Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Female suffrage in the world

I was struck by a recent BBC report about the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden prohibiting naked hiking. My interest, however, had nothing to do with the topic of the article, but rather with a parenthetical remark to the effect that Appenzell only granted women the right to vote in 1990. A little checking of the history of female suffrage in Switzerland revealed that the change was not even voluntary, but rather had to be forced by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

Such late change is an anomaly in the Western world, but female suffrage is in almost all cases still less than a century old (take a look at the timeline on Wikipedia). Although I think it is perfectly appropriate to criticize other regions of the world, where female suffrage is less common, for living in the Dark Ages, I think we in the West often forget how recently we ourselves emerged from the Dark Ages (some of us more recently than others, apparently). We shouldn't, by any means, stop agitating impatiently for universal human rights just because our own history is less than stellar, but a little bit of humility is a good thing, too. Hearing people speak as though the nations of the West have been bastions of universal human rights since their inception, frankly is grating; arrogance on our side quickly becomes as tiresome as the tu quoques of the other side.

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