There is a very good article in The Independent today which basically sums up my views of the ‘multiculturalism v. womens' rights’ debate. Have a read of it below:( Read more... )
What the article is pointing out is the inherent racism in the belief that women’s rights and feminism is a ‘Western’ concept, and that tolerance of others includes tolerance of the oppression of others. In other words, instead of our legal system acknowledging different backgrounds as motivation, yet still acknowledging that the law has been broken and acting accordingly, a significant number of people are being put outside of the law through the excuse of ‘multiculturalism’. This is not
the aim of the proponents of multiculturalism, but is the result of the high-jacking of this phrase by the PC brigade. Multiculturalism does not mean that UK law does not apply, or that certain people within UK territories are not entitled to their human rights. It means that the UK legal system should be flexible when dealing with the background and beliefs of the citizenry it is supposed to server – all of them.
What Hari is missing in his commentary is some of the reasons why these verdicts – and this view – are on the increase. Firstly, ‘sexism’ is a lesser thing to be tarred with than ‘racism’, and judges may err on the side of caution. Secondly, the topic of domestic violence has long since been a hot potato for those inside the legal system, due to its wide-ranging implications.
The argument goes as follows:
To qualify as a political refugee or asylum seeker under the Refugee Convention, you have to be part of a distinct
group that is suffering from the denial of your rights. Your rights are defined by whatever conventions your home country has signed, or the human rights act of whatever country you end up in as your first ‘safe zone’. These rights are political
in nature: the right to vote, to appear in public, etc. They are centred on the public sphere: the things you do out in the open. The home – the private sphere – is not covered by your political rights. The way of dealing with domestic abuse is to report it to the authorities, and then wait for them to investigate. You cannot ask for asylum based on domestic abuse, as it is the home country’s
duty to intercede on your behalf.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Your home country doesn’t have to protect you. It only has to show that it has followed the proper process. The authorities have to demonstrate due diligence on the part of protecting its citizenry. So, if you turn up and say you’ve been raped, they have the duty to actually file a report etc, but not to bring a conviction. You can argue that governments not policing certain areas are failings in due diligence in protecting the residents of those areas – but these must be public areas that the government would have normal access to.
So. In asking for asylum due to domestic violence, you are denied this status because:
1. [when applying as part of a group] Domestic violence victims have been ruled to not
be part of a discrete group. There is no way of putting a fence around them, basically.
2. [when applying as an individual] The government of the home country often does not have access to the home, and therefore it does not have due diligence failures in not intervening. The difficulties of reporting and bringing a case of domestic violence to court are not a significant factor here.
The problem of saying that domestic violence is something that all
women must be protected from – that the right to not beaten half to death supersedes the right to privacy and government intervention – is that it makes reason 2 fall down on its head. Suddenly, if this right is judged higher than the right to the political right of a lack of government influence, then a large group of women can band together, call themselves “Women of Village X” and claim under reason 2, and they will have to be granted asylum
. This is the real problem: it opens up a VERY broad category under which asylum must, according to international law, be granted.
A case like this was brought to the Canadian court (I think it was Canadian…) where women from another developed country (Australia?) asked for asylum based on domestic violence. The women argued that by leaving their country, they would be protected from their abusers, and that their home country had failed in its duty to protect them. The case failed: the judge argued that Canada was no better equipped to protect these women from domestic violence than the originating country. This is another issue: in saying that domestic violence is illegal, above the considerations of religious freedom etc, and it is grounds for asylum, we are making a statement that this country is better equipped to deal with victims of domestic violence than any other country. This is (arguably) not the case, and we are more or less in the same boat. In recognising domestic violence as grounds for asylum, however, it recognises it as a failure of due diligence - which opens up the domestic government to accusations of human rights failures, right here at home.
I understand why these judges ruled as they did. The right to religious freedom is held to be one of our highest rights. The issue is not a confrontation between multiculturalism and women’s rights but, rather, that public rights – the right to religious and political freedom – are judged to be higher than personal rights. The ICESCR is largely ignored where it concerns individuals. Protecting individuals is a difficult business for governments, who find it a lot easier to protect groups. Groups can be defined, and can be protected by law. The protection of individuals has somehow been pushed to the domain of NGOs and special interest groups, who will fight on behalf of a single individual, and will shelter those the government can’t or won’t protect. The problem here is where legal protection is not only denied to these individuals, but it is actively stripped away. These last few rulings will serve as precedent: the religious right of the man is a higher right than the individual’s right to not be beaten.
Interestingly, the right to religious freedom does not appear to extend to terror suspects. If you beat or kill a single person, your religious views grant you leniency. If you try to blow up a bus or train, your religious views are used to impose a stiffer sentence. Proponents of multiculturalism never advocated creating enclaves with their own internal laws, created and enforced by the strongest and most brutal members. That nightmare has been our very own invention.