Did Muammar Gaddafi’s Son Really Say This?

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi is the most prominent son of Libya’s 40-years-in-charge leader Muammar Gaddafi (spellings change according to the news source).  The son is supposedly a “liberal” and “reformist” who is looking to increase his profile so he can become Libya’s leader when his father steps down. One of the steps for which he is trying to gather support is the need for Libya to have a formal constitution. So far so good.

But he is also talking about the need for Libya to become more “efficient,” stating that “[w]e need to have an efficient government system. Sometimes we run after fantasy and romantic ideas (but) we need to be serious. We have to be realistic.”

And what does he think will lead to greater efficiency? Well, he wants to stop spending resources on women who prefer to get married and stay at home rather than work. This is what South Africa’s The Star quoted him as saying:

“Women don’t face any kind of discrimination in Libya. Women and men are equal,” Kadhafi told students, academics and dignitaries at the American University in Cairo.

“Women are very powerful in Libyan society. They are in the army, they are pilots… women are taking part in every company, any ministry,” he told the packed auditorium, adding “they can drive” in a dig at Saudi Arabia, with which Libya had tense relations for years.

“The problem in Libya is that they waste the resources of the society… the state spends a lot of money to educate women and then they get married and stay at home.

“This is the problem in Libya – the women.”

Let’s hope that the women of Libya show their disgust for this kind of thinking.

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Don’t Let Lou Dobbs Hear About This

I’m surprised that the far-right-wing anti-immigration zealots in the United States (led by chairman emeritus Lou Dobbs–who is no longer quite such a zealot now that he is thinking of running for public office) haven’t tried this.  In Kashmir, legislators have reintroduced a bill that would deprive Kashmiri women of the right to own and inherit property, get government job, and obtain other privileges if they marry non-state subjects.

Unofficial Marriage in Indonesia

This is an issue I hadn’t heard of before.  I wonder in how many countries it is a problem.

In Indonesia, there are two types of marriages.  The first is a marriage that is regulated by the government.  The second is an “unofficial” marriage (“nikah siri”) that is regulated by Islamic law.    Nikah siri is usually held in front of a Muslim cleric.  Islamic law requires that witnesses be present, but the witness requirement is bypassed frequently, meaning that nikah siri is usually done in secret and without witnesses present.

In 1974, the Indonesian government passed a law recognizing nikah siri under governmental law.  The purpose of the law was to facilitate marriage for the poorest citizens because the cost of obtaining an “official” governmental marriage was deemed too high (currently the cost is US $3.50).  However, the regulation of the unofficial marriage is done under Islamic law, meaning that “recognizing” it does not guarantee the rights that there would be if the marriage was done under governmental law.

This has caused many problems for women.  For one, it leads to polygamy and adultery (by the husbands of course).   Evarisan, the head of the Semarang Legal Resource Center for Gender Justice and Human Rights, says that “[t]he 1974 Marriage Law has enabled men to engage in nikah siri despite the fact such marriages ignore the rights of wives and children.”  Also, “[m]any men have misused and taken advantage of nikah siri. They have legalized adultery on the pretext of religious law.”  And “most [men] prefer to perform nikah siri. They don’t want to proclaim their marriage openly.”

Now, legislators are trying to pass a bill that will eliminate the recognition of nikah siri by the government and will actually criminalize nikah siri.  Evarisan says that the law needs to be passed to protect women’s rights.

Think what the situation would be in the United States if the rights of the wife and husband in a marriage differed according to the church (if there is one) under which they were performed.  But that is essentially what religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage want to have happen.  They want to impose on everyone the rules of their religion, whether or not those rules are the same desired by people in other religions.  If a church wants to perform a marriage ceremony, let it do so.  But the law and regulation of marriages need to be uniform and without input from a church.

Anglican Ministers Give Prescription for Fixing Marriages–Wives Must Submit to Husbands

Two ministers in the Church of England “know [that] marriage is not working.”  They have a solution.  In a sermon and pamphlet, Rev. Angus MacLeay, and his assistant priest, Mark Oden, quote the Bible to let everyone know that the solution is for wives to “submit” to their husbands.  The Biblical quote they rely on is:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Here is another quote from the pamphlet about the role of women in the church, again quoting the Bible:

When it comes to roles within the church family, the same pattern of relationships applies. Because of the order and purpose of their creation, men are to have leadership responsibilities that women do not share. It is not appropriate for a woman to teach or have authority over men (1 Tim 2:11-13) although it is entirely appropriate for a woman to teach and train other women (Titus 2:3-5). In fact, there is a role here that is uniquely theirs, as while men can teach the Bible to women, they cannot always model it in practice.

Rev. Oden, who is married with three children, has defended his sermon, saying, “I am passionate about helping people to have healthy marriages. I did not set out to unnecessarily offend people, but I stand by what God has said in his word the Bible.”

And what will the Church of England say about this?  I realize that these two ministers do not speak for the entire Church of England.  But this is another example of the problems caused by people who believe in the literal writings in the Bible.  (“Everything in the Bible is the word of God and must be true.”)  How will the church reconcile its presumably more moderate thoughts on the relationship between wives and husbands with the literal Biblical interpretations of these two ministers?  It is always revealing that churches pick and choose the writings in the Bible that they want to rely on and give nonsensical answers for why the ridiculous writings that don’t work well in the actual world should not be relied on without ever actually saying that the Bible should not be taken literally.

As for Reverend Oden’s wife, it would really be interesting to hear from her, wouldn’t it?

South Africa’s President Zuma: Polygamy and “Love Child”

It wasn’t enough for South African President Jacob Zuma to marry yet another woman.  He has three current wives, divorced a fourth wife in 1998 and a fifth killed herself in 2000.  Zuma is also reportedly preparing for a sixth wedding.  Now he has fathered a child out of wedlock with the daughter of a long time friend of his who is also one of South Africa’s main officials organizing the upcoming soccer World Cup.  (The child was born in October, but the acknowledgment only came recently.)  This is the 20th child fathered by Zuma.

All of this is done under the rationale that Zuma’s actions are the custom of his Zulu tribe, the biggest ethnic group in South Africa.  The Zulu custom permits polygamy.  It also has a custom providing for a “zulu payment” when a child is born out of wedlock.

As I wrote previously about the custom of polygamy, given that it is only men who can have multiple wives, it is easy for me to say that the custom is wrong since women do not have the same right to have multiple husbands.  But I also wondered whether I would have any arguments against a custom of polygamy if both women and men were allowed to have multiple spouses.

In the African media, there has been much discussion of Zuma’s actions.  But, interestingly, the discussion appears mostly to be about the “love child.”  In a Kenyan paper, one reader defended Zuma’s “promiscuity,” saying that “[i]t’s in the interest of the Zulu culture to have as many children as possible.  What you guys are doing is like telling the Maasai to stop herding cattle . . . .”  But, in response, another reader said that “I am not sure what African custom/tradition some of you are purporting to defend.  In my African customs you and Zuma would be rolled down the hill in a bee-hive.”

In a Namibian paper, one writer was concerned only about the respect that should be shown to elders: “It is disappointing to see and hear people talking left and right about the now famous African child, but nobody is reminding them about the respect that they have to maintain towards all the elders.  We are living in fear, African children please behave.”

A least one writer was able to put the issue into the context of women’s rights.  A columnist for a Ghanian web site said: “In a country where women’s rights used to be taken seriously, [Zuma’s] treatment of women as sex objects puts all South African women to ridicule. Polygamy may be accepted among his Zulu stock, but his fathering of a love child raises grave moral questions.”

Pew Research Center Survey on the “Economics” of Marriage

The Pew Research Center has a new survey about the changing role of gender in the “economics” of marriage.  Pew’s article starts by saying:

The institution of marriage has undergone significant changes in recent decades as women have outpaced men in education and earnings growth. These unequal gains have been accompanied by gender role reversals in both the spousal characteristics and the economic benefits of marriage.

But, basically, all this means is that, because of the gains that women have made in higher education, the percentage of marriages in which the woman is more highly educated than the man has increased and, hence, the men in those marriages receive a relative economic benefit.

The figures for relative education in marriages show that, in 1970, 28% of marriages had a husband who had more education than the wife and 20% had a wife with more education than the husband (the remainder of the marriages had spouses with the same amount of education).  In 2007, the percentages were almost reversed, with 28% having a wife with more education and 19% having a husband with more education.

Those gains in education lead to the gains in income reported by Pew.  The figures for relative income in marriages show that, in 1970, 4% of marriages had a wife whose income was greater than her husband’s.  In 2007, that percentage had risen to 22%.  That is a huge difference.

However, in a way, the figures are misleading because they are only about marriage, not cohabitation.  Marriage rates have declined for all adults since 1970 and gone down most sharply for the least educated men and women.  Therefore, those with more education are far more likely than those with less education to be married and that gap has been widening.  Because the Pew survey only relates to marriages, it does not show what has happened to the income of less-educated women and men who are not marrying as often as they used to, but may be cohabitating.

In any event, the Pew survey confirms the gains in education made by women and, even though there is still income inequality, it confirms that gains have been made.  It may also show that the dynamics within a marriage have changed since the relative income has become somewhat more equal.

Holiday Hates: Jewelry Commercials

I’ll admit it– I love the holiday season. Perhaps it’s simply good childhood memories warming my heart, but this feminist is no Scrooge. One thing about the holidays that I can’t stand, however, is being bombarded by ridiculous, cheesy, materialistic jewelry commercials.

Every year, we have to suffer through “Every kiss begins with Kay,” or “He went to Jared’s” one-liners, accompanied with trite images of happy, white, heteronormative couples sharing their love through expensive, mass manufactured jewelry.

This commercial was particularly insufferable for me this year:

Ladies are like kittens or little children, terrified of thunder and lightning! But luckily, you can fall into your man’s arms! He will protect you with the strength of his love! And his wallet!

And then, there’s this one:

This commercial says, “I love you enough to buy you a watch…but definitely not enough to learn sign language properly.”

This is not to mention the fact that all of these commercials try to make you buy into a notion of ‘love’ that is extremely frustrating to me. Heteronormativity, mass production, materialism, and a ‘damsel in distress.’ What’s more, they make love into something that should be demonstrated by purchasing an expensive diamond, from an industry that truly has no regard for the havoc it has and continues to wreak on so much of Africa.

I’ll continue to roll my eyes every time I see any of these commercials– but I’ll leave you with a little feminist humor on jewelry commercials, courtesy of Sarah Haskins: