Vaneisa: Open the gates—the trouble with the world

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In Afghanistan, under such bitterly cold conditions that more than a hundred have perished, the Taliban has kept its focus sharply on repressing women. The economy has shrunk, but the forces are hell bent on keeping women restricted from public activities. No to education; no to certain jobs, no to showing their faces.

It is essentially a continuation of similar strictures placed on women throughout the ages. But it is unacceptable and appalling that despite generations of women fighting for equality of treatment and respect for their humanity and access to life, this bizarre state of affairs can still exist.

A woman is “disciplined” in Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban rule.

I saw an interview with one of the Taliban ministers, an old man with a bushy white beard (whose name and position I cannot locate), and he was adamant that objectors had no right to impose their beliefs on his cultural practices.

On the subject of women being banned from working with NGOs to help women in need, he said that they were not abiding by the rules of Islam, and in any case, men were supposed to look after their families, their women, their children, and they were doing this very capably, thank you. Women, you see, are inferior, and need protection and more importantly, supervision.

In this part of the world, and I daresay many others on this patriarchal planet, those “cultural” norms have long existed and still prevail.

How many girls were pulled out of the education system once they’d passed the primary level? How many were married off as they entered puberty? How many have had to bear more than the burden of being a child-bride, but also to be the handmaid of the in-laws?

Child marriages were only recently banned in Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite the strides forward for female parity; despite the irrefutable evidence of the capacity of women, we cannot erase that reality. I know too many people still stumbling through their life’s journey under the yokes of gender inequities.

We can bow our heads, close our eyes, and raise our hands in praise all we like—we cannot deny that the root of this unholy treatment of women lies within the various religious sects.

A man is automatically endowed with wisdom, benevolence and the power to decree what is best for those in his custody. And where has that left us?

A cursory look at the state of the planet tells us that we are in a hot mess. The war being waged on the Ukraine by Russia for going on a year now has escalated extravagantly. After what must have been fierce diplomatic talks, Germany has agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks, and the USA has offered 31 Abrams tanks.

A soldier walks in front of a bombed building in Ukraine.
(Copyright AP)

The UK pledged Challenger 2 battle tanks. Whatever they are, they represent not just high-powered weaponry, but signalled that the richer European nations are banding together with Russia as their common enemy.

The BBC reported that Russia’s response was to launch a series of missiles across the Ukraine, killing 11 and injuring 11 more after 35 buildings were struck. The Russians declared this military aid as “direct” Western involvement.

All of this bombing and shelling and fighting comes in the middle of deathly cold winters where citizens are freezing under war-torn conditions. Homeless, lacking in basic amenities, terrified and running out of hope, what is the point?

Just over a month ago, there were reports that more than 120 were killed as floods swept through Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, leaving millions affected by the devastation.

Flooding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Yet, the country seems to be heading towards an escalation in its conflict with Rwanda after one of its fighter jets was shot at in what the DR Congo deemed an act of war.

Pakistan has faced the worst flooding in recent history, leaving the country reeling. A Unicef report said that nearly four million children are still living around contaminated waters.

“So much of the vital infrastructure that children so rely on has been destroyed and damaged—including nearly 27,000 schools and nearly 1,500 public health facilities. As a result, 2 million additional children have been locked out of learning, children have missed out on lifesaving vaccines and treatment for severe acute malnutrition.”

An estimated million Rohingya people have been living in miserable conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Myanmar.

Fighting on the streets of Myanmar.

All over the world, people are being forced out of their homes, dispossessed and seeking asylum wherever they could. Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had planned to ship them all off to Rwanda. Just get them out of our hair.

China’s report of a significant decline in its population growth sent analysts into gloomy predictions about the impact it would have on the world economy. Made in China is the ubiquitous tag on everything treasured around the globe. With the aging population alarming the forecasters, the focus seems only on what it means as an economic marker; and maybe the fact that the Indian population might surge ahead in the market place.

It makes me wonder why the geo-political divisions that exist—the definitions of nations, of borders, the idea of immigrants, illegal and otherwise—I wonder whether they serve any useful purpose. Why couldn’t China open up its borders instead of trying to reverse its baby policy? Germany is trying to encourage immigrants.

Everything is complicated; the world faces such grim decisions, and Rishi Sunak gets fined for not wearing a seat belt.

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About Vaneisa Baksh

Vaneisa Baksh
Vaneisa Baksh is a columnist with the Trinidad Express, an editor and a cricket historian. She is currently working on a biography of Sir Frank Worrell.

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  1. “On the subject of women being banned from working with NGOs to help women in need, he said that they were not abiding by the rules of Islam, and in any case, men were supposed to look after their families, their women, their children, and they were doing this very capably, thank you.”
    Does the author have a link for this video?

  2. At the same time as there are horrible events going on there are always also wonderful events going on, we can look at TT to see this. A man could be shot dead today on the road worse than dog but a couple kilometres away there is a wedding, or a birth, or the completion of a newly built house for a family etc. We should focus on our own countries problems and our own regions problems of which there is no shortage, Newsflash:- because nobody else will.

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