Irrespective of diversity in nature, laws are supposed to be the vanguard the rights of people in consonance with their sovereign interests. Theoretically, laws are to be based on social norms, deontological values, and reasons, not on personal, political or institutional whims, but, practically, in many parts of the world including in Afro-asian countries, political bias and vested interest often supersedes legal norms flouting the spirit of law.
According to the communist ideology, laws are tools of oppression for the working-class people and serve the vested interests of the elites. A large number of pastoral people in Africa and Asia prefer to be ruled by social norms, stigmas, or taboos than government enacted legislations with few exceptions.
In Pakistan, and Afghanistan, honour killing is a common phenomenon for women and girls for stigmatising social and family values including premarital sexual relation and adultery. Five years ago, Nepal banned menstruation hut, branding it as a criminal offence, but still, a large number of women and girls are becoming death victims every year due to widespread practice of the same age-old menstruation taboo.
In Bangladesh, the High Court Division recently envisaged that no government official could be kept as an officer on special duty (OSD) for more than 150 days. Indian Supreme Court opted the same rule almost a decade ago with an order that bureaucrats should not be transferred according to the whims of a ruling party.
The benchmark of attaining congenial and just society amid peace and tranquility reflecting the rule of law is still elusive in most African, Asian and Latin American countries. The Europe is branded as the cradle of renaissance and benchmark of western civilization. On the other hand, the U.S. is the most dominant country in the world in terms of economic and military accomplishments, though one in every three United States people are fed up with their laws and court systems.
Noted Professor and political scientist Michael Sandel of Harvard University, in a TED Talk, termed American democracy as like a shouting mass in cable televisions with ideological food feast, underscoring the need for better way of conducting democratic debates for the country and for the entire world, albeit some countries blindly follow U.S. democracy.
The unjust war of Russia against Ukraine violates every aspect of international legal norms. The world has also witnessed even more widespread casualty owing to the devastating war by the U.S. against Iraq and Afghanistan.
Similarly, the world like a silent spectator is witnessing the Israeli aggression against Palestine for quite a long time with no sign to end the bloodshed in near future. The rich and oil accomplished middle east countries vehemently transgress the rights of migrant workers forgetting their contribution for their economy.
Laws do not play the same role in all over the world with a hyper partisanship and polarization, in the post truth and post ethics era. The world development indicators in the effectiveness of governance, curbing of corruption, and the rule of law index show most of the Afro-asian countries are in deplorable state as per reports of 2020 and 2021, denoting laws are more in paper than actions, if not against opposition voices.
Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the nation of Singapore and one of the most successful statespersons in the world, has transformed a chaotic British colony and later a secluded city state after breakup from the Federation of Malaysia, to one of the first world commercial hubs with stupendous socio-economic success coupled with stable law and order, in his 31 years of governance as the Prime Minister from 1959-1990.
While in governance, Lee started with a proposition that the human being is an unequal creature, and will never be equal, perceiving all great religions, movements and political ideologies strive to equalise human as much as possible. Also, he has shattered the Western world by his new concept that Singapore needs more discipline than democracy and he even made chewing gums as a punishable offence without the prescription of physicians and provision of humiliation for not flashing public toilets.
It is pertinent to mention that Buddhist dominated Myanmar is likely to be guided by the teachings of peace, harmony, and non-violence as envisaged by Lord Buddha but the onslaughts on the ethnic minority Rohingya community forcing them to leave the country is not only unprecedented but also tantamount to crime against humanity.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, known as a caravan of democracy, also adhered to her vested political interest and partisanship in backing military generals for their state-sponsored onslaughts on Rohingya people. She preferred a power sharing deal with military junta in the governing process than serving the interest of the Rohingyas, although she is now in prison under the military coup in 2021.
Capriciously, Myanmar is probably the only country in the Asia or elsewhere in the world, having the provisions of reservation of 25 percent seats for the military personnel in a parliamentary election, according to the Constitution of Myanmar of 2008.
In modern legal systems, the provision of reservations of seats are kept to expedite the representation of backward section of people to voice their concerns while the military personnel are enjoying the constitutional privileges without any lawful excuse there.
Majority people in Japan, China, and South Korea treat laws as a part of personal, social or state duty, not as legal obligation for the compliance of the theory of command and control as delineated by most legal jurists either in the West or East. There are laughing laws in many countries based on caprices rather than the rules of reasons and justification. In Switzerland, flashing a toilet after 10:00pm is an offence while in Germany, running out of fuel of a car in a road is punish-worthy.
In the province of Victoria in Australia, changing of a light is not allowed without certified electricians. Many laws in the North Korea, are against the deontology of freedom, equality, and justice. Here, people cannot cut hair, except the prescribed styles approved by the government and also wearing of blue jeans is prohibited because of its resemblance with American imperialism.
The law enforcement mechanism in most African, Latin American as well as Asian states except Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, China and few others is comparatively weaker. The South Asian nations are not lagging behind in enacting laws but when the question of enforcement appears, they are seemingly in the bottom of the table.
Paradoxically, laws are enforced with laxity for corporate entities and powerful persons by rulers while the same rulers are not hesitant to enforce laws tightly against the poor section of people all across the globe. The notion of ignorance of law is of no excuse clutches the downtrodden community than the rich one.
The Afro-asian countries have thousands of laws, including the arbitrary ones that are prone to abuse. Instead of making more laws, they are in need of responsible enforcement of their existing legal norms, available in their legal books, without vested interests-oriented whims or farces, and staying away from the perception that people are the slaves of law.
Blaming law is not wise as law is not a holy cow. The success of law depends on their drafting and enforcement based socio-economic standards. At the end, let us remember Hary Day, a Royal Marine, pilot and a prisoner of war during the Second World War, remarked that rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. Yet, the conscience of law still haunts justice after exploding the first atomic bomb, although self-convicted mind of the exploder uttered that now we are all sons of bitches.
About Author: Emdadul Haque is an Independent Human Rights Researcher and Freelance Contributor based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Previously, he served academia for more than a decade and lastly as an Assistant Professor of Law at Southeast University. He holds Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws from Rajshahi University. He can be reached via email: [email protected] and on Twitter: @emdadlaw