Violence: “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”
The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health estimates that over a million people lose their lives to violence and millions more are injured and maimed every year. The report states that violence is “among the leading causes of death among people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females.”
What is infinitely disturbing is the myriad forms this violence takes and how pervasive and borderless it is. Across the globe and across the centuries, humans have committed the most barbaric acts, limited only by their imaginations, and the march of civilization has done little to change the grim reality that on any given day, in every corner of our planet, gruesome and ungodly things are done to women, children and men.
- One out of every three women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime.
- Homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.
- Women and girls ages 15 to 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by men than by malaria, cancer, war or traffic accidents combined.
- The children most at risk of attempted abduction by strangers are girls ages 10 to 14, many on their way to or from school.
- Every year, 60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school.
- In some parts of the world a girl is more likely to be raped than to learn how to read.
- Only about one third of countries around the world have laws in place to combat violence against women, and in most of these countries those laws are not enforced.
- Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
- 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
And the reward: Women work 67% of the world’s working hours, yet earn only 10% of the world’s income.
Scan the headlines on any given day and you’re sure to find dozens of stories about girls and women being abused, abducted, raped, beaten and killed. The pervasive oppression of women and girls is humanity’s greatest travesty.
Here are just a few links to illustrate my point…
An Iranian woman who’d already been condemned to death faces another sentence of 99 lashes because of a case of mistaken identity in a photograph, according to foes of the execution. Iranian authorities imposed the sentence after they saw the photo of a woman without a head scarf in a newspaper, the International Committee Against Stoning, a human rights group, said Friday.
Russian women are habitually beaten with legal impunity—in a country with no support system for victims of domestic violence. So it was horrible but hardly surprising when my friend’s husband got drunk and killed her.
The children most at risk of attempted abduction by strangers are girls ages 10 to 14, many on their way to or from school.
Shocking, but true: Women work 67% of the world’s working hours, yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income.
Only about one third of countries around the world have laws in place to combat violence against women, and in most of these countries those laws are not enforced, well resourced or taken seriously. Violence against women and girls, in the form of human trafficking, harmful cultural practices, rape as a tactic of war and domestic violence, is one of the single greatest barriers holding women back. A staggering statistic: one out of every three women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime. And the problem is getting worse every year.
Majorities in nearly all 18 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed in 2009 say rape is a major problem in their countries. A median of 77% of sub-Saharan Africans see rape as this much of a problem, but in six countries, the percentage saying this reaches 90% or higher. Gallup’s survey results reaffirm the extent to which the issue of rape plagues countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, where nearly all (97%) call it a major problem. According to Interpol, South Africa has the highest number of declared rapes in the world, with nearly half of the victims younger than 18.
And lest anyone pretend this isn’t a domestic problem:
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey — the country’s largest and most reliable crime study — there were 248,300 sexual assaults in 2007 (the most recent data available).
Across the globe, women’s rights, their basic dignity, is under assault. It can manifest with physical violence, but it can also be part of a pervasive pattern of sexism and misogyny. Whatever form it takes, one thing is clear: there can be no justice on earth until there is justice for women.
Read this story and imagine you’re reading about your sister – because you are:
A 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl allegedly raped by a much older cousin has died after being publicly flogged for adultery, media reports said. Hena Begum was sentenced to receive 100 lashes by a village council made up of elders and Muslim clerics in the district of Shariatpur, about 35 miles from the capital, Dhaka, the BBC said today. She endured about 80 lashes before collapsing Monday, according to The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper. Her family took her to a hospital, where she died.
Family members said Hena was raped by a 40-year-old married cousin, The Daily Star said. The man’s family beat up the teen, then accused of her adultery, the newspaper said. The very next day, she was sentenced to the flogging in a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by the village council under Islamic Shariah law, the BBC said.
Lest anyone think that this is isolated to one religion, one culture or one region, read this.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: the wholesale oppression of women is the single greatest travesty of our time. Each of the victims is your sister and my sister, not a statistic, not a stranger, but a fellow human with hopes, dreams and feelings. It shatters me that anyone has to experience what Hena went through. We MUST find a way to stop it.
The greatest travesty of our time is the wholesale abuse and oppression of girls and women. It happens across our planet, in every culture, religion, social and economic class. And it remains mostly unspoken. Afghanistan’s new TV show, “Niqab” (“The Mask”) brings to light some of the horrors endured by Afghan women:
Her identity safely concealed behind the mask, Saraya said she was forcibly married off to a known rapist, a man with an existing criminal record when she was 15 years old. He was 58. “When my youngest was just four years old, my husband brought women to the house and raped them. “My child asked me: ‘who are these women?’ I could not say anything to my child — my husband would just beat me.”
You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Do some people matter more than others? In a tabloid culture, an inordinate premium is placed on anyone rich or popular, the antics of celebrities and millionaires receiving more attention than the mortal struggles of women and children.
In the U.S., the gap between fame and obscurity, wealth and poverty, power and powerlessness manifests itself most starkly in centers of influence like Washington, Los Angeles and New York, where jockeying for position is an obsession. Being invited to the right party, getting the right table at the right restaurant, having the right address, owning the right accoutrements, getting name-checked in the right publication or seen with the right person is of paramount importance.
America is based on the noble idea of equality, but principle and practice are two very different things and some people are more equal than others, with disproportionate privileges and prestige. This holds true across the planet.
Counterintuitively, the most important people in the world are those who have the least, those who are the most oppressed, those who are victims of the worst violence.
We are only as strong and powerful and important as the weakest link in the human chain. When a little girl is gang-raped, when a child wastes away from preventable hunger, when a man is silenced for his beliefs, when a woman dies needlessly in childbirth, when a little boy lives in agony from a preventable disease, we are all weakened, our worth diminished.
When the resources of the rich and famous are put to use to help those in need, it is because the highest moral calling is to give to others, to extend a hand to those who need one.
If character is built on compassion and generosity of spirit, the most important person in the world is the one who most needs our compassion, care and generosity, the person who enables us to improve ourselves by helping them, who gives us value because we value them.
With all the hobnobbing, backslapping, namedropping and idol-worshiping served to us by the media, with the dazzling displays of money and fame and power, let’s never forget who matters most in this world: it is the person to whom we give something of ourselves — and from whom we derive our moral power.
A true hero:
Anuradha Koirala is fighting to prevent the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal’s women and girls. Since 1993, she and her group, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims.
Koirala: I would like to urge all the human beings around the world: Please close your eyes and imagine these girls are your daughters, and you will feel the pain of being trafficked.
This is good:
The White House will announce several policy initiatives on Wednesday that are aimed at reducing domestic violence, including pilot programs targeted at children and pregnant women, financial and housing assistance for victims of abuse and a national campaign to reduce sexual violence, according to a memo about the plans.
There are programs targeted at children, including a fund to assist pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence in five states — North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and Washington — and Head Start centers in six states – Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico and South Carolina – will launch a program to help staff members identify signs of domestic violence in children and respond appropriately.
HUD will release guidelines for housing authorities and landlords who have tenants who may be victims of domestic violence, a move that codifies protections outlined in the Violence Against Women Act. The FDIC will expand its Money Smart financial literacy curriculum on Friday to include information for victims of domestic violence.
The Justice Department will announce the start of a pilot program intended to get more private lawyers to offer services to domestic violence victims pro bono.
Here are some stats for context:
Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.
More than 600 women are raped every day.
The Justice Department estimates that one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years, and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported.
It’s easy to focus on the heinous treatment of girls and women in places like Somalia, Afghanistan and Congo, but we should never forget that women are brutalized by men in every corner of the world, across every social and economic group.
This story out of Canada is hideous beyond words:
A Canadian colonel who admitted to 86 lurid sex crimes videotaped the brutal rape and murder of a corporal under his command, a court heard on Tuesday.
Colonel Russell Williams, 47, a married pilot who once flew the jet used to ferry Canada’s prime minister as well as the British royal family on a visit, photographed and videotaped his repeated sexual assault over 4½ hours of Corporal Marie-France Comeau, the Crown said.
Bruised, bloodied and limp, Corporal Comeau used her last breath to beg for her life, according to an audio tape played in court: “Have a heart. I’ve been good all my life. I don’t want to die.” “Shut up,” Williams responded before he taped her nostrils and her mouth closed and watched her suffocate.
Days before he killed her, he broke into her home and snapped 18 photographs of himself in her underwear and standing next to her pressed air force uniform. On the night of November 23, 2009, he left his office at the Trenton military base, parked his car outside her home, and listened in the dark to her telephone conversation using a sensitive sound-detecting device.
Williams then broke in through a basement window and attacked her. They struggled. He beat her nearly unconscious with a flashlight, tied her up and covered all of the windows in the house. She pleaded with him: “I don’t want to die. Leave me alone. I don’t want to die.” Afterwards, Williams washed her bed sheets and drove directly to Ottawa for a meeting with military brass.
He would later send a signed letter of condolence on behalf of the Canadian Forces to Corporal Comeau’s father – a 45-year veteran of the military.
Williams commanded Canada’s busiest air force base, the 437 Squadron in Trenton, east of Toronto, for more than a year before his arrest. Previously he was in charge of Canada’s secretive Camp Mirage in Dubai. He faces life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
I could think of worse punishments for what he did.
First, a few recent posts for context:
On human violence
No justice on earth until there is justice for women
Is there anything more cowardly and despicable than a gang of armed men raping a woman?
Gallup polls the scourge of rape in Africa, but it’s not just an Africa problem