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culture

Iowa and Afghanistan, cause and effect?

There have been some interesting developments in the news involving marriage recently. Iowa’s supreme court has declared that the banning of same sex marriages is unconstitutional. They even went one step past that and said a “separate but equal” civil union plan would not be lawful either. I get the impression that it is more difficult to amend the Iowan constitution than the Californian one. Expect an attempt, I can’t imagine the rank and file in Iowa being OK with this decision.

There has been general outrage over a newish law in Afghanistan that apparently legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband. There are enormous swaths of the world that assumes that wives have no say when it comes to sex with her husband, but I can’t think of any other place that actually passed a law legalizing it. I don’t even think that Saudi has a law like that. Of course that is only because it is simply assumed that sex is the wife’s duty to her husband… So why did Afghanistan pass a law like that? Here’s the (I assume) British foreign officer Marc Brown to explain.

“The rights of women was one of the reasons the UK and many in the West threw ourselves into the struggle in Afghanistan.”

When you apply external pressure to a culture in order to bring about change that is more in line with the pressuring culture, you will have blowback. Let’s be honest, if a husband rapes his wife in Afghanistan, not a damn thing will be done about it, regardless of what is written in the books in Kabul. No one will ever hear about it. The culture there is what it is, and you just do not talk about sex there. That doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and accept things as they are though. Cultural change is possible, but not at the point of a gun.

Which brings me back to Iowa. Both the ruling in Iowa and the law in Afghanistan are examples of the government overstepping it’s bounds. There isn’t any reason why the government should be weighing in on what an appropriate marriage is. In the same vein, there isn’t any reason for the government to ever pass a law making it OK to have nonconsensual sex with someone. One is a populist reaction, and the other will most likely cause one.

The bottom line is that cultural change cannot come from the top down. We can’t come into Afghanistan with the Army, shake up their ideas of sex roles, and expect them to just change. In the same way, you can’t expect the supreme court to issue a ruling and make the citizens of that state OK with gay marriage. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the probable drop in marital rape in this country had little to do with the laws on the books and everything to do with men thinking that they really should not rape their wives. The change has to come from the bottom up. In an ideal world, men wouldn’t rape their wives and people wouldn’t care who married whom. Do we really think those ideals will be reached by passing laws?

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