Divorce rates are going up across India. The figures that exist for our cities and towns show a sharp increase in the last decade or so. Many commentators bemoan this trend, speaking of the breakdown of families, the loss of family values and the influence of the West. But to me, the rising rate of divorces is a trend to celebrate. It is the single best statistical indicator we have of the empowerment of women.
Rising divorce rates tell us one thing for sure: that more and more women are finding the means, and the independence, to walk out of bad marriages and live life on their own terms. If we judge ourselves as a society on the state of our women – and surely that must be a parameter – then this is good news. We do not need to credit either Feminism or Western culture for this – the emancipation of women in real terms, across the world, has been enabled by technology, and can be explained most easily with economics.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Saying Good-bye to Facebook
According to Hurriyet Daily News, "The 22.5 million Turkish members of Facebook may lose access to the popular social-networking site as a result of a court case filed by an opposition leader. Though Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and his party say they only want offensive content removed, a government minister has hinted Facebook may follow YouTube onto the banned-sites list. "
Along with nearly 5000 other websites, YouTube was first banned in 2008 as a result of a court case involving insults to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal. Now it appears Facebook will join the list of banned Internet sites. At this time there are numerous court cases pending any one of which could effectively ban access to Facebook inside Turkey. "A government minister who has defended Turkey’s bans on YouTube and other popular websites hinted Wednesday that the social-networking site Facebook could share the same fate.Addressing rumors that Facebook might be shut down as a result, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım told attendees at an informatics fair that 30 judicial decisions had been issued to ban the site in Turkey."
According to another Hurriyet article, "Facebook is public enemy number one," "On Tuesday Kayseri Third Family Court Judge Ali Akın told the press that Facebook, MSN Messenger and Twitter are all bad for families. Akın said that the leading reason for divorce is the misuse of social media applications. The judge urged couples not to spend too much time on these applications as even innocent conversations can lead to naked webcam sex. He said that more and more women get naked on webcams after they put their husbands to bed. That’s why there are more women filing for a divorce than ever before. The number of divorce claims by women now equal that of men. Akın warns that this is bad for society."
Let's look at other countries initiating democratic reforms. Women’s emancipation- not Facebook, Instant Messaging or Twitter- was cited in a sharp rise in divorce rates in Indonesia since democratic reforms were introduced more than 10 years ago after the fall of autocratic president Suharto, the ministry of religious affairs said. Professor Dr Nasaruddin Umar, the ministry’s director general for Islamic community guidance, said he believed that more and more women were filing for divorces because they believed they had the same rights as men.
China is another case in which one of the side effects of democratic reforms was a sharp increase in the rates of divorce. Prior to the opening-up policy in 1978, the divorce rate was very low and it continued till the mid-1980s when the divorce rate started soaring up. And, contrary to the Facebook theory, China has always had a restrictive policy when it comes to Internet freedom. Obviously we have to look elsewhere for the cause of a increase in divorce in Turkey.
It is ironic that Akin is unable to see that it is perhaps the democratic reforms themselves which have allowed women to become more independent and equal and to feel economically free enough to make divorce a viable alternative. Without reforms, women's lower earnings make them more vulnerable when divorced or otherwise single.
Contrary to Akin's assertion that Internet is the cause for an increase in divorce, the rate of divorce In the medieval Islamic world and the Ottoman Empire was higher than it is today in the modern Middle East, which now has generally low rates of divorce. (Rapoport, Yossef (2005). Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN 052184715X) Akin may put to rest those purile images of shameless Turkish women dancing in their birthday suits before their webcams while their hard-working husbands lay sleeping.
Another blogger in India has drawn the same conclusions about the divorce rate there.
Politicans aren't the only ones peeved by unrestricted freedom of speech in Turkey.
"Pop singers are filing suits as well, many against Facebook. People like Demet Akalın want to see Facebook closed down because there are many groups who are not so polite on their remarks about the singer. She filed her strongest case on March 23 after a “fan” said that she looks like an old block of cheese without makeup." (Imagine what Britney could do with the power to shut down any site that offended her.) "It takes around six months to a year for a case to come to trial. So we are probably going to face a serious Facebook crisis soon. "
If Ms. Akalin is as sensitive to criticism as this court case would suggest, then perhaps she is in the wrong line of work. Her own Facebook site has 150,000 fans and it is surely a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. And a lot of her fans are going to be "cheesed off" and will probably think twice about any more Akalin CDs.