AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
India's not really mentioned too often in these round-ups. That's because, for the most part, there's a smokescreen around how terrible their primary religion, Hinduism, actually can be. The crazies aren't as in-your-face as, say, a suicide bomber or a Baptist minister calling for the end of Planned Parenthood. But maybe Hinduism is actually worse, because the negative effects due to Hindu religious practices are too commonplace to be considered “crazy.” And those negatives come through in one way: the horrible treatment of women.
The country is currently ranked 129th out of 146 on the gender inequality index. That's not good. Last year, 228,650 of the 256,329 recorded violent crime cases that occurred in India were against women. That isn't happenstance or coincidence. That's what happens when you believe women are second-class citizens.
In the Hindu scriptures, women are encouraged to perform “Sati,” a custom wherein the widow of a man is burned alive on his funeral pyre. “Jauhar” is an ancient tradition where a fallen warrior's wives and daughters self-immolate to avoid being molested by opposing forces. And one of the Hindu scriptures actually contains the phrase, “The mind of the woman cannot be disciplined; She has very little intelligence.”
While the old traditions are long gone, and the blatantly anti-women passages are no longer read, that kind of nearly instinctual disregard for the female manifests itself in different ways. Dowries, women getting acid thrown in their faces, women having to pay to pee in the city of Mumbai, and so on and so forth. And now, two stories from last week: (1) A 17-year-old girl committed suicide after police officers urged her to drop the charges and marry one of her attackers; (2) A woman was gang-raped on a bus, ultimately dying from her injuries. The good news is that these dual events galvanized the public to participate in protests and call for gender equality. But whether or not that will bring about actual change is, well... Look again at the statistic above concerning the violent crime committed against women last year in India.
Onto the roundup!
- On Christmas Eve in Nigeria, gunmen opened fire inside of a church and killed six people. The most likely offenders were Boko Harem, the militant Islamist sect. This is the third year running that Christmas services in Nigeria ended in bloodshed.
- The Pope spent a bit of his Christmas Mass railing against the advancement of technology, which will lead to the inevitable collapse of moral society.
- Speaking of Christmas addresses, Cardinal Sean Brady from Ireland pushed for more people who oppose abortion to make their views known, while Catholic archbishop of England and Wales Vincent Nichols chose the day celebrating Jesus's birth to let everyone know that Britain's plans to introduce same-sex marriage are due to “shallow thinking” and should be halted. Merry Christmas, indeed.
- In the latest act of the continuing escalation between Iran and The Rest of the World That Doesn't Want Iran To Get Nukes Because They Are Run By Religious Fundamentalists Who Are Alright With Starting World War III Because Of Their Next Life-Focused Mindset, Iran was able to put the brakes on a Stuxnet-like cyber attack on one of their power plants. Iran blames Israel and the US for covertly trying to infect their computers.
- Israel also went ahead and escalated that whole war with Palestine thing by giving the official thumbs up for the construction of 1,200 new apartments in the Gilo neighborhood, which a whole lot of the world thinks isn't officially theirs to do anything with.
- It's kind of fitting that Egypt ratified their new Constitution on Christmas, considering it's verbiage is steeped in Islamic fundamentalism. Among the issues is the fact that the principles of Sharia law are now the main sources of legislation, a big warning sign for women, religious minorities, gay people, and anyone with a forward-thinking brain.
- In a 1969 issue of IFW Monthly magazine, Gary Gygax—the creator of Dungeons & Dragons and a self-identified Christian—railed against the celebration of Christmas. It's a fun little read.
- Hooray! The official WhiteHouse.gov petition in order to “legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group” is the most-signed petition of all time on the site, collecting over 300,000 signatures.
- A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed three people in an attack at a US base.
- So, here is supposedly a textbook from a “science class” being taught in a Creationism-friendly school. Is it legit? Who knows. But would it be shocking if it is? (Also of note, this time on the positive side of the ledger, a New Orleans parish school board voted to ban creationism from being taught there. Well done.)
- After an attack that left two dead, members of the Taliban kidnapped at least 22 members of the paramilitary police in Northwest Pakistan. Later in the week, the Taliban captured another 21 security members.
- The only female government worker in Iran, health minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, was fired by President Ahmadinejad after she criticized her fellow members of the government for not providing the necessary money to import critical medicines in order to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, and blood disorders.
- Go read this great piece in Los Angeles magazine by Joel Sappell about what happened to him in the mid-80s after writing a series of articles about Scientology. And yes, the Church probably poisoned his dog.
- Linked by Boing Boing a few weeks ago is a single-serving blog created back in May called “Banned by the Bible” which is simply a list of acts that are punishable by death according to Leviticus. Among the selections: Eating fat, failing to include salt in offerings to God, letting your hair become unkempt and, uh, drinking alcohol in holy places. That last one may be a tall order for Catholics.
- And Our Person(s) of the Week: Philippines President Benigno Aquino and the various members of that country's legislation who passed the controversial reproductive health bill, despite protests from the Catholic Church. (Over 80 percent of those living in the Philippines consider themselves Catholic, making this whole thing a true Christmas miracle.) With the installation of the new law, the government will provide funding for contraception and sex-ed classes. The Church, meanwhile, thinks that the whole thing will destroy marriage and morality, once again proving that their backwards stances are on the wrong side of history.
Previously - Bah Humbug!
VICE News: Young and Gay in Putin's Russia - Part 3
The Warming World Intensified Africa's Civil Wars
This Guy Wants to Trip You Into a Parallel Reality Via Bagpipes
A First Look at VICE News with Shane Smith
The VICE Podcast - Professor Bitcoin
How to Burglarize the FBI
An Interview with a Journalist Who Was Tortured for Investigating Hezbollah
Projecting Abbott's Eastbound Offensive Offensive
We Spoke to Larry Flynt About the Execution of the Man Who Shot Him
I Went on an Australian Gay Marriage Marathon