Thursday, June 28, 2007

Girls are meaningless in Afghanistan

By Nancy Jane Moore

That's what NPR correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson told me this morning in a report on Morning Edition. At one point, she covered a group of women all giving birth at the same time. The doctors didn't immediately tell those who had girls about the child, giving them time to rest before they gave them the bad news, Nelson said.

Many of the women were giving birth to their eleventh or twelfth child, she reported. It seems that in Afghanistan, sons are the old age plan. Daughters are useless unless they can be "sold" -- exchanged for a dowry.

Nelson, who wears a burqa when she travels in areas outside of Kabul, said that it's very hard to be a woman in Afghanistan.

I am haunted by the image of a woman mourning because she has given birth to a girl. In 2007, when women can do (almost) everything, there are still women mourning because they think girls are useless.

And I am depressed to know that many people still live such precarious lives that the only plan they can make for old age is to have lots of children in the hope that some will survive to take care of them. For most of human life, this was everyone's plan, but in our current state of world overpopulation (one of the key elements of global warming) it just creates bigger problems. In my essay "We Aren't Civilized Yet: Reflections From the WisCon 30 Panel on Women Warriors" -- published in The WisCon Chronicles: Volume 1 -- I pointed out that "it took all of human history up to 1830 for the world population to hit 1 one billion, a 100 years to hit the next billion, 30 years for the next billion, 15 for the next, and so on up to our current 6.5 billion."

With modern medicine -- which has greatly reduced maternal and infant mortality -- and technology, too many people using children as their retirement plan create a huge problem (though if you're a poor person in Afghanistan, it still may be the only option you've got).

In my essay, I argue that feminism is one of the solutions to overpopulation: "Feminism addresses the problem of overpopulation by giving offering women other purposes in life besides childrearing." But in places where women have virtually no rights -- places where they cannot take economic steps to ensure their own survival -- what can they do besides have children?

The situation of women in Afghanistan -- who mourn the birth of girls -- emphasizes once again that feminism is not just a means of resolving the fundamental unfairness of discrimination on grounds of gender, but an integral part of addressing the major problems of the world.

[cross posted on Ambling Along the Aqueduct]

No comments: