RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES FOR WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD
This month we will take a
look at four issues that affect millions of women around the
world: the repression
of women in Afghanistan, honour killings, slavery, and
reproductive rights in China.
Long before September 11
the women of Afghanistan were desperately trying to make their
plight known to the rest of the world and improve their basic
living conditions. In 1977 a brave, young woman named Meena established the
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) in an
effort to organize and educate women and promote human rights in a
country that held repressive policies towards its citizens,
especially women. Meena
worked hard to give a voice to the repressed women of Afghanistan
and obtain social justice.
In 1987, at the age of 30, government agents and others
assassinated Meena in Quetta, Pakistan.
Although Meena was
murdered years ago, her work continues through the organization
she helped found, RAWA. According
to the organization’s website, www.rawa.fancymarketing.net/indes.html,
RAWA is a “political/social organization of Afghan women
struggling for peace, freedom, democracy, and women’s rights in
RAWA’s website contains
a wealth of information about the situation in Afghanistan, the
organization, and the social/political activities of RAWA (which
include education, health care, human rights, cultural, and
economic activities). The site also contains many suggestions for people wishing to
help the women of Afghanistan, such as signing a petition, telling
a friend, sending a donation, or sponsoring a teacher.
Links to 20 other related websites provide interested
readers with vast resources of information about social justice
issues for the repressed women of Afghanistan.
“Honour killing” is
the reprehensible practice whereby women who bring “dishonour”
to their families because of sexual indiscretions are murdered or
receive corporal punishment at the hands of their father, brother,
or husband. Many
times these “indiscretions” are very minor or even alleged,
rather being grounded in reality.
Official statistics are hard to come by since many
communities sanction the practice and accurate records are not
kept. Murderers are
unlikely to be reprimanded in court.
“Honour killings emerged
in the pre-Islamic era, according to Sharif Kanaana, professor of
anthropology at Birzeit University.”
It is believed “that the honour killing stemmed from the
patriarchal and patrilineal society’s interest in maintaining
strict control over designated familial power structures.” The
honour of the family is dependent on a woman’s virginity and her
virginity is the property of the men around her – father,
brothers, or husband. Thus,
there is no real basis in religion, but the practice is encouraged
by the rise in religious fundamentalism, which frequently
represses women’s rights and freedoms.
For more information about
this heinous crime against women in repressed cultures visit the
following excellent websites.
The Muslim Women’s
The Muslim Women’s League is a “non-profit American Muslim
organization working to implement the values of Islam and thereby
reclaim the status of women as free, equal and vital contributors
to society.” This
excellent site contains in-depth and comprehensive discussions,
essays, and position papers on honour killings as well as other
issues pertinent to Muslim women.
Honour Killings in
Suzanne Ruggi, a staff reporter for the Jerusalem Times wrote
this detailed and thoughtful look at honour killings.
This discussion examines the situation in Palestine and
looks at what is currently being done to try to abolish the
practice and make it socially unacceptable in the communities and
cultures where the practice is observed.
Asian Women Exposed to
Pakistan: Cost of a
This article presents the situation as seen in Pakistan.
The UN Convention on
Slavery defines a slave as anyone who is unable to withdraw
his/her labour voluntarily. This broad definition includes
economic slaves-child workers, serfs, and indentured labourers-
and exists throughout much of Asia, the Middle East, and
elsewhere. In the
year 2000, millions of people, the majority women and children,
were forced to live as slaves.
This slavery can take many forms including but not limited
slavery – where people are
kidnapped from their homes and bought and sold as slaves or given
marriage – where women and girls
are forced into “marriage” against their will.
labourers – are physically forced
into hard labour for the repayment of a “loan”.
Typically, the market value of their work is many times
greater then the sum of the money borrowed.
Under the set-up, they may never be able to repay the loan
during their lifetime.
slaves – are forced to work in
dangerous conditions suitable only for adults, or as sex slaves,
against their will.
War and poverty play a
large role in the continuation of slavery.
In the Sudan, government backed militia and troops raid
Dinka and Nuba villages killing the men and taking the women and
children to sell into slavery, some for as little as $15.
Along the Ivory Coast, parents, hoping to improve their
children’s lives, often “sell” their children to brokers who
promise to find them work with a master who will pay them a small
salary and also educate them.
For more information on
modern day slavery, check out the following websites:
Reports on North African Slavery
American Anti-Slavery group presents excerpts from United Nations
reports on the practice of slavery in North Africa.
Now World News
News service features articles and analysis relating to worldwide
human rights, religious persecution, and slavery.
- Forum on Modern-day Slavery in Africa
News article reports on a forum that discussed modern-day slavery
in Sudan and Mauritania. Includes related links.
Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan
Learn about the objectives of this anti-slavery organization
focused on Mauritania and Sudan. Includes news links and contact
When it comes to the
subject of women’s rights in China, quite frankly, there
aren’t any. As a result of China’s one-child policy and the resulting
shortage of marriageable women, the risk factor for becoming a
victim of violence is simply being female.
China is a strictly
patriarchal society, in which one’s identity is conferred by the
father’s lineage; the mother’s is almost irrelevant.
In this society, a woman’s rights are transferred to the
husband’s family at the time of marriage and it is understood
that the woman’s future productivity and services belong to the
husband’s family, whatever her parents’ needs may be.
This leads to a strong “son” preference, and results in
the abandonment or infanticide of thousands of baby girls each
As teenagers, the threat
becomes not one of death but of abduction.
Because of the shortage of marriageable women, a result of
the one-child policy, which has been in effect for several
decades, teenage girls, are abducted off the streets and sold into
marriage. If they
manage to escape, they are no longer suitable for marriage because
they have “been” with another man.
In accordance with the
one-child policy, couples must obtain a permit before starting a
pregnancy and once the permitted child is born, the woman is
required to have an IUD (intra uterine device) inserted.
Women who are found to have unauthorized pregnancies must
have their pregnancies terminated, some in the 7th,
8th, or even 9th month of pregnancy. After having an out-of-plan birth, one spouse must be
sterilized, most often the woman.
An unauthorized second
child also affects the rights of the first child, who could lose
the right to attend school, receive health coverage, and even to
be recognized as a Chinese citizen.
For more information on
Women’s Rights in China, consult the following websites:
Human Rights in China
(HRIC) is an international non-governmental organization founded
by Chinese scientists and scholars in March 1989. Their mission is
to promote universally recognized human rights and advance the
institutional protection of these rights in China.
Law and Policy
Review of laws and policies affecting women's reproductive freedom
in the US, Brazil, China, Germany, India and Nigeria.
Gateway to information on United Nations programs to protect and
empower women. With a forum, conference details, and news.
Rights -- A Global View
A cross-cultural historical and contemporary exploration of
women's rights issues and activism in fifteen case studies of
nations from around the world.
We’ve given you the
briefest glimpse into the lives of millions of women and children
around the world and hope that the information and links we have
provided will be useful should you be interested in becoming
involved in one of these causes.