Last Monday, even as many celebrated Valentine’s Day with symbolic expressions of love, One Billion Rising, an initiative to end violence against all women – cisgender, transgender, gender non-conforming – girls, and the planet, celebrated its ninth anniversary with the launch of a new campaign to transform “women from victims into active agents in the protection of their rights”. One Billion Rising is an offshoot of V-Day, which was founded by author, playwright and activist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) on February 14, 1998.
It is sad, unfortunate and beyond ridiculous that in 2022, 41 years after the entry into force of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the United Nations General Assembly United, such a campaign is always necessary. This is all the more the case since since 1981 there has been the Cairo Accord in 1994 and the Beijing Declaration in 1995, both of which aimed to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women and girls and remove all barriers to gender equality. After all this time, the simple truths that women’s rights are human rights; that women’s bodies should not be criminalized; and that women are not goods are still not universal. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In 2016, during the presidential debate, Donald Trump, then campaigning, had stated quite openly that he was “pro-life” and if elected president, he would want to see Roe v Wade, the historic Supreme Court decision. of 1973 granting all women in America the right to terminate pregnancies, reversed. It didn’t happen overnight, but over the past five years several states, including North Dakota, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, passed draconian abortion laws. As promised, during his tenure as president, Mr. Trump was able to appoint three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, and right now Roe v Wade is in play.
If this blatant erosion of women’s rights could take place in America, which bills itself as a bastion of democracy, then the continuing horrors elsewhere, while heartbreaking, shouldn’t be too shocking. An example is so-called “honour killings” which are believed to have existed since ancient Roman times. This premeditated massacre of women perceived to have “disgraced” their families by refusing to be forced into marriage, being raped, divorcing them or having sex before marriage is seen as somehow restoring dignity and the honor of their family. Or we could just call it what it is: a twisted way of men holding ultimate control over women and girls.
Although this particular crime is now entrenched in Asian, Middle Eastern, and some African cultures, it occurs wherever people who cling to these traditions reside. It is estimated that there are at least ten honor killings in the United States each year and a dozen in Canada. The figure for the UK is between 12 and 15. The figures are slightly lower in the rest of Europe and much, much higher in Asia and the Middle East. Around the world, some 5,000 women and girls are murdered every year because of this phenomenon, with the majority of these femicides occurring in Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Jordan, among other regions. quoted. Unfortunately, in many cases, the abuser manages to escape justice completely. Sometimes what is offered as justice defiles the word and the whole profession that surrounds it.
Meanwhile, all over the world there is the patriarchal belief that women are less than men and deserve less rights, representation and resources. After all this time, too many men are still wired to believe that the women they marry, are engaged to, have children, or have relationships with are their chattel property. This manifests in the overwhelming compulsion to control their every activity. The fallout is domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Too often, the long-term result is the mutilation or murder of women.
As grim as it is, it’s not all bad news. Some women have managed to walk away from victimization, are able to protect their rights, and use their voices, pens, and platforms to ensure the same for others. However, none are truly free unless all are.
Until governments, which are heavily male-dominated, stop caring about women’s representation and gender equity, changes will continue to be minimal. Laws must change and new ones must be enacted that respect the agreements and conventions on women’s rights that governments have signed. It’s time to tell men that the era of the “old school club” is over and that their actions must live up to their words. Women already support half the world, they have the right to live there freely.