Wednesday May 23, 2018

Honor Killers know their action is shameful

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Kwame Anthony Appiah
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Jaipur: The British-born Ghanaian philosopher, cultural, political and moral theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah asserted that phenomenon like “honor killings” are resorted by those who are morally weak and the motivation for it is shame rather than guilt.

Honor and morality can oppose each other, and the former can lead people into committing despicable acts like “honor killings” despite them knowing their actions are morally wrong and should not be done, he says.

“Honor and morality are different systems that can conflict in cases like of honor killings… Honor draws people to do something they know is morally wrong and they ought not to do but this does not stop them,” he said at a session titled “The Honor Code” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday evening.

“Guilt is moral and shame stems from honor,” he said, adding that the sense of shame can be given to someone, not guilt.

Appiah, who holds a position at the New York University’s philosophy department and school of law and has authored “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” which deals majorly with three changes — the end of the practice of foot-binding in China, the slavery trade and duelling in England — that came through moral shifts, says he had studied the issue and came to conclusion that honor was a matter of a system, based on local norms of how respect is assigned, and the right of respect is addressed through identity, which can be of family, caste, nation, religion or gender.

“Identity is what you are supposed to be doing.. You are supposed to confirm to the norms,” he said, adding morality is what holds you responsible and honor is something other people have a stake in.

On his typology of revolutions, Appiah contended that revolutions, in the classic sense entailing a big change in a small time, related to political revolutions of which the French Revolution is the ‘obvious’ stereotype but moral and lifestyle revolutions were different, insofar they had different time frames, and entail at least 20 to 25 years, or a generational gap, example attitude in the US for gay marriage.

The difference is that lifestyle revolutions encompass new ideas, a big change in morality and have significance in daily life, while the moral kind, such as on equality for women and abolition of slavery, have arguments already in place, so the issue is not about changing of minds but the big change comes when habits change, he said.

Leading Indian cultural and literary theorist Homi K Bhabha, who had initiated the discussion, contended that honour, especially in the case of “honor” killings, was linked to authority, and a sense of humiliation was important for both shame and honor, the latter being an ambivalent response to the issue of shame. He also contended that sex was a problematic area in this connection.

Appiah said it was a question of privacy that linked to sex. “Everyone knows what the others are doing. What is constrained by shame is visibility,” he said, stressing shame is connected to visibility and there is loss of respect through exposure, and thus shame.

Holding of laws were needed against issues like “honor killings” and racial discrimination, he however stressed that the law and the state were important factors here but not the determinants and a moral change was imperative.(Vikas Datta,IANS)

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Tibetan Activist Sentenced to 5 Years of Imprisonment in China

A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence "unjust" and urging his immediate release.

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A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence “unjust” and urging his immediate release.

The main evidence against Tashi Wangchuk, who was sentenced by a court in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, was a 2015 video by the New York Times about his campaign for saving the Tibetan language, according to his lawyer.

“Today’s verdict against Tashi Wangchuk is a gross injustice. He is being cruelly punished for peacefully drawing attention to the systematic erosion of Tibetan culture,” AI East Asia Research Director Joshua Rosenzweig was cited as saying by Efe news.

Before his arrest, the 31-year-old activist had expressed concern over the fact that many Tibetan children could not fluently speak their native language, contributing to the progressive extinction of the Tibetan culture.

Representational Image: Tibetan Teachings
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Tashi must be immediately and unconditionally released,” demanded AI, pointing out that the activist had already spent two years in detention without access to his family.

Rosenzweig claimed that Tashi Wangchuk “was a human rights defender and prisoner of conscience who used the media and China’s own legal system in his struggle to preserve Tibetan language, culture and identity”.

In the New York Times video, the activist had highlighted “the extreme discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression that Tibetans face in China today”.

Also Read: An Attempt to Preserve Ancient Tibetan Literature

Non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticized the prison term for Tashi Wangchuk, whose “only crime was to peacefully call for the right of minority peoples to use their own language”, a right safeguarded by the Chinese Constitution.

“His conviction on bogus separatism charges show that critics of government policy on minorities have no legal protections,” said HRW China Director Sophie Richardson. (IANS)

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