Where do we go from here?

All of the topics that I have blogged about have been very heavy and rather disturbing topics.  It is heartbreaking and infuriating to know that there are women in the world being abused simply because they are women.

It’s not enough to simply sit back and say “that is too bad!” We’ve got to do something about it.

If you’re like me, you will spend hours wondering what in the world you can even do.  I can’t pack up and live in Afghanistan, I cannot collect all the trafficked women and take them back home and care for them.  I cannot change the cultural traditions that perpetuate this problem.  I feel powerless.

We can take a stand though.  We can tell people about the problem.  We can start fixing the problem in our own communities and in our own spheres of influence.  This is a problem that may take over a lifetime to change, but we can start now.

Margaret Mead said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

We’ve got to believe that is true.

If you would like to get involved you can visit the Get Involved page on my blog.  There you will find a list of organizations working to better the lives of women worldwide.


Honor Killings and Honor Suicides

“The honor of a man lies between the legs of a woman”

My professor quoted a friend of hers when she said the above statement.

In many societies, a woman’s chastity is what brings honor to the family.  Therefore, if a woman is unchaste, she brings lasting shame to her family.

But what about rape?

In those societies where a families honor is dependent on the woman’s chastity, even rape will dishonor the family.  That alone is enough to have the girl killed.  It would be better to remove the source shame from the family entirely than to live with that shame in their society.  In an article by the National Geographic, they explain that, “Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family “honor.” “


Infanticide

The birth of a baby is generally regarded as a joyous occasion.  Parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents celebrate.  However, the unfortunate reality is that in some places, in some families, there is little rejoicing when a female child is born.  Worse still is when that female infant is killed simply because she is female.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted.

The reason? They were girls, not boys.

In many cases, infanticide has been outlawed, so couples are now turning to sex-selective abortions.  Now that you can know the gender of the child, why not abort and not go through all the trouble of bearing and raising a female child that you don’t want anyway, right?

Efforts are being made to put an end to that as well.  However, there are still underground ultrasound clinics and underground operations.  The result, millions of girls wiped from the planet.


A Thousand Splendid Suns


This is one of my favorite books.  It is pretty hard to read, but that seems to be a theme around here, right? These are hard topics to learn about.  Harder still to actually live through.  This book follows the lives of two Afghani women as they face the challenges of living in Afghanistan during the past 30 years.

I tried to put myself in these characters’ shoes.  I think I would have buckled under the abuse and pressure early on, yet these women carry on.  I wouldn’t say that the book ends with sunshine and roses in the end, rather a hope of a brighter future and a call to action to assure that other women do not have to endure the same things.

I personally struggle to know what to do to help women in this world.  I wish I knew the answer.  I wish I knew how to put an end to so much of the violence and abuse that women face.  So much of the problem stems from deep rooted cultural traditions.  What are the best ways to address cultural issues that are blatantly hurting women?


Maternal Deaths


While maternal mortality might not, on the surface, seem like an issue of violence against women, it is in fact an injustice. Mahmoud Fathalla, the Chair of the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research stated:

Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat.  They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”

A half million women die each year due to pregnancy or childbirth related complications.  That number has stayed stagnant for over 15 years.  The maternal mortality rate is a good indicator of the status of women in their community.  In many communities, the woman’s life is not worth the investment.
Many women throughout the world have little to no control over their own reproductive health.  It is generally recommended that a woman space her births two years apart for her own health and the health of her children.  However, in many societies, a woman’s status is directly related to her ability to have many children or to have male children.  If a woman does not give birth to a male, she may be under a lot of pressure to have another child quickly in hopes that the next one will be male.
Additionally, in many countries, there is scarce access to maternal health care.  While in Ghana last summer, I talked to a number of women who gave birth to their children either in their homes or on the road to the health clinic.  They all expressed their desire to deliver in a clinic, but they were unable to make it to a clinic in time.  For women living in remote areas, it simply is not possible to access all the necessary prenatal and maternal health services.
Both of these examples demonstrate how women are endangering their lives to bear children.  While it is not an outright act of violence against them, the fact that maternal mortality is a known problem and is still as big of an issue as it was 15 years ago is an act of social violence against those women.  Women risk their lives in childbirth and yet most don’t even give it a second though.  

Justice

What is appropriate justice for someone who commits an act of violence against a women? 
What would the offender say?
What would the judge say?
What would the government say?
How about the survivor? Has anyone considered what the survivor needs or wants in terms of justice?
Judith Lewis Herman explores the questions a survivor might ask. 
In the course of their recovery, victims of sexual and domestic violence confront the most basic questions 
about the meaning of justice: How can the truth be made known? How should offenders be held accountable? What 
is appropriate punishment? Can the harm be repaired and, if so, what would be required to repair it? How can 
victims and offenders go on living in the same community? Is reconciliation possible?
 
Additionally, in many cases of rape or sexual violence the offender is never persecuted. Few cases of rape are ever even considered by the judicial system.  That leaves the victim with little hope of justice. In fact, 9 out of 10 sexual assaults are never even reported to the police; sexual offenses are the least likely violent crime to be reported.
How does that make the survivor feel to know that her perpetrator walks freely?

Half The Sky — Book Recommendation

There is a proverb in China that says that “Women hold up half the sky”.

The book Half the Sky lays out an agenda for the world’s women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute. We know there are many worthy causes competing for attention in the world. We focus on this one because this kind of oppression feels transcendent – and so does the opportunity. Outsiders can truly make a difference.

I read this book for a class a few semesters back.  It is an heart-breaking and inspirational story of the lives of women throughout the world.  You can read a few excerpts from the book.

The book raises issues of abuse women face and encourages people to take action.  My question is what can we do, right here, right now to take action and put an end to these abuses?