I apologize in advance if today’s topic is “darker” than usual. Something has been on my mind in recent weeks, after reading various news articles about some barbaric customs and laws abroad. And I have been asking myself: would I feel comfortable travelling to a country where things that I find morally unacceptable are common practice, or at least happen on a regular basis?

Now before you go accusing me of racial intolerance, I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about dress code, food preferences, or religious rituals here. I’m referring to actions that I’m pretty sure anybody reading this blog would find morally reprehensible. These things are so ridiculously atrocious, they make my head spin and my skin crawl. You want examples?

Marry the rapist

I had never heard about this one until I read an article last week announcing that Jordan had repealed the “marry the rapist” clause from its penal code (although the Senate and the King still have to approve it).

This law basically states that a rapist can escape punishment, and his victim can escape lifelong social stigma, by getting married to each other. This lopsided logic stems from the fact that it is “shameful” to have a rape victim in the family, and this shame can be expunged through marriage. In some countries, men’s honour is tied to the women in their family, who are essentially considered property. You can follow the link above to read the details.

Apparently, this law still exists in many countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Tajikistan, and the Philippines. Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt have previously cancelled their “marry the rapist” clause, while Lebanon is currently considering doing the same.

The Philippines is one of the countries that still hangs onto its "marry the rapist" clause (barbaric customs)

The Philippines is one of the countries that still hangs onto its “marry the rapist” clause

In a related move, Jordan has also closed a legal loophole that gave courts the discretion of imposing sentences as short as six months on those who killed female relatives in the name of family honour.

Well, that’s some progress (really trying hard not to be cynical here) although you wonder why this didn’t happen a long time ago, like in the 17th century! How long before the other countries follow suit I wonder?

Going to jail for miscarriage

El Salvador is one of a handful of countries where abortion is not allowed under any circumstances, and is therefore considered a crime. In the ultra-Catholic country, this can easily lead to ugly situations where women who suffer miscarriages are accused of aborting their baby, and sentenced without a proper investigation.

This is what happened to a 19-year old in July, when she was sentenced to 30 years in jail! To make matters even worse, her pregnancy was the result of rape. You can read more about it here.

So basically, if you have a miscarriage, it’s your responsibility to prove that you didn’t kill your baby, or you could risk imprisonment. Completely twisted. And that’s not even talking about cases where you may have been raped, or risk dying if you carry on with the pregnancy.

Fortunately, groups of women are demonstrating against this law, and a parliamentary bill to relax the law has gone through hearings, but after months, it has yet to be submitted to the legislative assembly for a vote. Obviously, a small group of powerful and ultra-conservative men are running the show. 🙁

In case you’re curious, the other countries that do not allow abortion under any circumstances are the Holy See (no surprise here), Malta, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Chile. I have to say that I’m rather surprised about Malta and Chile, which are both modern developed countries.

Nicaragua is one of 6 countries that doesn't allow abortion under any circumstances (barbaric customs)

Nicaragua is one of 6 countries that doesn’t allow abortion under any circumstances

Hunting albinos for their body parts

Here is a different one. It’s not women being victimized this time, it’s albinos (men, women, and children). This one is particularly disturbing so you may want to jump over this section if you’re of a sensitive nature.

Albinos suffer from a genetic disorder that results in a lack of pigmentation in their skin, hair and eyes. They are fairly common in Africa (1 in 1400) and made even more noticeable by their very white skin among a black population. In Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique in particular, albinos are hunted and killed for their body parts which are used in witchcraft and believed to bring riches, success, power, or sexual conquest. Children are especially prized. These deep-seated superstitions and nonsense are rife among poor uneducated villagers.

It’s not legal (fortunately), but authorities don’t do an awful lot to stop it either. In Malawi, the police and criminal justice system are so bad that nobody has been convicted in the 20 known slayings of the past three years!

The United Nations even got involved, relocating some of those families to Canada and other countries, which is proof that these are not isolated incidents.

What are your travel ethics?

Obviously, some countries still seem to be living in the Middle Ages. I am torn because I was previously thinking of visiting some of these destinations (Tanzania in particular), but do I really want to spend my money in places that allow such atrocities to continue?

Up until now, I’ve had a very long list of places to visit, and only one place I decided I would never visit. Should I start creating a “no-go” list?

I know these issues (and many others, some we probably don’t even know about) are not new, but I guess I never realized how bad things really were, and now it’s bothering me. I would really like to know what you think. Would you travel to a country that allows things you find barbaric or morally reprehensible?


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