March 8, 2012 / feminism, Opportunity, women

Today Marks The 101st Anniversary of International Women’s Day!


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!

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  • Susan

    Karzai signed a law several years ago, permitting husbands to withhold food from wives who refuse to have sex on demand.

  • Yes, he did (I had a post up recently that looked at Afghanistan more in depth), and he has demonstrated time and time again despite his rhetoric to the contrary, that he is no friend to women. Not even close.

    Btw, the quote abt Karzai REALLY ends after the “[snip} (Click here to read the rest.)” part – don’t want to infringe on the BBC – it’s a technical glitch and will be fixed soon.

  • ryan

    These rules against women in these Arabic countries (not to mention the rapes in Africa) is nothing more than a vicious kind of apartheid pure and simple. Imagine if even a tiny fraction of south Africans black folks were treated this way. There would be world wide protest! Maybe even threats of military intervention (in the case of Africa and rapes).

    Imagine what the middle east would be like if Arabic women were 50 percent of the leaders. Imagine the drop in violence; the proliferation of schools and small business instead of weapons of mass destruction; and the quality of life for the citizens of those countries. In fact the middle east would become a vacation paradise! This is crazy and has to stop. A world wide civil rights movement is necessary to achieve this but it has to start with women. Women social warriors. that’s the only way true change will happen.

  • Great comment, Ryan – thank you. And you are so right – why this kind of treatment of women is tolerated is mind boggling. NEVER would it be tolerated toward any other group of people, but women are still very much fair game. It is appalling, and reprehensible.

    Yes, we need a world wide movement to change how women are treated. Well said.

  • L. Anselmi

    In the last year there have been such wonderful highs

    Three women — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman — won the Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

    Three girls — Lauren Hodge, Naomi Shah and Shree Bose won Google’s International science prize.

    That it makes it all the more heart wrenching to read about the backward movement on rights for the women of Afghanistan and the continued horrific number of rapes in Democratic Republic of Congo!