The #MeToo Movement Has Forgotten Asia Bibi

The #MeToo Movement Has Forgotten Asia Bibi
AP Photo/B.K. Bangash
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In the end, the dignity of women lies at the heart of the #metoo movement. Yes, I know that the eerie parades of red-robed “handmaidens,” the mob-ish protests, the wails and shrieks from the Senate gallery of recent weeks are anything but dignified. However, #metoo is – or, at least, should be – about the dignity of women. That is, respect for the right of women to work and act and think free coercion and violence, sexual or otherwise. With this in mind, maybe it’s time for all American women focus their passion on the defense of a Pakistani woman waiting to be hanged for… drinking from the "wrong" cup and speaking her mind.

Yes, drinking from the wrong cup and speaking her mind.

That’s the non-first world problem Asia Bibi faces today in Pakistan. Her conviction for "blasphemy" is an affront to the dignity of women everywhere.  

Asia Bibi was born and raised in a small rural village in Pakistan. Her family, the only Christian (Roman Catholic) family in the village, faced constant pressure to convert to Islam. One day, while harvesting berries, Bibi went to get water from a well. Another farmworker saw her drinking from a cup her Muslim co-workers had used. Bibi was told that Christians – even ones who toil the same piece of land as Muslims – were "unclean" and must not use the same cup as Muslims. Bibi would have none of it. She spoke up in defense of her beliefs, and her own dignity. There followed a report to the local Muslim cleric. 

In 2010, Bibi was convicted of blasphemy as a result of the argument in the field that day. The crime of blasphemy in Pakistan carries a mandatory death sentence, and Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging. Last week, eight years after Bibi’s initial conviction, a special three-judge panel of the Pakistani Supreme Court heard oral argument in Bibi’s last chance to overturn the sentence and announced that it would "reserve judgment in the matter." The hangman’s noose awaits Asia Bibi.

Is this not incredible? Pakistan, a country considered a U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, plans to execute a poor mother of five for blasphemy.  

Is it also not incredible that American women have not all joined together to mobilize on behalf of Bibi? Where is the raucous uproar?

Asia Bibi is not all that different from any one of us.  She worked tirelessly to provide for her family.  At times, she had to deal with difficult neighbors and co-workers. But unlike American women who can freely exercise our religion and speak our minds – and drink from the same cup as other American women of different races and creeds – the price for Asia Bibi may be her life.

The #metoo movement galvanized women to speak out against mistreatment, but it seems to have morphed into just another tool for sowing political discord here in the United States. Think what American women could do if they came together for Bibi Asia. Think what we all could do if we mobilized and marched and contacted our elected officials for a woman whose only “crime” was the desire to live her life and faith free from persecution. Think of the pressure points we could push to influence this U.S. ally. It would be a chance to return the #metoo movement to its roots and raise our voices in defense of the dignity of all women.

It is not too late for Asia Bibi be set free. Is it too late for the #metoo movement?

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