There is a lot of commentary going back and forth in the US about various women’s rights, and that is a good thing. Even in our “modern” society, women still don’t have equal access to gender specific medical care, they are still being held back by “glass ceilings” in their career paths, and their input is still not valued as highly as men in positions of power and government.
As unfair and important as these issues are, they are “first world problems” compared to some of the more horrific practices going on around the globe. I already mentioned in a previous post many countries have laws in place that are severely slanted against women, such as being charged with having sex outside of marriage when reporting a rape. That, unfortunately, is also minor compared with some nations’ customs and statutes.
India has made headlines recently for an incident where six men gang-raped a woman, and she later died as a result of the brutal treatment she received. That in itself is horrifying. Even more so that there are over 93,000 rape cases in India that are waiting investigation. Attitudes toward women are so entrenched that many cases go unreported for fear of exposing families to shame or persecution. Many police departments are also not taking complaints filed very seriously, typically asking embarrassing and inappropriate questions that have little purpose other than shaming the victim into not following through with the complaint. Thankfully, lawmakers and senior officials are slowly turning their stance around amid waves of thousands of daily protesters venting their anger over how unsafe women are in India. The six men involved in the death of the woman they raped are facing the death penalty, but many still believe that is not far enough. They want rape itself to be punished by death as opposed to the life sentence that is the current maximum in India.
Another horrible incident occurred in Yemen. An eight year old girl bled to death on her wedding night after intercourse with her husband who was five times her age. Unfortunately, this is a somewhat common practice among the poor in Yemen who essentially sell off their daughters to much older men to make ends meet. In 2010 a similar arrangement led to the death of a 13 year old girl married to a man more than twice her age. Despite international pressure, there is no law regarding minimum age for girls in Yemen. There is no law protecting a young girl’s right to consent to the marriage. With over half of Yemen’s 24 million people not having enough food or clean water, the economic pressure to sell off daughters is sadly very high. What is also reprehensible about this situation is the European Union spends nearly $80 million on foreign aid to Yemen, yet nothing is done to encourage these practices to cease. So it appears that even more “civilized” nations in Europe have a misogynistic streak as well, as they seem to take little interest in curbing these issues. Additionally, Europe is probably hungry for Yemen’s oil, especially since they have more national stability than some other oil producing nations.
History has shown us time and again women are typically on the lower end of just about everything, with a few moments in the human history notwithstanding. Whether through religious teaching, social and economic pressures, or just something basic as adequate medical care, women just don’t get a fair shake. There are many psychological and sociological theories as to how this came about and how it still persists. The bottom line is this needs to stop. And it needs to start with nations like the United States, where women have made greater gains than many of their Third World counterparts. If countries such as ours still objectify women and suppress or vilify those who try to rise above political or economic norms, how can we convince other societies to abandon their barbaric ways?