Humanity – A Work in Progress

The article in the newspaper showed a 13 year old girl in full wedding dress. She was in a row of men, who were dancing and smiling. She wasn’t smiling. She looked terrified.

It was a story about arranged child marriages and it caught my eye on a friends feed on Facebook. His argument was ‘will we invade and bomb that country too, just because they do something we see as abhorrent?’ It made me think about our moral code here in the UK, about how things have changed over the years (even in the UK, in the past people were married and having children at 14). I was upset seeing this 13 year old girl. I didn’t think it was right, even though in that country it was acceptable.

Over the last couple of nights I watched Out There, a documentary presented by the National Treasure that is Stephen Fry. Over the past two years he had travelled around the world looking at how different cultures and countries regard gay people. It was not an easy thing to watch. From the film of five young men being hanged for being gay in Iran, to conversations with politicians in Uganda, Russia and Brazil (there were others, but these three stood out for me) it showed how far we have to go when it comes to the freedom to love who we love.

My thoughts went back to that photo.

The freedom to love who we love.

The man would say that I want to take away his freedom to love a 13 year old girl. But that is where the common ground ends, because it didn’t appear that this love was being reciprocated. Laws and traditions that impact minorities, and take away an individual’s freedom should be challenged. Again and again. I know my politics is left of centre, and that can obviously influence how I view what is right and wrong, but there are still things going on in the name of ‘tradition and culture’ that I do think should be challenged. Female circumcision, these arranged child marriages, and homophobia.

In the market squares of England people used to watch public hangings. Homosexuality used to be illegal (and not too long ago either). Humanity is a work in progress, and we have come a long way, but to sandbox some activities that take away human rights purely because they are seen as tradition, well, I can’t agree with that.

12 responses to “Humanity – A Work in Progress”

  1. In the ancient Roman empire, homosexuality was considered a good thing. Not only did gay men have both the nurturing ability of women and the strength of men, but alot of the men in the Roman army were gay. The theory was that they would fight harder on the battlefield to impress their lover.

  2. I appreciate your honesty. I work in counter human trafficking. My views are solid left of center. That child cannot consent. She has been raped and threatened. Some are as young as eight. And husbands as old as eighty. When did we decide that children don’t matter? I promise you, her average life is just seven more years. If that long. He will want a new one. And because he can,her fate will probably be terrible. Her family will never take her back. She is disposable to him. An object for his every desire. My question is when did we lose our humanity? I am weary of a world where girls have few real choices.

  3. Using the tradition argument is a cop-out for not doing the right thing. I n some cultures it is ok to gang rape young women in order to prepared them for marriage? I bet that if the girls had a say in the matter they would probably say no thank you. Is it ok to see china kill off unwanted children because of the one child policy? is it ok for witch doctors to kill albino children and adults to avoid bad crops?
    All the answers are NO and to use the tradition crap is to say we are too scared to reach out to other suffering humans because of international convention, most times meaning $$.

  4. My stepfathers mother who was Indian was married at 13 and found it a horrendous experience.
    This practise has been challenged in Mauritius now and it is now illegal so we can change and as you say MUST challenge.

  5. The moral values, no matter where they spring from, of any society, religious or secular impact us from very young. The codes of conduct and sense of right and wrong are indoctrinated into us by a slow and steady process but it does seem that more and more people are questioning these values and even rejecting them. The tide is turning as the individual awakens and empathy and compassion, the feminine principles, are manifesting more and more along with values that grow from within, of oneself rather than implanted from an external source and i believe that the male dominated world of religion and society in general is standing in fear of itself in the face of great change. It is this fear that drives some to extremes of hatred as the old world falls away.

  6. Thanks Dave, for this thought provoking post.
    I agree with what you are saying, there is a lot of pressure and perhaps some fear these days in commenting on the actions of another culture, fear of being seen as racist?
    I have always felt that what goes on between two consenting adults is their business, but in this and other similar cases, i would query whether both are adults, taking your point about marriages in this country happening not so long ago between 13 year olds, and of consent.
    In this case, there doesn’t seem to be consent from the girl and i would also question whether she has the capacity to actually give consent anyway, with her age and the pressures from others placed upon her?
    I feel we should always stand up against things we feel are wrong, even though it is not always easy to do so.
    Well done sir!

  7. A very thought provoking piece, it never ceases to shock and sadden me how people mistreat each other in this world. Live and let life. BB x

  8. A very important but difficult subject… I was just thinking about the same thing regarding traditional whale hunting, because recently there where 80 pilot whales killed at a Faroese Grindadráp… and it came to my mind how my pagan friends as celtic reconstructionists always say they have to adjust what we know of the old traditions to modern society… so that for instance we can’t just sacrifce human beings only because our ancestors might have. But I guess the difficulty with this topic is that that we don’t always have a fully changed society… many developing countries are only on the threshhold, still clinging to old traditions but also unable to block the moral and cultural influence from western nations because the economy depends on that one way or the other… I do hope that much is going to change in that perspective, though I can’t say that I fully support to impose our views on different cultures…it really is a difficult thing.

    Blessings from Germany

  9. I agree that this type of practice should stop, but just how much pressure can/should we put on a culture from the outside? How quickly do we expect change? How much backlash will that pressure cause? We see these thing in the reactions of the Arab nations to America.

  10. This is an important subject, but an incredibly difficult one. Girls younger than 13 are married – against the law, but with the collusion of the authorities – in many countries. Female circumcision, limited access to education and healthcare – the list goes on. But we have toaccept that “white man he say” lot of guff in the context of those societies. Parents believe they are protecting their daughters through mariage, marriages may be considered successful even though – in Western terms – they are not necessarily happy ones.But women (and in the long term men) suffer, unnecessarily. I am not an expert in this field – so caveat emptor – but from what I have read and heard from (primarily Western) people working in the field is: education – education – education – for women My grandfather (who had to leave school at 11) used to say: if you educate a woman, you educate a family. I believe the facts bear this out – education for women goes hand in hand with a better life for all – there is plenty of info out there, so I won’t spam this web site with links. Although, watching an African film on female circumcision, with all the attendant prejudices of the society, it’s going to be a long haul but … education….. education ….. education

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