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.
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.
Federal Police identified 14 individuals held as slaves at a farm in Brazil’s western state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The victims, natives to various northeastern states of the country, had traveled to Mato Grosso do Sul in response to attractive job offers and better lives. Instead, they met slavery and abuse.
Injustices occur every day, every place on our planet and we should speak out forcefully, donate to organizations, volunteer time if we can, and vote for officials who prioritize these issues. It’s up to us to make a difference.
UPDATE: Staggering report from BBC News:
Nigerian girls are being forced to work as prostitutes in Mali “slave camps”, say officials in Nigeria. The girls, many of them under age, have often been promised jobs in Europe but ended up in brothels, said the government’s anti-trafficking agency.
Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (Naptip) said officials visited Mali this month to follow up “horrendous reports” from victims, aid workers and clergy in Mali.
They said there were hundreds of brothels, each housing up to 200 girls, run by Nigerian “madams” who force them to work against their will and take their earnings. “We are talking of thousands and thousands of girls,” Simon Egede, Executive Secretary of Naptip, told a news conference in Abuja. “We are talking of certainly between 20,000 and about 40,000,” he said, but did not give details of how the figure had been reached.
Various reports and studies, none of them particularly reliable, suggest that between 100,000 and 600,000 children may be involved in prostitution in the United States, with the numbers increasing.
Just last month, police freed a 12-year-old girl who they said had been imprisoned in a Knights Inn hotel in Laurel, Md. The police charged a 42-year-old man, Derwin Smith, with human trafficking and false imprisonment in connection with the case.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said that Mr. Smith met the girl in a seedy area, had sex with her and then transported her back and forth from Washington, D.C., to Atlantic City, N.J., while prostituting her.
“The juvenile advised that all of the money made was collected and kept by the suspect,” the police department said in a statement. “At one point, the victim conveyed to the suspect that she wanted to return home, but he held her against her will.”
Just two days later, the same police force freed three other young women from a Garden Inn about a block away. They were 16, 19 and 23, and police officials accused a 23-year-old man, Gabriel Dreke-Hernandez, of pimping them.
Now watch this disturbing report from CNN:
There is no graver (self-imposed) risk to human existence than the ravaging of our planet and there is no greater outrage on our planet than the wholesale oppression of girls and women.
I defy you to listen to these stories without getting overwhelmed with horror and anger:
And if that wasn’t enough, read these examples of what girls and women endure every day and let the anguish sink in:
Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore. Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”
13-year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped. Reports indicate that she was raped by three men while traveling by foot to visit her grandmother in Mogadishu. When she went to the authorities to report the crime, they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium of 1,000 onlookers as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her until she died. A witness who spoke to the BBC’s Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium. … She said: ‘I’m not going, I’m not going. Don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ “A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her.” The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was “awful”.
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. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.
There can be no justice on earth until we address this greatest of travesties.