This is from BBC News about an Afghan man, his wife and son being convicted in Canada for killing off his three daughters and his first wife because they defied his orders, wanted boyfriends, wore revealing clothes and wanted to live their lives according to “Western notions”.
It must be shocking to live decades of your life able to control the women in your family how you like only to move to another country and suddenly fall foul of its laws. Sucked in. Yay Canada. People in Canada should live according to Canadian law. I would have thought this was obvious.
Yet I think this case is sort of linked to some other issues facing any multicultural society, or any place where people with different ideas of what is socially acceptable mix. One thing in particular that I would like to address is the fears of some that multiculturalism will lead to some kind of moral and legal mish mash, or that immigrants from non-Western cultures will somehow cause this kind of male chauvinism to become acceptable in countries like Canada. Perhaps the extreme fear would be that immigrants might try to introduce Sharia law in the countries that have become their new homes. I find this fear a bit silly. Let me explain why.
Actually, I’m going to be egocentric and talk about Australia instead because it’s what I know more about. Australia is also a multicultural society. We have the right to express our cultures, beliefs, languages and customs as we wish as long as we do so with respect for the rights and freedoms of others and in accordance with the law. Seriously, that’s the policy. Any aspects of a culture which are misogynistic, restrict the freedom of an individual or encourage discrimination, hatred or violence towards another group or individual are obviously in conflict with this policy of multiculturalism being both disrespectful of the rights of others and against the law.
Rights like freedom of expression also come with obligations. One obligation is to uphold the laws and system of government which guarantee those rights. When I was 20 years old and applied for my first passport, I discovered that while I was born to an Australian mother, had lived in Australia for 18 years and was eligible for citizenship, because my mum had not filled in the necessary form when I was a child, I was not actually an Australian citizen. In fact I don’t think I was a citizen of anywhere at the time, which was a bit worrying at the time although I can laugh about it now. I had to have a ceremony and swear an oath. I remember quite clearly swearing to uphold the laws of Australia which guaranteed my rights and freedoms and to respect and defend the rights and freedoms of others. Or something along those lines, at any rate. Anybody else who has become a citizen of Australia would have to have sworn the same oath. I even had to sign something similar to get my resident’s permit when I lived in China (although as far as I remember that only mentioned the law, not rights and freedoms). The point is that oath eliminates some of the ambiguity that people seem to think exists in a multicultural society. The law comes first. Yay law.
For a man to have the right to ‘discipline’ the women in his family in the way that man in Canada tried to do, the law would have to be changed to no longer protect individual liberties in the way that it does. Thankfully this would be very difficult. May it never happen!
Off on a tangent, I have no idea where this saying comes from, but I love it – culture is no excuse for misogyny!