August 22, 2005

The Disposable Constituency

Iraq looks all set to get a new Islamic constitution from its temporary government. The Sunnis are desperately unhappy about the shape of things, but it seems unlikely that they're bothered by the same issues I am. The only option left to them is to scupper the thing when it goes for a vote in the provinces. After the vote, they'll either have an Islamic constitution or a civil war, maybe both. Neither scenario poses a rosy future for the women of Iraq.

Women's rights in Iraq will at either point be significantly lessened from what they were under the secular government of Saddam Hussein, though in fact they're already worse off. They used to be among the most liberated women in the Middle East, well educated and full participants in society. They used to be able to travel pretty freely and dress how they liked. Now, if they aren't scared to leave the house for fear of being kidnapped, they may get threatened with beatings or acid if they're not wearing Islamic dress. Yes, Howard Dean was right again, not that it stops Republicans from demonizing him.

It's probably too late to do anything about the type of government the Iraqis wind up with. I doubt that anyone besides the Iraqis and the Iranians are going to have much say in these decisions from here on out. Iraqi women themselves have other priorities and are just looking forward to the day when they can safely go outside without escorts, when there's enough food and jobs again, when the bombings and shootings stop. Further, the neocon war cheerleaders are already switching from wrapping themselves in feminism to saying women's rights don't matter, so even if there was anything to be done, no one in power would be likely do it.

Here in America however, it's another matter. If the Democrats are thinking about laying down on women's rights for our homegrown theocrats, the BooMan has a message: Don't fucking try it.

Women's rights and reproductive freedoms may be better protected by Democrats, but if they suffer no penalty for throwing us overboard they'll feel free to move farther and farther right. It may be too late to stop Iraq from turning back the clock, but I don't want to see that happen here. The Democrats are suffering among the electorate from the popular belief that women's rights are settled law and no one will tamper with them.

We're really hampered by two delusions, though. One of them is the popular myth that the Republicans have given up trying to turn the clock back and the other is the Beltway myth that equal and reproductive rights are unpopular. The second is especially ridiculous, as reproductive choice even has the support of a majority of Republican voters. The Democratic leadership continues to be prey to both fictions, tempting them down the primrose path of giving up on yet another major constituency. The DLC 'centrists' think it's okay to toss all the single-issue groups, but after they finish selling minorities, working people, war critics and women down the river, I don't know that there'll be enough Democrats left to have a wake, let alone a party.

Posted by natasha at August 22, 2005 03:32 AM | Women | Technorati links |