International days are best days of the year, not only because they bring attention to most needed areas, such as human rights, women rights, environment, children etc., but also because they show how we have accomplished very little on those topics.
This article is based on my perspective which is based on my human rights research for past five years and my work as a social justice counselor.
The issue of women and their rights is one of the most complicated topics of all times, because of their various roles in and out of the household. In the past women were only seen as beings of the household and were expected to be good mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, but in recent decades, women have begun embracing the public sphere, in a demand for rights equal to those of their male counterparts. The role that women are supposed to play is different in every region and culture, making women’s rights a difficult feat.
In every country in the world, women are considered to be a minority. They are the only universal minority group as every other minority has at least one place where they are the majority group. Women are seen as minorities, whether in number, status, or education in all countries from fully developed to third world. The lack of rights and equality for women everywhere makes women’s rights a universal concern.
Empowerment is defined as the process in which women gain power and mastery overtheir lives, either on their own or with the help of others. In that process, individuals are able to experience an internal change (psychological empowerment) as well as an external change (political and social empowerment).
This process reverses oppression and violation that is always based on unjust usage of power and control.
For decades, women’s rights activists have focused on providing evidence that women are not being treated equally, and we have collected data to prove our points and accuse authorities for the on-going problems.
I believe we have reached the point that we have enough evidence, but lack evidence based interventions and support.
Although there are many areas that hurt women, the one major area that hurts women the most is law and constitution.
In the case of domestic violence, protective laws do not help much. In every country, women are often victims of domestic violence, where they are either hurt or killed by their intimate partners. This includes marriages and relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.
Let me give you some statistics to clarify the scope of the problem:
Worldwide, 40-70% of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.
One in three women across the globe have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of her partner.
Examples from third world countries:
When it comes to domestic violence laws, many countries do not even have laws to protect women. If a woman is beaten up by her partner and goes to report the incident to authorities in Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi, Pakistan, Cameron, Syria and many other countries in Africa and Middle East, they will send her home sans help.
In developed countries things are not much better. In the US we have more animal shelters than domestic violence shelters for women; which shows how little the USA cares about women’s rights compared to other issues.
If one out of every third person died in a car accident, would countries put laws and regulations in place? If 40 to 70% of our pets were murdered by their owners, would we protect them? How is it that such big number of women are being killed by the hand of their partners, yet many countries do not care to establish some king of regulation to protect them? This is the most dehumanizing act of our governments’ toward women that in many cases make up half, if not more, of their populations.
Prostitution, which is increasing all around the world as a mean of income for unemployed young women, raises many questions. Although in many parts of the world prostitution is considered immoral and unhealthy, very little is being done to address this issue. In the US, prostitution has become a new source to pay off college tuition. The price of education in this country is higher than the rest of the 195 countries of the world. So now women have to either pay an obnoxiously high rate of student loans, work countless hours a week, or look for fast cash making ways such as prostitution. As prostitution is illegal in many cou
ntries including the U.S, this is a huge risk as it means women risk being criminally charged just to get by.
In some parts of the world such as Sweden women are no longer considered criminals if they participate in prostitution, but customers and Prostitution business owners are fined, arrested, and charged.
If we want to empower women and help them get out of this oppression cycle and be part of a more productive society, laws must protect them. There must be laws to keep oppressors, in many cases intimate partners, accountable for their behavior.
Obstacle of Culture
Having lived and visited numerous of countries around the world, I know the most challenging obstacle for gaining women’s rights is culture. In some African cultures there is a saying that states: “if he does not bite you, he does not love you” and In the Wahhabism religion, women are beaten by their husbands as a mean of disciplining. In addition, violence against women is practiced so much in many counties that it has become a norm.
As a social justice counselor, I have faced families that believe I am asking them to change their culture if I ask them to stop abusing their women. What I tell these families is that law stands above all other forces, so they have to obey the law if they want to live in the U.S even if their culture says something else. Of course I can only say that because I am practicing in the U.S, but if I was practicing in counties that do not have laws against domestic violence such as Iran, Iraq, Africa, etc., I could not say such statement. Therefore adopting protective laws against domestic violence not only empowers women, but empowers counselors, doctors, police offices, and everyone else who is working to end violence against women.
It is time to understand that every man’s humanity depends on a woman’s humanity as mother, wife, sister, daughter, even neighbor, teacher, and friend. And it is time to change the law in order to protect and empower our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.