Women make up about half of the world’s population.
Women are soldiers, intellectuals, scientists, business leaders, sporting heroes and … mothers.
Women are also second-class citizens in vast numbers across the world, and their status is under constant attack and derogation, even in the progressive liberal democracies of the world.
Admittedly, complex cultural, religious, political and societal issues are responsible for this utterly incomprehensible and intolerable situation, but if humanity is to achieve its full potential, the degradation of women must end.
Equal protections and rights for half of the world’s population should not be an aspiration, but a given. ‘Feminism’ shouldn’t be a dirty word. Until equal protections and rights are achieved for women, feminism is a human rights and social justice imperative. The fight must be embraced by all, including men, whether straight or gay. As a gay man I feel particular affinity with women fighting for equality.
(Malala Yousafzai interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, 8 October 2013)
If you feel ’emasculated’ by the mere empowerment and cultural, legal and political equality of women, your ‘masculinity’ is but a mere mirage.
If your masculinity is built on the subjugation of women, your ‘masculinity’ is worthless.
If your masculinity is threatened by women, your ‘masculinity’ is a threat to human progress.
If allowing women to enjoy the same protections and rights men have is offensive to your culture, your culture does not deserve respect and it offends the most basic principles of humanity.
Any argument that attempts to rely on the concepts of cultural tradition or religious freedom to explain, or justify, the subjugation of women is intellectually and morally bankrupt. ‘Cultural tradition’ and ‘freedom of religion’ end where human dignity begins.
Trying to argue ‘cultural relativism’ in a fundamental human rights context, to avoid ‘offence’ to cultural and religious beliefs, in relation to the protections and rights of women, children or the LGBTI community, is cowardice. Holding different races to different standards of behaviour under the guise of ‘cultural relativism’ is racist capitulation to unacceptable and inhumane cultural and religious practices.
Fundamental human protections and rights under the law are never internal affairs. Human rights know no nationality, gender, race or sexuality; bow to no sovereignty, culture or religion; they’re constant, universal and inalienable.
Sadly, the oppression of women starts early in many cultures:
- young girls are denied education – currently an estimated 65 million girls are out of school worldwide;
- young girls are subjected to criminal female genital mutilation – over a 125 million girls and women alive today are estimated to have been so mutilated and the practice continues unabated; and
- young girls are often forced into marriages with much older man – an estimated 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married off without a say in the matter, and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
Unimaginable, inhumane horrors before many girls reach puberty. Humanity simply cannot ignore such evils being perpetrated on young girls, and consider itself a species worthy of survival. But the horrors don’t end there for many women:
- women experience domestic abuse and violence in their own homes at pandemic levels;
- sexual violence against girls and women is prevalent and rape is used as a weapon of war with alarming frequency;
- so-called ‘honour’ killings, maiming and violence against women are common place; and
- in some cultures, widowed women are traditionally expected to commit suicide or are shunned and left destitute.
To end domestic and sexual violence against girls and women, societies must undergo a complete cultural transformation. Women must be seen as equals, and religions must end their millenniums of demonisation of women, and portraying them as nothing more than sexual temptation to avert, segregate or subjugate.
Societies must put an end to a toxic global culture that reduces women to the mere sum of their reproductive organs and sexuality.
Girls and women, or how they behave or dress, are not the problem. The problem is how we raise our boys and the culture that surrounds our men. Our global culture, permeated by ancient beliefs and social traditions hostile to girls and women, reduces them to mere sexual objects and strips away their humanity.
Sobering global statistics support the argument our current culture, poisoned with male centric misogyny, must be ‘destroyed’ and rebuilt from the ground up, with respect and equality for all at its core.
Unfortunately, it is very easy to find odious, verging on the ridiculous, and at other times deadly, examples of girls and women being mistreated and harmed. Be warned, the stories selected below are infuriating without exception:
- Kabul woman wears armour to protest sexual harassment (FRANCE 24, 5 March 2015)
- Why do jihadists hate women but love pornography? (Al Arabiya, 5 March 2015)
- Indian court blocks broadcast of documentary on 2012 Delhi rape (The Wall Street Journal, 4 March 2015)
- Delhi rapist blames victim for being out at night (FRANCE 24, 3 March 2015)
- India’s Supreme Court again says marital rape is not a crime (BuzzFeed, 19 February 2015)
- Death of Ozgecan Aslan stokes anger over violence against women in Turkey (The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 February 2015)
- Women edited out of pic at Paris rally sparks backlash (Newsweek, 15 January 2015)
- Woman ‘killed while giving birth’ during Baga massacre (The Independent, 15 January 2015)
- Two Saudi women arrested for defying driving ban to be sent to terror court (Newsweek, 29 December 2014)
- Ultra-Orthodox men cause flight delay by refusing to sit by women, again (The Huffington Post, 29 December 2014)
- Iranian women targeted in series of acid attacks (FRANCE 24, 20 October 2014)
- Indian teenager gang-raped and murdered, after being made to lick spit (The Independent, 3 September 2014)
- Saudi Arabia holds women’s conference with not a female in sight (The Huffington Post, 28 June 2013)
- ‘Circumcision controls women’s sex common sense’ – Sheikh Yussef al-Badri (BBC News, 19 June 2013)
- Deadly Pakistan bus bomb targets female students (FRANCE 24, 15 June 2013)
- From hell to the sun and the moon (The Age, 29 May 2013)
- Pakistan’s women face battle for the right to vote (The Guardian, 5 May 2013)
- What Muslims around the world think about women’s rights, in charts (The Atlantic, 1 May 2013)
- Women to blame for earthquakes, says Iran cleric (The Guardian, 20 April 2013)
- Tunisian Salafists storm female student hostel to stop dancing (Reuters, 18 April 2013)
- Is this photo grounds for death? (Daily Life, 25 March 2013)
- Breaking through the taboo of a barbaric past (The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 2013)
- Woman burned alive for ‘sorcery’ in Papua New Guinea (BBC News, 7 February 2013)
- A rape a minute, a thousand corpses a year (Salon, 25 January 2013)
- Saudi clerics protest against appointing women to advisory body (Reuters, 15 January 2013)
- Girl raped, murdered in India (The Age, 12 January 2013)
- Anger online as Saudi in his 90s marries 15-year-old (BBC News, 7 January 2013)
- Swaziland bans ‘rape-provoking’ miniskirts (The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 2012)
- India ‘gang-rape’: Student, friend attacked on Delhi bus (BBC News, 17 December 2012)
- Four Women of the Wall arrested amid ‘escalation of restrictions’ on Jewish women’s rights (Haaretz, 15 December 2012)
- Village bars women from using mobile phones (The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 2012)
- Allowing women to drive would mean no more virgins, Saudi Arabia religious council says (The Huffington Post, 2 December 2012)
- New constraint for Saudi women: Electronic tracking (NDTV, 22 November 2012)
- How to demean a woman (Daily Life, 7 November 2012)
- Hanged widow feared angry in-laws (The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2012)
- Rabbi: Women mustn’t run for Knesset (Y Net News, 25 October 2012)
- Shocked’ Sonia’s Tahrir Square ordeal: mob gropes TV reporter after live broadcast (The Age, 22 October 2012)
- Woman beheaded for refusing to be a prostitute (The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2012)
- Iranian university bans on women causes consternation (BBC News, 22 September 2012)
- Why do they hate us? The real war on women is in the Middle East (Foreign Policy, 23 April 2012)
- Marrying your rapist: A new low in women’s rights in Morocco (Washington Post, 21 March 2012)
- From back of the bus, Israeli women fight segregation (The Wall Street Journal, 5 January 2012)
- Harassment of women sparks clashes between police and ultra-Orthodox Israelis (FRANCE 24, 27 December 2011)
- When women and girls are the enemy (The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November 2011)
- Turkish women’s escalating crisis (Amnesty International, 28 September 2011)
These awful stories are just the tiniest sample of the hate, misogyny and violence directed at girls and women worldwide.
However, even progressive, liberal democracies, that pride themselves on being beacons of liberty and the protectors of human rights, fall short in cultural attitudes, and in affording women unequivocal equality and protections:
- LNP hosts International Women’s Day lunch at men-only club (The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 March 2015)
- Abuse inside Christian marriages – a personal story (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2015)
- How to stop rape (Roosh V , 16 February 2015) (Note: this blog piece is a particularly appalling argument for the legalisation of rape on private property, thus reader discretion is strongly advised)
- The war for the soul of geek culture (Movie Pilot, 16 February 2015)
- Cardinal Raymond Burke blames ‘radical feminists’ for paedophile priests (Daily Life, 14 January 2015)
- My daughter killed herself after being charged over rape claims. We need answers (The Guardian, 11 December 2014)
- He screamed “I hate feminists!” and killed 14 women (Daily Life, 5 December 2014)
- Amal Alamuddin: how sexism dogs one of the world’s most brilliant women (Daily Life, 14 August 2014)
- Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: further proof that misogyny kills (The Guardian, 25 May 2014)
- Why Jill Abramson was fired (The New Yorker, 14 May 2014)
- Woman set alight during horrific attack in Sydney CBD, man arrested (The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 2014)
- Republican lawmaker apologizes for saying men should be able to rape women if abortion is legal (The Huffington Post, 28 February 2014)
- Virginia Republican says a pregnant woman is just a ‘host,’ though ‘some refer to them as mothers’ (The Huffington Post, 24 February 2014)
- Women who have abortions deserve to die: doctor says (The Age, 12 November 2013)
- The 10 most dangerous places to be a woman in America (Salon, 6 July 2013)
- “Don’t speak up, we know what’s best for you” (The Daily Beast, 26 June 2013)
- Conservative pundit: Women were “designed” to serve their husbands (Salon, 30 May 2013)
- Women left out of the cold (The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 May 2013)
- Irish anti-abortion vigil at Knock draws thousands (BBC News, 4 May 2013)
- MPs must choose side on abortion: Madigan (The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 2013)
- 40 years after Roe v. Wade, abortion foes march on (AP, 22 January 2013)
- Exposing America’s gang rape shame (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 January 2013)
- One in five women are victims of sexual offences (The Guardian, 11 January 2013)
- The saddest graph you’ll see today (The Washington Post, 7 January 2013)
- Gender pay gap widens for graduates (The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 January 2013)
- Women bring violence on themselves: priest (The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 2012)
- Iowa court: Bosses can fire ‘irresistible’ workers (AP, 21 December 2012)
- 50 actual facts about domestic violence (The Huffington Post, 30 November 2012)
- Student tells of college rape joke and groping (The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November 2012)
- Scandal in Ireland as woman dies in Galway ‘after being denied abortion’ (The Guardian, 14 November 2012)
- Fact-checking the ‘slut vote’ with the Christian Men’s Defense Network (Gawker, 7 November 2012)
- 50 actual facts about rape (The Huffington Post, 26 October 2012)
- The real Republican rape platform (The Guardian, 25 October 2012)
- Mention of vagina causes evangelical bookshop to refuse book, claims author (The Guardian, 18 October 2012)
(Julia Gillard’s, now legendary, speech on misogyny in Australia’s Parliament, 8 October 2012)
- Court requires disabled rape victim to prove she resisted, calls for evidence of ‘biting, kicking, scratching’ (Think Progress, 5 October 2012)
- Bias persists for women of science, a study finds (The New York Times, 24 September 2012)
- Same old scapegoats back in firing line (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 2012)
- Sydney sheikh in court over ‘female genital mutilation’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 September 2012)
- Shrill? Aggressive? And other names we call smart women (Daily Life, 29 August 2012)
- Men and women are different, and so should be their marriage vows (The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 2012)
- Republicans set anti-abortion stance as Romney urges Akin to step aside (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 2012)
- UK parents jailed for daughter’s ‘honour killing’ (The Guardian, 4 August 2012)
- Second-class Olympians fume over team gender bias (The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2012)
- Schools deny girls cervical cancer jabs on religious grounds (The Guardian, 18 July 2012)
- Young woman sentenced to death by stoning in Sudan (Reuters, 31 May 2012)
- Women told to ‘ignore sex bias at work’ by Isobel Redmond (The Australian, 23 May 2012)
- Abortions made public (Salon, 10 May 2012)
- Twitter reaction to Ched Evans case shows rape culture is alive and kicking (The Guardian, 23 April 2012)
- The horror of ‘honor killings’, even in US (Amnesty International, 10 April 2012)
- Cpl Anne-Marie Ellement ‘hanged herself after bullying campaign’ (BBC News, 5 April 2012)
- Pope reaffirms ban on women priests, assails disobedience (Reuters, 5 April 2012)
- Virginia poised to enact ‘state-sponsored rape’ law forcing women to be vaginally probed before abortions (Think Progress, 17 February 2012)
- Santorum staffer says women shouldn’t be President because it’s against God’s will (Think Progress, 17 January 2012)
- Nearly 1 in 5 women in U.S. survey say they have been sexually assaulted (The New York Times, 5 December 2011)
If you are inclined to blame ‘modern’ times, progress, ‘liberal’ attitudes and feminism for men’s negative attitudes towards girls and women, history begs to differ …
Australia’s own Hannah Gadsby had her own unique take on rape and society’s appalling response to the subject, at the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala:
Finally, if you think I come across angry in this piece, you are wrong. I’m not angry. I’m mad as hell!