By Christine Medina
In today’s global society, the war on women still rages on, as it has throughout history. But women aren’t forced to fight for their rights just in the conservative pockets of the world like the Middle East and Africa””women’s issues have become global issues, as no country on earth seems exempt from violence against women.
War on Women’s Bodies — USA
The United States has been up in arms this year over women’s rights “” and politics are to blame. From the proposed plan announced in February by The Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut off all funding to Planned Parenthood (which was later restored) to painfully ignorant politicians passing off their opinions as fact on what qualifies as “legitimate rape,” the U.S., superpower or not, has a long way to go in the way of women’s issues.
But politics aside, the U.S. still has shockingly high numbers on malicious attacks against women. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 4.8 million women suffer from rape and sexual assault by an intimate partner every year. The Justice Department estimates that one out of five college-aged women will be victims of rape or attempted rape, and the numbers only increase for young, lower-income, minority women. (NOW.org)
48 Women Raped Per Hour — Democratic Republic of the Congo
Leah Chishugi, a survivor of the Rwanda genocide, traveled to the remote jungles of the Eastern Congo, so isolated and dangerous that even the U.N. won’t risk sending aid there. Her purpose? To interview over 400 rape survivors, from young girls — to women as old as 70, and record testimony of their abuse. One particularly chilling story came from a woman who barely survived a brutal attack:
“Rebels attacked our house. We didn’t know what to do. They took all our things and we were tortured. They forced me to have sex with my son and then they killed him. They raped me in front of my husband and they killed him too. They then took away my three daughters, aged 13, 14 and 17. They left me naked and burned my house. The neighbors found me and gave me clothes.”
Her story, as gut wrenching and saddening as it is, is one of many in the Congo. The numbers are absolutely staggering. A recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 48 women are raped per hour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: that’s 1,152 daily — nearly one woman sexually abused every 60 seconds. (TheGuardian.com)
The country has been at the center of conflict for the past 14 years in the Second Congo War. Though the war itself ended in 2008, violence between rebels and pro-government militia continues ravaging the country, and women are paying with their lives and bodies.
Worst Country in the World’s Top Economies to be a Woman — India
The extent of conditions for women in India came to public light earlier this year, when a poll released days before a summit of G20 head officials put India as the worst country in the world’s top economies to be a woman. The decision, made by global experts, was fueled by India’s long track record of infanticide, child marriage and slavery. (In.Reuters.com)
There was debate over whether neighboring spot, number 19, Saudi Arabia, was a more appropriate choice for last place since womens’ freedoms are notoriously restricted there. Nicolas Kristoff, co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” commented on the poll results: “India is incredibly poor, Saudi Arabia is very rich. But there is a commonality and that is that unless you have some special access to privilege, you have a very different future, depending on whether you have an extra X chromosome, or a Y chromosome.”
India takes their chromosomes to the extreme, and women are at a disadvantage from the moment their gender is known. As a fetus, she faces abortion, since age-old customs like dowries make females seem to be a family burden; as a child she has a high chance of being married off; and as a married woman, she still faces abuse by her husband.
Though India has an image as an emerging, modernized country (they had a female prime minister as early as 1966, and their former president was a woman), poverty, rape, and sex trafficking taint both its reputation and hope for a better future.
“There are two Indias: one where we can see more equality and prosperity for women, but another where the vast majority of women are living with no choice, voice or rights,” said Sushma Kapoor, South Asia deputy director for U.N. Women. (In.Reuters.com)
The “Pulsating Heart of Misogyny” — The Middle East
Unfortunately, the Middle East’s misogynistic attitude toward women is so widespread, that it lumps it into a category that can’t be separated by country. In a compelling piece on ForeignPolicy.com by Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy, she describes it as so: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.” Though Eltahawy doesn’t go into specifics, honor killings, child marriages, stoning’s, and acid attacks name just a few of the atrocities committed against women in the Middle East.
She goes on to speak of the Arab Spring, and how in a time of uprising for freedom, women have been left behind in the dark — their freedoms, as usual, unconsidered: “Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.”
Eltahawy herself was sexually assaulted and beaten by Egyptian riot police during the uprisings. She states that the Arab Spring, though started famously by the Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, after setting himself on fire, will be finished by women. In the article’s powerful closing, she compares various Arab women who have fought for their freedom to him:
“Amina Filali — the 16-year-old Moroccan girl who drank poison after she was forced to marry, and beaten by, her rapist — is our Bouazizi. Salwa el-Husseini, the first Egyptian woman to speak out against the “virginity tests”; Samira Ibrahim, the first one to sue; and Rasha Abdel Rahman, who testified alongside her — they are our Bouazizis. We must not wait for them to die to become so.”
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About Christine Medina
Christine Medina is a freelance writer, aspiring photographer and wanderlust-stricken expat currently living in Andalusia, Spain. Upon graduating from The University of Washington with a BA in Communications and a BA in Social Science, she set off to Spain to immerse herself in a new culture and learn the Spanish language. She writes about expat life and all things Spain on her blog, http://www.christineinspain.com. Follow Christine on Twitter at @christinenspain
Photo by: Julia Arielle