5 Victories for Women’s Rights Achieved in the Past Year

A majority of my posts on this blog highlight setbacks and injustices women face, so I decided to post about five triumphs women’s rights have seen over the past year or so. Also, this is close to my last post, so I want to end things on a good note.

1. Zimbabwean women are not free to go out at night

Prior to May 27 of this year, women in Zimbabwe were not free to be out at night because they would most likely face arrest, since any women out late at night were presumed to be sex workers by officials and men in general. These arrests have been banned on the basis that they target too many innocent women.

2. Nigeria banned female genital mutilation

Also known as female circumcision, genital mutilation on females is an inhumane practice that is common all over the world. In May, Nigeria set an example by outlawing it when former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act on May 25, mostly thanks to work from activists from the organization known as Choice4Life.

3. Malawi banned child marriage

Child marriage is frequently practices in countries where women are discriminated against. Malawi was no exception to thing, given the fact that half of girls under the age of 18 were married off as children. Thankfully, this has now been outlawed. Before, child brides were emphasized because people thought being married young was beneficial for fertility, but the government has come to see the ignorance in that.

4. Over 100 women serving in the U.S. Congress for the first time in history

2014’s November midterm elections got the number of women serving in Congress to over 100 for the first time in American history. While not significant in a specific way, this shows how society is progressing and reinforces the fact that female representation is vital to a fair democracy that is truly representative of all citizens.

5. Brazil strengthened laws protecting women

The country of Brazil has alarmingly high rates of violence against women. After an onslaught of passionate protests throughout the country, the government has finally started to introduced that laws, that while difficult to enforce, are bringing the country closer to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence against women.

Of course all of these achievements listed above do not solve all of the problems women face, but they are undoubtedly steps that will give way to improvement in the future.

Meet Caitlyn Jenner

While not specific to women’s rights, this topic does address gender equality as a whole. Bruce Jenner has gained an abundance of the media’s attention when he announced that he is transgender, and was planning on fully changing into a woman.

Vanity Fair released their June 2015 issue cover, and the cover is Bruce, now known as Caitlyn Jenner, fully transitioned into a woman after the last step of facial reconstruction surgery. Back in April, Jenner expressed her desire to lead a life as a woman in an interview on ABC with Diane Sawyer. You can watch the full interview here.

I think this is a crucial step for society because Jenner is a prominent public figure that many people around the world have come to know, so the fact that she is taking this step and making such a drastic change and statement sets an example of change and progression that is needed for other transgender people globally.

As it is now, the world is struggling enough to equate women’s rights with men’s, so gay rights and transgender rights even more so are getting sidelined. While it is true that transgender people are a minority, it is important that they are not discriminated against on the basis of their gender identification or sexuality. Many people feel uncomfortable with the concept of changing genders because it seems unnatural, which is certainty understandably, but only to an extent because people like Jenner are people like everyone else who deserve equal protection and rights, as well as lives free from discrimination and oppression.

Below is a picture of Jenner in 2011 when many people still viewed her as being a man:

3 Restrictions on Women’s Rights That Aren’t as Commonly Known

The Middle East is always getting a bad rap for how they oppress women on a holistic level, but there are a few specifics that caught my eye while reading an article online.

The first rule is that under Jordanian law (so in the country of Jordan) women are not actually permitted to admit their children to hospitals without consent from the father. This of course is very risky and unsafe because if a child needs immediate medical attention, they could not receive it, which could be detrimental. For example, a few months ago, a new born didn’t receive medical care because the father wasn’t around to sign the papers so the baby died because the hospital wouldn’t let him be admitted.

In Yemen, women count as being half a witness. Without a male witness to back up what they’re saying, they aren’t taken very seriously and in cases of relationship conflicts their accounts are not listen to virtually at all.

In several countries, there is a law that mandates if a rapist marries their victim, the rape is excused. A few years back in Morocco, a 16 year old girl was forced to marrying her rapist and shortly after committed suicide for obvious reasons.

These are just a few (more extreme examples) of how women suffer injustices in countries where equality is not valued. Hopefully within years to come bogus laws like these will be abolished through activism and progression of society and government in such countries, but for now, all people can do is continue to fight these gross injustices.

Below is a picture of the Middle Eastern region, an area of countries were laws like these are commonly practiced:

 

Iranian Women On Trial for Insulting Parliament Members

Atena Farghadani is a 29 year old woman and women’s rights activists who is now scheduled to appear in court after accusations that she spoke out against parliament members when they announced that they will be implementing more restrictions to contraception. This began in August of 2014, when she was initially arrested and held in solitary confinement for 2 weeks without any visits/access to a lawyer or family members.

Farghadani is also an artist, and the origin of her opposition of parliament members can be traced back to her cartoon drawing of parliament people debating about a series of legislative bill that would outlaw voluntary sterilization, restrict access to contraceptives, and tighten divorce laws (which are already more beneficial to men than women).As a result, she is facing charges of “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader”.

What Farghadani is attempting to do is to limit restrictions on women’s rights and hinder parliament’s efforts to do so. Free speech is not a right frequently protected in Iran, let alone when it comes to defending women are speaking up against male government officials.

In addition to being arrested for advocating for women’s rights, Farghandani received harsh and unfair treatment in prison. This included being forced to take her clothes off for search when it wasn’t necessary, and being forced to hold her hands up during these searches so they wouldn’t cover her body.

The way Farghadani has been treated is yet another example of how women are unfairly oppressed and discriminated against when all a woman does is try to protect the rights of women everywhere.

Below is a picture of Tehran, the city where Farghadani was arrested:

 

Taliban “Softens Stance” on Women’s Rights

A few days ago, female activists spoke in Qatar during a series of peace talks. They talked about how important it is to support education for women and girls and also how giving them opportunities in careers that are typically male-dominated is a crucial reform that needs to take place too.

During the years of 1996 to 2001, the time of the Taliban’s prominent rule in Afghanistan, they were especially misogynistic and brutal towards women. They were denied basic human rights and were not permitted to leave their house or go anywhere or do much without a male’s permission, specifically their husbands.

Heather Barr, a Human Rights Watch researcher that specializes in women’s rights, said in a statement that “Taliban participants reportedly pledged support for women’s education up to the university level and vowed to permit women to work outside the home, ‘even in male-dominated professions like engineering’,” which is something they have never been known to have done prior to this. In 2001, the Taliban rule outlawed women leaving their homes without male permission which of course imposed a massive hindrance on their ability to get an education, let alone a job or the chance to build a career.

However, the Taliban is a group that is infamous for saying that they will do one thing and then completely doing something entirely different. Barr pointed out that the Taliban has repeatedly attacked women’s and girl’s schools and additionally have threatened and killed women’s rights activists a numerous amount of times. This continues to happen.

Hopefully the peace talks in Qatar enlightened the Taliban enough to a point where they won’t back out on their pledge and they will stay committed to helping rather than inhibiting women’s careers and education.

Below is the logo of the Humans Rights Watch organization, the group primarily responsible for advocating women’s rights in these types of situations:

How Women’s Rights are Evolving in Afghanistan

Back in March, an Afghanistan women was brutally killed by a mod of male attackers who then proceeded to incinerate her body and throw it in a river. They accused her of burning pages of their holy book, the Quran. At her funeral, it was women who carried her coffin and not men. This has never happened before, usually it is the men who are responsible for carrying coffins at funerals. It’s significance lies within the fact that a feminist movement like this one was permitted in a culture  that is infamous for discriminating against women.

This brings up the fact that most women now who are targeted in Afghanistan are women who are advocating for women’s rights. According to officials, the government in Afghanistan has done very little protect women because men who are attacking and targeting women’s rights activists are still walking free. Whenever women ask the government for protection and safety if they feel threatened, they are given none or very little.

What happened to this woman is an example of that. Many bystanders said that they witnessed the police idly standing by and not taking any sort of actions to help her as the men profusely beat her. Fortunately, 13 police officers were suspended for their lack of action in addition to the 26 people arrested for harming Farkhunda (the 27 year old women who was beat to death). Many continue to argue that these relatively low numbers do not fit the punishment that is truly deserved.

Hopefully the lack of jurisdiction and justice with Farkhunda will show the world how the government needs to play a more significant role in the advocacy of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Below is a picture of women in their typical attire that is designed to discourage them from showing their bodies:

File:Afghan women at market 2-4-09.jpg

Pope Francis Condemns Unequal Pay

Pope Francis has left a legacy of being the most progressive and intelligent pope to mark the Vatican’s history. Echoing the feminist anthem of equal pay, he called it a “pure scandal” that women are frequently paid less for equal work.

His exact quote was: “We should support with decisiveness the right to equal pay for equal work. Why is it a given that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The disparity is pure scandal.”

This is so significant because along with his other progressive stances on issues such as same-sex marriage and evolution, Pope Francis is really taking a leadership role on social/political issues that no pope ever has before. Not only is this significant just for the religious world, but it shows people from all over the globe of all different demographics and political standings that even the Pope condemns the fact that women sometimes are paid the same as their male counterparts.

It also really brings the issue to light. A majority of people either don’t know about wage inequality, or if they do they do not the large prospectus that it covers and how it affects more than just American women. In fact, it is more commonplace in countries that are more notorious for discriminating against women, such as Middle Eastern countries.

Obviously Pope Francis calling attention to this issue is not going to solve it, but it certainly is a big leap to take on the global scale that will alert even more people about how serious it is and will potentially galvanize them to take action.

Below is a picture of Pope Francis:

Salesforce CEO Takes a Step to Pay Men and Women Equally

Marc Beinoff is the CEO of a massive corporation, Salesforce (that specializes in technology and “cloud sharing”) and he has taken the radical move of ensuring that his female employees are paid equally to their male peers.  In a recent interview he said, “My job is to make sure that women are treated 100 percent equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity and advancement.” He has vowed that when he is done methodically looking through employees’ payment information, “there will be no gap.”

This is a significant thing because so many large corporations do not pay much mind to equal opportunity and pay for women. They frequently spew information about how they’re trying to protect women and encourage equality in their business, but few have actually been so open and devoted to closing pay gaps and addressing inequality issues like Beinoff has.

It’s an important lesson for this nation, because as I’ve posted about numerous times before, it really says something the progressiveness of the United States when half of our population is not guaranteed equal pay for equal work. In 2013, the New York Times did a study that proved that 10 years after graduation, female graduates earned an average of $250,000 annually while males earned an average of $400,000.

There of course is the very legitimate argument that women earn less because they work less because they are more devoted to their families, and they also tend to gravitate towards jobs where they will work less and therefore earn less. However, gender discrimination does play an undeniable role in the American workforce when it comes to payment inequality, and it’s a wonderful thing that powerful CEOs like Beinoff can lead by example like this.

Fight Continues On For Women’s Rights in Turkey

Several months ago, I posted about Turkey’s president’s, Tayyip Erdogan, and how he has denounced gender equality and firmly believes that women belong in the home and are inferior to men. On many occasions he has condemned liberalism and feminism in their attempts to promote equality, including talking down on women’s organizations. One of his most infamous quotes is “God entrusted men with women.”

I think the fact that I first introduced this man on my blog many months ago, and his archaic beliefs have regressed, says a lot about how politicians are not held accountable for being responsible and informed about women’s rights. Turkish women still have to be concerned about the government looking out for them, when they already have to be worried about being harassed and discriminated against in the streets.

Erdogan furthers his discriminatory views of women by mandating certain baby quotas women must adhere to, and refusing women’s organizations to play a role in the government. Even his own daughter is an active member in a women’s organization, but he still refuses to pay much attention to it.

The entirety of this problem is a byproduct of a few things. For one, President Erdogan. As the country’s leader, it is his responsibility to ensure that half of Turkey’s population is safe and not oppressed, which he is failing to do. The other thing that can be attributed to creating such an unfair environment for Turkish women is the fact that this country has deeply-rooted conservative Muslim beliefs, despite the fact that Turkey is supposedly a secular country.

Other countries continue to condemn Erdogan, but nothing seems to be changing in Turkey.

Below is a picture of President Erdogan after delivering a speech:

 

How Women’s Rights is Affecting Clinton’s Campaign So Far

Rand Paul, one of the prospect Republican opponents of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is now criticizing her for accepting money for her family’s foundation from countries that are notorious for belittling and oppressing women. Paul raises a good point, because there is hypocrisy in taking money from countries that frequently deny women equality and protection, but I think this is kind of a weak attack point for Paul to try and use.

He himself is not really one to talk, because there is not element of his campaign that focuses on women’s rights the way Clinton’s does. It seems as if he’s just using this as a battle technique, but I think it’s having the opposite effect he wanted because it brings to light how dis-concerned the Republican party, including himself, is with women’s rights. He should have a basis for supporting women’s rights the way Clinton does, and then he will have grounds to walk on.

Another reason Paul’s argument is weak is because no American politician has ever had a foundation or focus so concentrated and concerned with women’s rights. Like I said before, it’s really not Paul’s business to be attack Clinton for who she accepts donations for when she’s the only one with any women’s rights focus.

I hope this isn’t what the rest of the election is like-hypocrisy and taking baseless jabs at Clinton when her intentions are good and also when she is the only one showing any leadership in terms of bringing about equality and change for women around the world.

China Releases 5 Detained Women’s Rights Activists

I’ve posted quite a bit lately about the five women detained by Chinese police officials for trying to start a demonstration protesting sexual harassment on public transportation. The police were ordered to do so when lawyers decided not to press criminal charges. They were freed on bail. However, an investigation into their activities will continue, and the women are prohibited from traveling for one year without informing authorities on their whereabouts.

This event has also become known as the Feminist Five, because it has sparked so much attention and condemnation from people around the world. For example, Hillary Clinton, who just officially announced her run for president for 2016, called out Chinese officials on their sexist and unreasonable behavior on Twitter a few days ago. Similarly, Secretary of State John Kerry said China should release the women “immediately and unconditionally”.

What happened with these five women in China is a small event in the grand scheme of the struggle for equal protection and rights for women, but it does bring to light a very serious problem: in many countries (not just China) it’s very hard for women to protest or demand protection and rights without there being some sort of consequence involved. There are some extremes, for instance in radical Muslim countries, where when women seek equality or protection from the law they are the ones who are punished severely and even sometimes killed.

The five women’s experience in China is a less sever, but still incredibly pertinent, example of how governments are failing to help women attain equal rights.

Below is a picture of a Chinese police officer, similar to those who detained the women:

http://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5f/China_Traffic_Police.jpg?w=584

 

Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Bill

This isn’t pertinent specifically to women’s rights, but it does have to do with gender equality. Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence passed and signed a “religious freedom” bill that essentially permits discrimination towards LGBT+ groups. Specifically, it is a law that allows business owners to not hire people on the basis of their sexuality.

After receiving “more backlash than expected” the governor has publicly stated that being anti-gay was not the intention of this bill, and while he is open to clarification, there will be no changes made to the present wording in the bill.

In Indiana there is no statewide non-discrimination law that protects gays and lesbians in employment, housing and education. Very few cities have anti-discriminatory laws, and because of this, the public is worried that LGBT+ people can easily be treated unequally.

Furthermore, the states of Arkansas just announced that it will be passing a bill very similar to Indiana’s, and even worse, several 2016 Republican presidential prospects are backing the bill.

Fortunately, these laws have not gone without public back lash and criticism. Washington State’s governor, Jay Inslee, has actually boycotted Indians by prohibiting state-funded travel to the state. In addition, business leaders and politicians are condemning Indians for its actions. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, tweeted: ” Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228.”

Pro-discrimination, anti-gay religious freedom laws like this one are detrimental to the United State’s progress when it comes to gender equality, this includes but is not limited to LGBT+ people as well as women. It is unlikely that the stringent, Republican-dominated state governments of Indiana and Arkansas will realize the error of their ways and repeal the laws, but here’s hoping the federal government and Supreme Court can quickly make a federal law that prohibits discrimination on any level.

 

A Follow-Up on the 5 Women’s Rights Activists Detained in China

A few weeks ago, I posted about 5 women who were being detained/arrested in Beijing, China, for advocating measures that aimed to protect women from sexual violence and harassment. Their charges include: “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” in reference to standing up for women’s protection.

China’s firm resistance to letting these women go has spawned global protest about how oppressive China is when it comes to not only advocating for women’s rights, but free speech as a whole. The current President, President Xi, has come under a lot of heat about how he is letting police officers treat these women.

People from countries such as the United States and India are gathering to demand the women be freed. In fact, ambassadors from the United Nations have urged the women’s release but the government is still refusing to let them go.

After more investigation, it was found that the women were members of a nonprofit, non governmental organization known as the Beijing Yirenping Center which is dedicated to focusing on discrimination experienced by groups of specific people, including women.

This situation is provocative because it points out how government do in fact try to suppress demonstrations and speech and activism that pertains to equal rights and protection for women. China is not often though of as being very discriminatory towards women, but this event proves otherwise.

Hopefully, if enough international officials, particularly from the Untied Nations, ban together, and enough protesters stay passionate about insisting upon freedom for these women, the Chinese government will be reasonable and will let them go.

Below is a picture of President Xi:

 

Challenging Iran’s Women’s Rights Narrative

I found an interesting Human’s Right Watch article published this week that addresses the progression of women’s rights in Iran. The piece began with talking about Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, who recently held a United Nations delegation so she could attend the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

In her speech that she delivered here, she talked about how in Iran, women’s rights has always been on the agenda of the Iranian government, and how progress has been made. She attributes this progress to specifically education, but says other forms of progression that need to be made are hindered by laws allowing violence and discrimination against women.

The authors of the article published by the HRW, Faraz Sanei and Rothna Begum, actually criticized Molaverdi’s speech because what she said (about progression) is “a sharp contrast to reality.” They said she paid little attention to actually addressing the domestic violence factors that dominate women’s lives in Iran, that deter their freedoms and equality.

Looking at women’s rights and lives collectively, the authors raise a very good point that discrimination and violence is too much an intrinsic part of their lives for true progression to be being made. They face oppression on many different levels: marriage rights, especially with inheritance, divorce, an custody, and also how society treats them, meaning stringent dress codes and restrictions to where they can go in public and who they can associate with.

It’s important to recognize progress on a smaller scale, for example new legislation, but it is also important to not exaggerate what is actually going on in terms of the progression of equal rights for women.