Thursday, May 17, 2007

Honor Killings, Clitorodectomies, and Indigenous Rights

First off, let me say I'm a big fan of Cultural Survival International, and I think everyone should check out their quarterly magazine. Many traditions and histories of indigenous people are dying as quickly as endangered species, and we should do everything we can to preserve and honor indigenous cultures. But that does not mean that we need to take the hippie-dippie view that indigenous=righteous. There's a lot of traditional practicies that are abhorrent, and should be banned on a global basis. I remember getting into a heated discussion with a Lakota Sioux friend as long ago as 1984, telling him I thought that many "manhood" ceremonies of the plains tribes constituted torture. He asked me why I didn't put circumcision in the same category. Good point.
In recent years, female circumcision, or clitorodectomy, has become a heated issue in African cultures, while honor killings, usually of young women, have become an issue in Islamic cultures. The most recent case concerns Do'a Khalil, a teenage resident of Irbil (check out all my Jan-Feb postings on this Kurdish city in Iraq), and a member of the Yazidi sect. She was stoned to death for daring to fall in love with a Sunni boy. Let's hope this makes the issue of honor killings as red-hot in the Persian Gulf as recent cases have made the same issue in Pakistan. It's time for human rights activists, women's rights activists, and even indigenous rights activists to join together in one voice and say: There is not room on this planet for honor killings and clitorodectomies. Such practices must be universally banned, and such bans enforced. Some traditional cultural practices belong only in museums.

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