The UN, Iran, and the general messed-up-edness of the world

Hello, Internet, it’s Monday, December 6th, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The short version of the story is that in 1989, a young man legally acquired a gun and used it to murder 14 women, wound 14 other people, and kill himself at the École Polytechnique. His suicide note claimed that feminists had ruined his life. And whether this act was symptomatic of a larger social problem, or simply the actions of one anti-feminist radical, December 6th has been the Day of Action on Violence Against Women.

That was 21 years ago today, and the reaction to the event clearly indicates that whether or not it was a popularly-held belief that women should be allowed to become engineers, it was universally believed that these women should not have been executed on the basis that they were “feminists.”

A couple of weeks ago, Benin (a country in West Africa) proposed an amendment to the UN resolution that all member countries agree not to sanction any executions that take place on the basis of discrimination. The resolution lists groups often picked out for discriminatory executions, including street children, human rights defenders and visible minorities. Until this amendment, sexual minorities were also on that list.

They aren’t anymore. Benin’s proposed amendment was adopted by a margin of 79 to 70.

The UN no longer condemns the discriminatory execution of homosexuals.

My first thought, when I found out about this, was “… what?”

This was a completely democratic vote. All countries with representatives present were included. And the countries in favour of giving their governments’ freedom to penalize homosexuality however they like outnumbered the countries opposed. Every European and North American country present voted against the amendment, and so did Australia and New Zealand. But the fact is, there are fewer countries in the First World than there are in the Third World. Not a single African nation voted against the amendment, and most Middle-Eastern nations were in favour as well.

Sometimes we forget that the rest of the world does not live the way we do. People on the other side of this planet don’t eat what we eat, they don’t do what we do, and they don’t think what we think. And we are the minority.

Which means that 21 years after the death of fourteen women knocked this North American, First World nation into making a statement about the unacceptability of violence against women, we are part of a global organization that has no official position on the execution of members of sexual minorities. And democracy brought us there, which means that there is very little we can do about it but continue to chip away at the issue, not only locally but globally, until a vote to reverse this amendment can be passed.

Similarly messed up is the story of Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born Canadian resident who was arrested during a trip to his home country to visit his ailing father. Malekpour was a web developer in Canada before his arrest two years ago, and is the creator of a program that was later used to build an adult website (just like every other web program in existence, I’m sure). He has said that he confessed under torture. And his sentence: death.

Yes. They are going to execute him for developing a program that someone else used to make and distribute porn. Not fine him. Not banish him. Not jail him. Execute him. For “insulting the sanctity of Islam.”

And the Canadian government has been holding back on getting involved in his case because he is not a Canadian citizen, though his wife still lives in Ontario.

How is it possible that we can live in a country where men can marry men and women can marry women, where tolerance of cultural, racial and sexual differences is part of the public school curriculum, where people who write web programs are well-paid and respected (well, at least respected), when on the other side of our little world teenagers are hanged for being gay and a man who was tortured until he confessed to a crime we don’t even consider criminal is sentenced to death?

It makes you never want to leave home.