The Roberts Nomination and the Iraqi Constitution:
Bush’s War on Women
George W. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts, Jr. is a setback for American women, just has his policies in Iraq have produced a setback for women’s rights in the Arab world. Indeed, Bush has been bad for women all around the globe.
By nominating a man, Bush reduced the number of women on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor is no progressive, but she knew what it was like to be locked out of the Old Boys Club, and she ruled in favor of women’s issues like affirmative action and reproductive rights. Her feisty independence even led her to say that the Federal government had no business telling Californians they couldn’t use marijuana for medical purposes.
She is being replaced by a man who has no sympathy for any of the things she stood for. In particular, he wants to have men dictate to women whether they will carry to term babies that men impregnate them with. If abortion ends up being outlawed altogether, it will mean that rapists can in essence force their victims to bear their babies. In short, the more absolute form of anti-reproductive rights philosophy is an active ally of these men against women (the daughters, nieces, wives and mothers of men):
The same juvenilization of women, the rendering of them wards of men, can be seen in Bush’s Iraq. Contrary to the propaganda Bush’s team is so good at producing, the secular, Arab nationalist Baath Party had passed some of the more progressive laws and regulations about women in the Middle East. Iraqi women in the 1970s had unprecedented opportunities for education and entry into the professions. The Bushies like to pose as liberators of Muslim women, but they have brought to power Muslim fundamentalists who are obsessed with subjugating women.
Ed Wong of the NYT reports that a draft of the new Iraqi constitution contains a provision that puts personal status law under the authority of religious judges. Marriage, divorce, inheritance and other such matters would be judged according to the religious law of the community to which the person belonged. This step would be a big set back for women’s rights in Iraq.
In the kind of medieval interpretation of Islamic law being envisioned, women would get half the inheritance that their brothers do. Their testimony would be worth half that of men in court (making it almost impossible for a woman to convict her rapist). It would allow men to summarily divorce women but deprive women of any similar right to divorce their husbands. In Shiite Islam, it would bring back formally the practice of temporary marriage, whereby a man could contract with a woman for, say a two-week marriage while he was away from his usual family. The provision that a quarter of seats in the Iraqi parliament go to women will certainly be gotten rid of by the Muslim fundamentalists, now or later.
Bush and his officials have been scathingly critical of Iran’s governmental system, including lack of rights for women. But they have cast the shadow of medieval jurisprudence over 15 million Iraqi women. And they are trying as hard as they can to ensure paternity rights for rapists here in the United States.
Billmon is excellent on who Roberts is and the implications of the nomination.