A Texas teacher will lose her job after ordering more than 20 kindergartners to line up and hit a classmate accused of being a bully … The teacher at a suburban San Antonio school is accused of orchestrating the slugfest after a younger teaching colleague went to her last month seeking suggestions on how to discipline the 6-year-old [not in the image above] …
The police report alleges the teacher chose to show the child “why bullying is bad” by instructing his peers to “Hit him!” and “Hit him harder!” … “Twenty-four of those kids hit him and he said that most of them hit him twice,” Amy Neely, the mother of 6-year-old Aiden …
An interesting case of lex talionis:
A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals if they are willing to damage a man’s spinal cord as punishment for a cleaver attack that left a 22-year-old paralysed.
The victim, Abdul-Aziz al Mutairi, became paralysed and subsequently lost a foot after a fight more than two years ago.
An unnamed man was sentenced to 14 months in prison for the assault, but released after serving only half that time.
The shortened jail time has reportedly enraged Mr Mutairi’s family. His 27-year-old brother Khaled said they want an equivalent punishment for the attacker and have appealed to a judge in northwestern Tabuk province.
“We are asking for our legal right under Islamic law,” the brother said. “There is no better word than God’s word – an eye for an eye.”
The judge has since asked several hospitals if medical paralysis was possible and would they perform the operation. (source)
- Spine for a Spine: Saudi Judge Seeks Doctors To Paralyze Defendant Under Sharia Law (jonathanturley.org)
- Saudi Judge Considers Damaging Man’s Spine (abcnews.go.com)
The only thing that sets [the] students [of the Judge Rotenberg Center, a private boarding school for special-education students in Canton, Massachusetts] apart from kids at any other school in America – aside from their special-ed designation – is the electric wires running from their backpacks to their wrists. Each wire connects to a silver-dollar-sized metal disk strapped with a cloth band to the student’s wrist, forearm, abdomen, thigh, or foot. Inside each student’s backpack is a battery and a generator, both about the size of a VHS cassette. Each generator is uniquely coded to a single keychain transmitter kept in a clear plastic box labeled with the student’s name. Staff members dressed neatly in ties and green aprons keep the boxes hooked to their belts, and their eyes trained on the students’ behavior. They stand ready, if they witness a behavior they’ve been told to target, to flip open the box, press the button, and deliver a painful two-second electrical shock into the student at the end of the wire. (source)
In all fairness to the U.S.: contrary to corporal punishment in many Islamic countries, capital punishment in the U.S., although disgusting, is the result of a more or less fair judicial trial* and the punishment for horrendous crimes only.
* I say “more or less” because of this.
A news story from a few weeks ago:
A Sudanese woman who wore pants in public was fined the equivalent of $200 but spared a whipping on Monday when a court found her guilty of violating Sudan’s decency laws. The woman, Lubna Hussein, an outspoken journalist who had recently worked for the United Nations, faced up to 40 lashes in the case, which has generated considerable interest both inside and outside Sudan.
Manal Awad Khogali, one of her lawyers, said the judge hearing the case had called only police witnesses to testify and refused to allow Mrs. Hussein — who had pledged to use her trial to bring attention to women’s rights in Sudan — to defend herself.
Sudan is partly governed by Islamic law, which calls for women to dress modestly. But the law is vague. According to Article 152 of Sudan’s penal code, anyone “who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing” can be fined and lashed up to 40 times. (source)
This is reminiscent of the case of a British schoolteacher who faced whippings and a prison sentence in 2007 for allowing her 7-year-old students to name a class teddy bear Muhammad.
And, as an antidote to the cultural bias and islamo-unease-ia that may be provoked by Ms Hussein’s story, here’s another, quite similar one:
A decree banning women from wearing trousers in Paris is still technically in force… The rule banning women from dressing like men – namely by wearing trousers – was first introduced in 1800 by Paris’ police chief and has survived repeated attempts to repeal it.
The 1800 rule stipulated than any Parisienne wishing to dress like a man “must present herself to Paris’ main police station to obtain authorisation”. In 1892 it was slightly relaxed thanks to an amendment which said trousers were permitted ”as long as the woman is holding the reins of a horse”. Then in 1909, the decree was further watered down when an extra clause was added to allow women in trousers on condition they were “on a bicycle or holding it by the handlebars”.
In 1969, amid a global movement towards gender equality, the Paris council asked the city’s police chief to bin the decree. His response was: “It is unwise to change texts which foreseen or unforeseen variations in fashion can return to the fore.” The latest attempt to remove the outmoded rule was in 2003, when a Right-wing MP from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party wrote to the minister in charge of gender equality. The minister’s response was: “Disuse is sometimes more efficient than (state) intervention in adapting the law to changing mores.”
As Evelyne Pisier, a law professor whose book Le Droit des Femmes (The Rights of Women) unearthed the curious decree points out, given that trousers are compulsory for Parisian policewoman, they are all breaking the law. (source)
(Thanks to Eva Declercq for unwittingly suggesting this topic).
The politics of the body, or “body politics”, is a concept, originally used by early feminists I believe, to describe government policies or laws and cultural or social practices used by society to regulate and control the human body. Feminists focus on the female body but the case can be made that society controls both the female and the male body, obviously not always in the same way. The concept is also used to describe the opposite: the struggle against the social and political powers that try to control the body and the act of reclaiming bodily self-control, or corporal self-determination. Body politics has therefore a positive and a negative meaning: it’s both subordination and emancipation.
Corporal self-determination is obviously an important value. People should, in general, be able to do with their body what they want, free from interference by the state, by individuals or by groups in society.
Here are some examples of body politics:
Whether or not you believe that abortion should be allowed, you have to accept that legal prohibition and moral dissuasion of abortion are examples of body politics. In both cases, women who want an abortion lose their power to decide autonomously what to do with their bodies; society imposes rules on what individuals are allowed to do with their bodies; and power – legal or moral – is used to enforce these rules. You may believe that these rules are necessary in order to protect an overriding value that trumps the value of self-determination, in this case probably the value of the life of the unborn infant, or perhaps even the right to self-determination of the unborn infant. But you can’t dispute that you engage in body politics.
Similarly, legislation or social taboos prohibiting the free trade of organs (see also here) impose restrictions on the things people can do with their bodies. However, the analogy with abortion isn’t perfect, because proponents of restrictions can arguably claim that the sale of organs isn’t an expression of self-determination but of the lack of it: it’s typically poor people who are driven to the extreme of organ sale as a means to stay alive, while the richer you are the easier it is to get an abortion. Organ sale is then not an expression of the freedom to do with your body what you like, without paternalistic interference, but an expression of necessity and lack of freedom. Whatever the merits of this argument, restrictions on organ trade are clearly an example of body politics.
Capital punishment, corporal punishment, imprisonment
The state uses power in order to enforce or enact criminal punishment, and this is often power directed against the body of the convicted criminal and eliminating the criminal’s corporal self-determination (see here and here). There’s also the quasi-institutional practice of prison rape.
Sex trafficking and slavery, sexual violence, arranged marriages
Cultural norms regarding the acceptability of sexual violence (e.g. rape as a form of punishment, or female genital mutilation), of arranged marriages (which can be labeled a form of sexual violence), of the sale of children or wives for the purpose of prostitution are also examples of body politics. The women and children in question obviously lose their corporal self-determination.
Gender discrimination, the inferior treatment of women, and the imposition of gender roles, whether legally sanctioned or not, are other examples, although with a twist. Gender discrimination can remove the power of corporal self-determination of the women who fall victim to it – e.g. in the case of gender discrimination as expressed in sexual violence or in rules restricting the freedom of movement of women. But it doesn’t have to. For example, gender discrimination in wages (the wage gap) doesn’t affect corporal self-determination.
The body politics inherent in gender discrimination is more evident in the origins of discrimination than in the results. Gender roles, which often result in gender discrimination, are based on certain convictions regarding the physical inferiority of women (e.g. their lack of physical strength), or on the belief that the female body is made for specific tasks, and is perhaps even better than the male body for these tasks.
Likewise, rules that discriminate against women and restrict the things they can do, are generally based on dubious theories regarding the nature of the female body. Women are said to promote carnal lust, and their equal participation in life would have disrupting and destructive consequences.
Similarly, legislation or social taboos against homosexual relationships remove corporal self-determination and are based on certain beliefs about the nature of the human body.
Clearly, this isn’t a complete list of all possible cases of body politics, but it can serve the purpose of illustration (other examples could include rules prohibiting interracial marriage, bestiality taboos, legislation against assisted suicide etc.). What is also clear is that every case isn’t equally detrimental for self-determination. Some cases can even be justifiable from a liberal perspective. Self-determination, after all, isn’t the only value, and neither is it a value that necessarily trumps other values.
Perhaps it’s useful to put these examples of body politics in a drawing:
Americans generally take it for granted that corporal punishment, Singapore- or Saudi Arabia-style, is inhumane. We don’t just chop people’s hands off or tie them to a post and beat them. In practice, however, being sentenced to a U.S. prison in effect is a sentence to physical abuse. But rather than the level of abuse being determined by a judge and by the law, it tends to be determined by the vicissitudes of chance and gang affiliation. Read, for example, Carrie Johnson’s writeup of a recent report on sexual misconduct in federal prisons. Matthew Yglesias (source)
The Ohio legislature passed a ban on corporal punishment this July, bringing the number of U.S. states that have banned corporal punishment to 30. In the other states, it’s still legal and it typically involves an administrator or teacher hitting a child repeatedly on the buttocks with a wooden “paddle” or board about 1 ½ feet long, 6 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. (source)
There are a few maps on corporal punishment here.