of questions. Are there an infinite number of rights, and which are specific to gender? If everyone does not have the same right, it is not a right but a privilege.
In 1995, AI issued its first gender-centric report, Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Catastrophe. Many others have followed, including the 1999, Women in Afghanistan: Pawns in Mens Power Struggle."
One might understandably be concerned if AI is increasing its focus on womens rights to the exclusion of human ones or mens. They just defined gender rights and made them part of gender politics with the remarkable assertion that power struggles are exclusively male. Are gender-specific rights as well as, or instead of, human rights, and what are mens?
A group of men e-mailed AI for clarification. Each got the same form letter back, which Ive seen. Its message can be summarized by one of its sentences: Combatants are, of course, treated differently.
This is everyones worst fear. Anyone whos read a newspaper knows that combatant is code for male, age 12 to 55, whether in a military organization or not. AI considers them less human; less worthy of consideration.
This is not isolated. In 1999, an NBC reporter was at the boarder with Kosova where refugees were streaming in. She said, The real tragedy of this war is the thousands of women and children whove had to walk for as much as three days and nights to get here. She and most of the media made no mention of why women and children were the only refugees. All combatants had been tortured to death. The tragedy was those who escaped.
The darkest phases of human history are characterized by valuing some lives over others by any arbitrary criteria such as race, religion, or gender. The concept of human rights was created to end this.
There is a small, international committee that calls itself Gendercide Watch. It monitors and reports on gender-selective mass killings. Gendercides (a word coined for Mary Anne Warrens 1985 book) have recently been going on in Sri Lanka, Kosova, East Timor, and many African countries, whether you know it or not. They have been going on throughout history, and in almost all the targeted gender is men. Of course, if theyre combatants, its OK. Only this small committee knows, not AI or the public.
In Afghanistan, even Amnesty International documented that men were routinely singled out for forced labor, amputations, forced clearing of mine fields, arbitrary detentions, torture, and execution. Men are beaten or jailed for failing to force Taliban law on their family, talking to women in public, not praying at the Mosque, or wearing Western clothes. But to find this out you have to dig because they do not call them men but civilians and detainees. Yet AI is very explicit about gender when the victim wears a vale.
An AI article on Taliban detentions contains the claim, . . . these men have been detained solely because of their identity as minority Tajik and Hazaras. That is false. They were detained because they were minority and male. But everyones attention turns to women if they are unable to go to school or must adhere to a dress code just as men must do. Some suffering is more important than others.
Its enough to make a liberal fret.
©2009 KC Wilson
To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons. - Marilyn French