Sad but true

Democracy isn’t always and necessarily aligned with justice, progress, equality, women’s rights, freedom – it’s not always and necessarily aligned with anything except majority will. Majority will can be even more tyrannical than a military dictator.

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s critique of General Pervez Musharraf as a leader and as an author, in last month’s Prospect, is depressingly familiar. Of course we wish that Pakistan was a more liberal and democratic society…But simply repeating the same liberal pieties about instituting democracy and strengthening civil society won’t change the situation…There are certainly massive problems for women in Pakistan. Human rights activists suggest that a woman is raped in Pakistan every two hours. As Hoodbhoy points out, Musharraf’s government recently failed to enact a revision of the rape laws, which would make the burden of proof placed on the prosecution more realistic (a successful rape prosecution currently requires four male witnesses to the act). However, that climbdown came in the face of intense political opposition—the uncomfortable reality is that it was democracy that prevented the reform, not the dictator.

It’s important to keep in mind that democracy and majority will are not automatically on the side of human rights.

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