Since centuries women have been subjugated by the male dominion over the planet. Even in the 21st century of human civilization, when women rights are being widely enforced and talked about around the globe, womenfolk in many countries continue to be trodden over by the evils of our society.
Let me begin with my homeland itself, i.e. India. Although the cult of sati (the act of immolating a live widow on the pyre of her dead husband) has almost got eradicated, the recent surge in the rape cases in the nation is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. A report by National Crime records Bureau (India) claims that 2011 alone observed 24,206 cases of rape in India. Besides such crimes against modesty of women, the unabated phenomenon of female foeticide embarrasses the country that once boasted of revering women like goddesses. How can such a country tolerate crimes like acid-throwing and dowry system that are nothing less than a blot on the face of world’s largest democracy? The vice of inhumane superstitious rituals targeting women is also prevalent in rural as well as urban India.
Figure 1: Women holding protest in India (credits: http://static.indianexpress.com/m-images/Tue%20Mar%2012%202013,%2020:27%20hrs/M_Id_365574_rape.jpg)
Travelling westwards, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the condition of women is even worse. The encouraged practice of veiling one’s face is undoubtedly a “sign of subservience”, as said by Nikolas Sarkozy. Although Afghanistan is aspiring to move ahead with its democratic regime, its democratic ideals are being assailed by the suppression of women by fundamentalists. What can be more vocal about the condition of women in Afghanistan than the June 2011 global survey that named Afghanistan as the “world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman.” How can a country, where the people who stand up for upholding women rights are intimidated or murdered, be called a democratic country?
Figure 2: Aisha- a victim of acid throwing (http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/files/2011/02/Jodi-Bieber-World-Press-winner-Aisha2.jpg)
The misogynist views, ideologies and attitudes of public have not improved in large fractions of middle-east as well. Prof. Huda Zurayk of American University of Beirut, says that the maternal mortality ratio, the key reproductive health indicator used by the Millennium Development Goals, is still high at 730 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the poor Arab countries. The pervasiveness of child marriages and polygamy in repressive Arab nations has also added to the woes of the women community. In countries like Lebanon, women are underrepresented in various cabinets. Their participation is either symbolic, inadequate or absent. In 2011, women occupied only 19 percent of parliamentary seats in the world.
Now let’s move to far west. U.S. Census Bureau reports showed that millions of women living in poverty do not have health insurance. And wait, there is more to come yet! It has also estimated the poverty rate among women to have risen to 14.5 percent in 2010, the highest rate in 17 years. The apathy is even greater in case of single mothers. More than 40 percent of American women who head families are now sustaining their families in poverty.
Looking at an international scale with a general view, the crisis of human trafficking has assumed epidemic proportions across the world. This modern form of slavery, involves the recruitment, transportation, harboring and/ or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labor. According to Government of Canada’s ‘National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking’ (2012), at any given time, it is believed that worldwide at least 2.451 million people are forced to perform degrading, dehumanizing and dangerous work in conditions akin to slavery. The incidence of this crime increases sharply during an internal conflict, war or natural disaster. On November 8, 2013, typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines, killing 16 million people and displacing 4 million people. UNICEF reports claim that about 60 to 100 thousand children and women are trafficked for sexual exploitation in the Philippines.
Figure 3: The statistics provided by IOM (source: http://combathumantrafficking.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/5babroad5dvictimsbyregion.png)
What more? Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population is female, and in 33% of countries parents disproportionally send more sons than daughters to school. Girls often suffer from dearth of food and adequate medical care. Since they are married off young in many countries, they land up having children at a young age leading to their poor health and low-birth weight of their children.Girls often suffer from dearth of food and adequate medical care. Since they are married off young in many regions of the world, they land up bearing children at a quite young age, leading to their poor health and low-birth weight of their children. Over 500,000 women die each year from largely preventable complications of pregnancy or childbirth, and another 18 million become disabled. A pregnant woman in Niger has a 1 in 7 chance of dying as compared to 1 in 4,800 chance for her US counterpart.
Women are not spared even in the case of deadly diseases. Coercion into the world of prostitution makes them vulnerable to HIV infection. The case of India is shocking! HIV prevalence is 4.6 percent among sex workers in Mumbai compared with a staggering 24 percent among street-based, and an appalling 29 percent among brothel-based, sex workers in Maharashtra. According to UNAIDS global report 2010, only a third of the 86 countries surveyed reported 90 percent of sex workers using a condom with their last client.
Overall, the plight of women around the world remains deplorable. The issues plaguing women transcends all barriers of nationality, culture, social setup and type of economy. The exigency of the hour is for the governments around the world to undertake necessary measures to tackle the core problems discussed in this article. The retrograde laws and customs that disparage the identity of women must be abolished. This is possible only if the women participation in legislature is increased and if international forums like United Nations, Asia Pacific Forum and the likes join hands to launch a crusade against the crimes targeting women.
Women are the mothers of the next generation. And for the next generation to be strong, it is crucial for the mothers to be strong too. It is imperative to prioritize women’s rights and empowerment to set a good precedent for the times to come.
About the Author
Arijit is an engineering student at University Institute of Engineering and Technology, Panjab University, Chandigarh. He is an avid content writer and is associated as a writer in the marketing department of AIESEC Chandigarh. He is also the Editor-in-chief at L@TEEN, the online newspaper module of Edurev. Moreover, he also takes keen interest in organizing activities at his institute. Being an executive member of the NGO Youth United, he has also worked as an organizing member of the event Smiling Future. He aims to be a social entrepreneur one day and work in cohesion with the people who want to be authors of a positive change in tomorrow’s world. Currently, he is working as the Associate, Planning for Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.