Afghan elders reject the number 39

Officials at a meeting of elders in Kabul changed a committee’s number after delegates rejected 39 because of an Afghan belief that the number is associated with pimps.

Delegates at the gathering, or loya jirga, convened by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, divided into 40 groups to consider Afghan-US relations. Elders refused to take part in group 39 until its number was changed to 41…

Correspondents say some believe the taboo started because a pimp had 39 on his vehicle number plate. But others say it dates from an old way of calculating numbers called “Abjad”.

Many delegates at the loya jirga voiced their fervent opposition to being part of committee 39, one attendee told the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.

”One delegate said: ‘I don’t want to return to my area and be called a pimp. I don’t care if it is true or not, but people out there believe in it. Look no one wants to have a vehicle with number plate 39. And yet, you want me to be in 39?”’ the member said…

Officials at the loya jirga said they never expected this to be a sticking point at the gathering, which is considering reconciliation with the Taliban as well as future Afghan-US relations.

We needed 40 committees and we created 40. But a special solution was found for a ‘special problem’,” the official said.

I’m sort of sensitive to folks in Western nations claiming the right to patronize culture in developing nations, the 3rd World. But, superstition is a sticking point as are cultural hangups – no matter which nation is responsible for the foolishness. The concept has been dealt with by the best scientific minds of our time – from Doug Adams to Monty Python.

Seven members of Bolivian Mennonite colony jailed for serial rape

A court in Bolivia has sentenced seven members of a reclusive conservative Christian group to 25 years in prison for raping more than 100 women. The men, members of a Mennonite group, secretly sedated their victims before the sex attacks.

The victims’ lawyer said the 2000-strong Mennonite community where the rapes happened welcomed the sentence.

The group follows a strict moral code and rejects modern inventions such as cars and electricity.

An eighth man was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years for supplying the sedative used to drug the women.

The rapes happened in the Mennonite community of Manitoba, 150km north-east of the city of Santa Cruz.

The court heard that the men sprayed a substance derived from the belladonna plant normally used to anaesthetise cows through bedroom windows at night, sedating entire families.

They then raped the women and girls. The youngest victim was nine years old…

Prosecutor Freddy Perez said colony elders suspected something was wrong when they wondered why one man was getting up so late in the mornings, and they decided to shadow him.

He was then spotted jumping through a window into one of the victim’s houses.

Tough enough being part of a non-Catholic religion in most of Latin America. An often-reclusive group like these Mennonites will now have to deal with years of innuendo and rumor – even though they caught these thugs and turned them over for prosecution.

Doesn’t have to be that way. There are some really successful Mennonite communities in northern Mexico. They coexist peacefully with local Catholic families and provide full employment at many of their organic farms.

Pakistan upholds rape acquittals – continues to avoid 21st Century

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai against the acquittal of five men she accused of attacking her…

Mai, now 40, was gang raped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council in Meerwala town of Punjab province as punishment after her younger brother was wrongly accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan.

The boy was 12-years-old at the time.

A local anti-terrorism court (ATC) had sentenced the six accused men to death, but the Lahore High Court acquitted five of the men in March 2005, and commuted the sentence for the main accused, Abdul Khaliq, to life imprisonment.

A four-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday “dismissed” all appeals and ordered the release of those arrested, according to a copy of the court order received by AFP. It however upheld the life sentence for Khaliq…

Mai, whose case garnered much attention in the West as an example of oppression suffered by Pakistan’s women, expressed her disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict while human rights groups also voiced discontent…

Mai, who now helps protect women facing threats at the hands of influential men, said she would not file any appeal against Thursday’s judgement…

“This is a setback for Mukhtar Mai,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement urging the government to “ensure her safety.”

Pakistan’s government refuses to ensure honesty. Why should you expect safety?

Almost a thousand women were raped in Pakistan during 2010 while more than 2,000 were abducted and almost 1,500 murdered, according to the Aurat Foundation, an organisation working for the protection of women in the country.

A further 500 were the victims of “honour killings”, a custom under which relatives and other fellow tribesmen kill a woman if they believe she had an affair.

There are many nations devoting every opportunity afforded to bring the lives of their families, their neighbors, their nation to a healthier, better life. I’d be hard pressed to qualify Pakistan as one of those progressive nations.

Filial piety as law

An editorial in the current issue of China Daily

Everyone agrees that people should visit their aged parents regularly if they are living separately. But whether this requirement should be written into law is a controversial matter.

The proposed amendment to the law on elderly people has a clause that says independent children should visit their aged parents regularly and should not ignore their need for love and affection.

If the amendment is adopted, parents will be able to sue their children in court for not visiting them for a long time. The number of elderly couples not living with their children is rising, and the amendment could provide them with a legal weapon to defend their rights of being looked after – at least emotionally – by their children.

Some people call the amendment ridiculous and meaningless, because a legal code should not be aimed at mending broken relations between children and parents. They contend that most children try their best to take some time out of their busy schedule to visit their parents and most parents excuse their children for not being able to keep them company for long or regularly.

Hence, they say that even if the amendment is adopted very few parents will take their children to court for not visiting them for a long time or not fulfilling their emotional needs.

But such a legal provision will serve as a reminder to young couples that they have the obligation to meet the emotional needs of their aged parents irrespective of how busy they may be. Parents could even remind their sons and daughters of their legal obligation. Contrary to some people’s fear that such a law will have serious consequences, it will only help consolidate the bond between most parents and children.

My parents would have voted for a law like this. Especially with all the years I spent wandering the globe, missing holidays with the family.