Like feckless chumps the world over, I might have gone all day yesterday without contemplating the monstrous obscenity that is the Mukhtaran Bibi case. Fortunately blogger Jim McCulloch, one of the more sentient beings in Texas, alerted me to the most recent turn of events in the wrenching story of this remarkable Pakistani woman. If you are unacquainted with the case, you must read this synopsis.
In a nutshell: Mukhtaran is imprisoned by men because she was gang raped by men, by order of men, on account of a man. It had been expected that she then commit suicide out of shame, but instead she got the rapists thrown in jail. A couple of months ago her attackers were acquitted. A few days ago, just as she was preparing to speak in the US, she was placed under house arrest. No phone. No lawyer. Apparently that douchebag Musharraf didn’t want her sprinting around the globe badmouthing Pakistani patriarchy.
What has happened to Mukhtaran Bibi is unthinkable, but unsurprising. It is the logical consequence of patriarchy. Patriarchy is just organized depravity.
Mukhtaran Bibi’s story is different from any other woman’s story only in degree. For instance, it is perhaps illegal in the US to gang rape a woman, but it is not uncommon. In fact, it happens all the time. You know what else happens all the time? Blaming the woman who has been raped, and freeing her rapist.
In fact, in the US, like in Pakistan, it is not uncommon to think of a woman as something other than human. In the US, a woman is a thing to be degraded, a thing to be mocked, a thing to smear with food for the pleasure of the jeering crowd.
It is not uncommon to seize control of a woman’s body, to fetishize it, to turn it into a thing that needs to be fucked, to deprive her of birth control, and to punish her for pregnancy. It’s all in a day’s work for male supremacists to cede ownership of her uterus to courts and legislators, to tell her that an unthinking, non-viable fetus has rights that supersede her own, to abandon her and and the baby as soon as it is born, and fuck you if you can’t take a joke.
It is de rigeur for progressive male thinkers to tell her that of course they care about these inequities, but what’s really important is that they focus on themselves right now.
A woman who cannot get an abortion lives in no less a prison than Mukhtaran Bibi. Her prison may be more comfortable, it may even mimic a sort of freedom. But I repeat. A woman who cannot get an abortion is not free.