A whole lot of people, as it turns out. This week at the Guardian I’m writing about the Commission on the Status of Women, a two-week-long UN conference that wrapped up on Friday and, thankfully, resulted in a signed document pledging action on women’s rights. But in the lead-up to the signing, we saw a variety of actors from all around the world try to impede anti-violence efforts. Who? Russia, Iran, the Vatican, the Muslim Brotherhood and American pro-life groups, among others. They had a variety of objections, but the chief ones were that the proposed CSW document would treat husbands who rape their wives the same way as men who rape strangers, would disallow countries from using the “it’s our culture / religion / tradition” excuse to avoid implementing anti-violence measures, and stated that women have a right to bodily integrity and freedom:
This isn’t a “religious problem” or a “cultural problem”, even though culture and religion are routinely invoked to justify a hatred of women that crosses over oceans and unites belief systems. This is a misogyny problem.
The divide over women’s rights fundamentally comes down to the question of whether you think women are equally as human as men, or whether you think we’re a sub-category of person, designed to serve men’s needs and desires, and unworthy of protection from humanity’s most awful impulses.
Some 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence remains legal. Three million women and girls are subjected to genital cutting every year, with 10% of them dying from the practice. More than 60 million girls are married as child brides every year.
Hopefully, the signed CSW agreement is the first step to ending some of that pervasive violence. But if there’s a lesson to be taken away from the CSW negotiation process, it’s that governments and groups from diverse corners of the world have a vested interest in maintaining gender inequality. They’re willing to tolerate violence, and even give it the go-ahead, when they realize that violence is necessary to maintaining society-wide male dominance.
Culture, religion and tradition are all very important to billions of people. But none of those things is static: we determine what our culture looks like, what our traditions are and what we believe. Many of our male leaders apparently want misogyny and the gender-based violence that perpetuates it to be cornerstones of their ideal cultures and belief systems.
You can read the whole column here.
- Ending violence against women remains controversial by Jill March 12, 2013
- Adria Richards, Sexual Assault and Victim-Blaming by Jill March 26, 2013
- Purity Culture and Sexual Assault by Jill May 10, 2013
- “Some Girls Rape Easy” by Jill October 10, 2012
- The Feminism of Sheryl Sandberg by Jill March 1, 2013