On the dilemmas of being a woman

You may have seen the recent news out of Bangladesh of the death of a 14-year old girl as a consequence of a public lashing meted out by community leaders applying Shakira law.  Hena Begum had complained she had been raped by her 40-year old married cousin, who later fled. Collapsing at the 70th lash of  the 120 designated. she died a short time later. 
The UN Population Fund suggests that up to 5000 women are victims of honor killings annually, but doesn’t specify Muslim perpetrators.  This is important because the truth is that violence against women transcends all ethnicities and economic denominators.  In our own country, the FBI’s Expanded Homicide Data of 2008 records 14,180 murders in the U. S., of which 930 were women and girls murdered by a family member.
But let’s also talk about rape.  Nearly 18 percent of American women have been raped or been victims of  a rape attempt, 22 %  of them under the age of 12 (Violence Against Women Survey, 2000).  The numbers are actually much higher.  Only 37 percent of victims report their rape to local police, according to the FBI.  Shockingly, only 1 of 20 rapists serves even a day in jail (Victimization Survey, 2005). 
Upwards of 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the U. S. annually for  sexual exploitation or forced labor (CIA, 2000).  Alas, slavery didn’t cease with the end of the Civil War, not for women at least.  Worldwide, 1 million children , mostly girls, enter into the sex trade annually (UNICEF).
Internationally, there exist selective abortion, infanticide, and neglect, mostly in Asian nations, resulting in some 60 million females having been denied life (UN Study on the Status of Women, 2000).
Genital mutilation is common in Africa and there women suffer a much higher rated of HIV incidence than males (UNICEF and UNAIDS, 2007).
In the undeveloped nations, many women are  denied access to education and its corollaries:  economic independence and smaller families.  In Afghanistan, the Taliban have aggressively destroyed schools set up to provide education access to girls.
Economic discrimination against women, both in the U. S. and abroad, abounds.  You can almost bet on it that whenever women are the majority work-force in places such as schools, fast food restaurants, and block stores, it will result in low wages.  There are exceptions such as in nursing and auto plants, thanks to a critical shortage and/or strong unions. It’s going to be really interesting how the present Wal-Mart discrimination suit before the U. S. Supreme Court turns out.
I haven’t  talked about the marriage and relationship sectors, where often as not, the woman performs double duty in holding-down a full-time job, then returning home to resume care of the children, cooking, and other domestic needs.  I know too many men who see women as primarily bedmates, mommies, and cooks.  Men tend to put looks high on their priority scale for a partner; women, less so, preferring sensitivity and intelligence.  Is it any wonder?
Mistreating women has been an endemic feature of male cultural history, whether  religious, political, economic, or domestic..  Unfortunately, we live in a world where those perceived as weak are continuously exploited:  women, children and animals.  For those of us who care, our challenge is to empower “earth’s disinherited” through protest, legislation, education, and economic sanction.  The struggle isn’t easy and the road is long, but every journey begins with the first step.


Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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