Yes, today is the 101st Anniversary of International Women’s Day. This is a timely occasion, given the continuing discussions regarding sexism and misogyny as it makes itself manifest in this country, and around the world. As I have discussed numerous times, misogyny continues to rear its ugly head in very public ways in this country, by our politicians, our journalists, our performers, our athletes, our friends, and our family members. Sadly, it is all too rampant, here, and around the world.
Take Afghanistan, for instance. The BBC reported yesterday a very disconcerting move by President Hamid Karzai (or should I say yet another disconcerting move) regarding women (h/t Helenk). Karzai has aligned himself with the Ulema Council there, which has led to this:
Afghanistan’s top religious council has said women should not mix with men in school, work or other aspects of daily life. The Ulema Council has also said that women should not travel without a male relative. The BBC’s Orla Guerin has been hearing reaction to the ruling from people in Kabul.
The comments by senior clerics – which have been welcomed by President Hamid Karzai – were included in a statement outlining the rights and duties of women under Islam.
Human Rights Watch says it is worrying that the Ulema Council has issued this statement, and that President Karzai has backed it.
The council says its comments are a request and a reminder, not an instruction. But critics say the statement is an echo of the Taliban.
Leading woman MP Fawzia Koofi – who survived a Taliban ambush two years ago – has no doubt what the statement means.
“I think it’s the beginning of taking women back to the dark period of the Taliban,” she told the BBC.
“It’s dangerous. It’s an alarm for women in Afghanistan”.[snip] (Click here to read the rest.)
A return to the Taliban, to the “dark period,” does seem to be the result of this statement. It is telling that this came out on the Eve of International Women’s Day. The rights of women and girls, the HUMAN rights of women and girls, still seems a long way off in too many places. Sad, but true.
And this is but one country where women’s well being is in danger. Women and girls continue to be raped in astonishing numbers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, over FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND (400,000) a YEAR. That is beyond deplorable. And yet, it continues:
[snip] Around 60 percent of victims were forced to have sex by their husbands or partners, it said.
“Rates across the country are high, nowhere is a woman in the Congo safe from sexual violence,” Tia Palermo, one of the authors of the study published in The American Journal of Public Health, told Reuters.
She said they were particularly surprised by the high levels of rape in areas not directly affected by fighting.[snip] (Click here to read the rest, if you can stomach it.)
I simply cannot fathom how – HOW – this continues to happen in this day and age, but it sure as hell does. It is truly mind boggling. And disturbing on a host of levels.
With that in mind, here is a wonderful video to celebrate International Women’s Day, which takes note of some of issues women and girls still face, but it is also a message of hope:
We should have hope – women have demonstrated throughout the ages that we are strong, and we are resilient. Yet, we cannot understate the issues and dangers too many women throughout the world face on a daily basis, whether it is domestic violence in the United States, or government-sanctioned oppression in other countries.
One thing is clear: we cannot, absolutely cannot, make real change for women here and abroad unless and until we WORK TOGETHER. Women must stop attacking one another, must stop supporting men who routinely behave in a misogynistic or sexist manner, must stop buying into the divisiveness pushed by political parties which set us against one another, and must start celebrating the achievements of women no matter their political orientation. We simply have to stop tearing each other down, and learn how to build each other up. Sadly, it is more difficult than it sounds. But we must try, we must succeed. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our mothers and grandmothers, we owe it to our children, nieces, grandchildren. And we deserve it.
Happy 101st International Women’s Day!