Upholding human rights in oppressive societies


It’s sad when you’re watching the news and you see yet another human rights case where the world cannot intervene because those committing such violations are governments themselves. It’s a bit of a helpless situation, which provokes temporary outrage and then routine indifference.

Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, a new age of reformed ideas, there are an alarming number of countries that have fought hard against what is referred to as “Western propaganda” and insist upon laws that may raise an eyebrow or two.

While coming from an East Indian background myself, I completely understand cultural and religious values and the struggle many have in keeping their cultures alive in a rapidly homogenizing world.

My concerns are actual laws implemented by countries, punishable by physical harm and death, that are clearly in violation of any human being’s basic rights. For example, a woman accused of fornicating outside of wedlock is committed to 99 lashes.

In these countries, if you cheat, you get built into a stone wall with only your head vulnerable, made to suffer the blows of stones until you die.

Interesting how the governments in some countries have such a control over their countrymen’s lives that such a decision is decreed heinous enough for the woman to die because of it. But that’s not all.

What’s even more atrocious is how lopsided these barbaric laws can be when it comes to the gender of the individual they are accusing.

In Iran (and in many other countries ruled by Islamic law), married women require the permission of their husbands to leave their houses, to work a job and to apply for a passport.

To appear in public without a hijab and moderate Muslim dress gets you 74 lashes. Iran rejected a recent bill for the same inheritance rights for men and women, stating it goes against Islamic law, which stipulates a woman’s share is only half of that of a man’s. Health care is segregated, which is a problem with the lack of female doctors.

More incredulous laws include conversion from Islam and homosexuality which are punishable by death. Iran is second only to China in numbers of annual executions.

An example of a woman accused of fornication outside of wedlock and adultery was Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. She is one of the numerous women on death row sentenced to death by stoning.

Her case has sparked an international cry of injustice against this barbaric yet legal act, which delayed her date of execution. There is talk of hanging her instead of the more torturous act of stoning.

Human rights activists state there are 200 death row cases in the Tabriz prison where Sakineh is locked up. This includes individuals such as Azar, who as a 14-year-old was convicted of having sex out of wedlock and was sentenced to death by stoning.

The law states that they have to wait until she turns 18 to execute her and they have put her through “mock stoning” to prepare her for the execution act.

Sakineh’s lawyer and her two children insist that the conviction was based on false evidence.

Her son appealed to Western-based activists, a risky move that has led to the arrest and subsequent disappearance of her son and her lawyer.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have taken up the case, but the Iranian regime has responded by stating that these Western protests are nothing but an assault on Iran and Islamic values.

While in the West, we are aware of what goes on, we complain about it for a while and then wrapped up in our day-to-day lives we forget about it and fail to act.

We enjoy so many freedoms that many other women would not dream of having and do not even believe they are entitled to. It is a crime for women in many countries to pursue a life equal to that of their male counterparts.
In these countries, you were a criminal the day you were born.

One response to “Upholding human rights in oppressive societies”

Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.