The use of the term ruinous consequences echoes in my mind.

It’s a simple concept put forth by the document — forcing people into narrow identities based on physical or social characteristics has led to oppression and prejudice.

It’s led to ruinous consequences.

When I think of that term one story comes to the forefront of my mind (although given the state of the world, any number of others could). Several weeks ago I read a story in TIME magazine about young women in Afghanistan (not to be confused with the controversial magazine cover) who turn to lighting themselves on fire in order to escape desperate situations that are the result of forced marriages.

The thing that stood out to me most about this article, and probably stands out to most people, is the idea that someone has reached a point of such overwhelming pain that they would decide to light themselves on fire. Not only is it a particularly painful way to die, it also seems to be to be one last act of a woman asserting her presence. To say, “I am here and you can no longer ignore me.” Almost as if to ensure in death, what was denied in life — acknowledgement. Especially since abused women in Afghanistan can gain no acknowledgement of their sufferings from various social arenas. Often times, the woman’s (or girl’s) family ignores the violence, acquiescing to the husband’s family to deal with the matter. Shelters are virtually non-existent and 90% of cases involving violence against women result in a verdict that goes against the woman. With nowhere to turn, these women result to burning themselves.

These acts of self-immolation should serve as a mirror illustrating the indefensible damage caused to any society that allows these acts of violence to continue on the basis of perceived physical and social inferiority.

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