Impunity Feeds the Fire of Inequality, Infidelity and Opression

Monday, 13 June 2011 21:56 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Let’s try to wend our way from the international sex scandals to the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.

Impunity is the word that connects the sexcapades of such world leaders as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of assaulting a hotel housekeeper; Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, charged with paying an underage prostitute for sex and abuse of office; Israel’s former President Moshe Katsav sent to prison for rape and sexually harassment of employees; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fathering a child with a member of the household staff; and now U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner, sexting women he meets through his social media accounts. This list is just of the better-known incidents this year—and we are not even half-way through 2011!

Women when they gather can’t stop talking about the latest outrage. The ones I have talked to keep asking: Why? Why would Weiner risk his political career through such outrageous conduct?

That gets us to the Taliban. Women’s eNews commentator Jeanne Bryer argued forcefully this week against a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Without the representation and participation of women in settlement talks with the Taliban, there can be no assurance that their rights will be upheld after the peace process and that could spell disaster. Women risk losing liberty, education and employment.

Coincidentally, her essay appeared on the Women’s eNews site on the same day U.S. news media reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the soon-to-begin U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should leave combat power intact as long as possible to press an anti-Taliban offensive. He said support troops should go first and infantry and others should remain behind to cement recent gains against a resilient Taliban.

Gates didn’t mention women’s right as part of his reason to keep armed troops there, but it seems implicit in his remarks—unless Gates plans to completely turn his back on the women of Afghanistan.

One should also ask why would an entire group of men—the Taliban—living in a hardscrabble nation choose to power trip the women whose lives they share?

The key phrase here is power trip. The Taliban certainly is an extreme example of how far men with impunity because of their position or their tribal customs are willing to go to demonstrate to themselves that they are ‘The Man’. They feel safe doing it, because they believe they can do so with impunity.

Though it appears the rules might be changing a bit.

DSK is facing serious charges in New York, Israel’s ex-president was sentenced to seven years, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political ambitions were made null and void.

But lets not forget: Eliot Spitzer now has his own talk show on CNN News. As governor of New York State, Spitzer championed an anti-trafficking law that advocates criticized as too focused on prostitution. He resigned in 2008 after law enforcement discovered he patronized expensive—yes—prostituted women.

So we won’t celebrate just yet.