The sleep of reason begets monsters

We’ve finished the book. Don’t say what book – the book we’ve been writing – Does God Hate Women? It’s finished.

It’s full of nightmares – but the nightmares are only a tiny fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the nightmares there are. Nicholas Kristof has been finding some.

[A]longside the brutal public terrorism that fills the television screens, there is an equally cruel form of terrorism that gets almost no attention and thrives as a result: flinging acid on a woman’s face to leave her hideously deformed. Here in Pakistan, I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region.

Because women don’t matter. They’re worth having, but only the way a hamburger or a hammer is worth having; they’re not important or significant or worth a fuss, so once they’re not worth having any more, it’s okay to wreck them.

Ms. Azar had earned a good income and was supporting her three small children when she decided to divorce her husband, Azar Jamsheed, a fruit seller who rarely brought money home. He agreed to end the (arranged) marriage because he had his eye on another woman. After the divorce was final, Mr. Jamsheed came to say goodbye to the children, and then pulled out a bottle and poured acid on his wife’s face, according to her account and that of their son.

He was never arrested.

Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies: they are poor and female. The first step is simply for the world to take note, to give voice to these women. Since 1994, Ms. Bukhari has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.

Okay, world: take note. 7,800 known cases in 14 years in just one city. That’s a lot of burned women.

For the last two years, Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have co-sponsored an International Violence Against Women Act, which would adopt a range of measures to spotlight such brutality and nudge foreign governments to pay heed to it. Let’s hope that with Mr. Biden’s new influence the bill will pass in the next Congress. That might help end the silence and culture of impunity surrounding this kind of terrorism.

Yeah let’s. Well done, Senators. Way to go Joe. Get that baby passed.

14 Responses to “The sleep of reason begets monsters”