Friday, April 13, 2007

Death and Lashes

Yesterday I read a Gulf News article about the tragic outcome of a fire in Sharjah. It states that the mother panicked, and dropped the children from their 8th floor apartment in order to save them. One died, and one is in hospital.

This Emirates Today front page article of the day before explains that the reason she couldn't get out was that her husband, as was his custom, had locked her and the children in when he went to work. Apparently this is a common practice. He'd changed the lock too, without telling, or leaving a duplicate with, the watchman.

That poor woman has enough guilt to live with, Gulf News. She didn't panic - she threw her sons down to the crowd below, saving one. Maybe if the police had been there in under half an hour, or the fire brigade in under forty five minutes, things might have been different. (Shades of the recent Al Attar fire which started at about 4.15 a.m. but didn't attract a fire crew til 6 or 7 - What is going on in this country of multiplying high-rises?) Maybe if her husband had not locked her in.

Today there was this.

I don't hold with stoning, for reasons I'm too sad to go into after these stories. But if I'd met the judges who sentenced those girls, in the half hour after I'd read the second article - assuming I could stop crying long enough to see straight - I think I'd have cast a few stony opinions.

Both of these men were cast in the role of protector, the ultimate authority in the lives of the 'their' women and children. Yet when they abused their authority, one deliberately, one through fuzzy thinking, both the judges and the Gulf News writer - one after long deliberation, and the other with a, perhaps thoughtless, choice of words - assigned blame to the protegees.

Female children should have the protection of law.
Male and female adults should have equal status in law and practice.
Male and female adults should be prepared to give, take, and accept equal responsibility in personal relationships, especially when it comes to raising families.

Then we can start dishing out equal blame for crime and stupidity.


As a formula for the day-to-day business of living with each other and raising a family, mutual respect, consultation, consent, and compromise may be a pain in the ass at times; but it does spread the load, and provide a check for the more foolish decisions that one tired or over-conscientious person might come up with alone. Like locking up his wife for her own protection.

As for the law.

And those who interpret it.


I'm looking for an upbeat one-liner, but I've broken my rose-tinted specs. Sorry.

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