America cannot “save” poor women

In: Uncategorized

15 Jul 2010

More examples of the unhealthy obsession in high-powered American circles with sexual abuse in the third world (for example, see posts of 9 January 2010 and 3 April 2010).  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, the most prominent cheer leader for such campaigns, with a strange column trying to enlist Stieg Larsson’s Swedish detective novels to help popularise his arguments.

Meanwhile, an Oxfam America campaign is attempting to get people to urge Congress to speak out against violence against women in such places as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another example of close relationship between non-governmental organisations and the state.

Of course it is always possible to find examples of heart-wrenching experiences in the world. But, as I have argued previously, such western campaigns are part of a process of redefining development. The idea of development as material enrichment, raising third world living standards to western levels, is out. Instead the peculiar notion that the West can somehow “save” poor world women is the orthodoxy.

The people of Africa and other poor countries are seen as helpless victims who have to be “saved” by the likes of Oxfam and America’s State Department. There is no understanding that the inhabitants of the third world are capable of resolving their own problems and even of making history.

PS – I have just discovered that Body Shop (UK) is running a campaign against sex trafficking [Hat tip Timandra Harkness].