Women’s Oppression: Across the Globe

Disclaimer: this post contains information that may be concerning to those sensitive to the topics of genital mutilation.

Something I have been deeply moved by since I first picked up a book and read into the subject is the oppression of women worldwide. Specifically, countries like India where a caste system society is very much still present, tribal African societies that have little government protection for women and girls, and middle east countries that enforce Sharia law, or even the most “westernized” middle eastern countries still face blatant oppression. I preach my qualms about women’s rights, and the oppression of women in our western world but, we as feminists need to recognize the oppression of women worldwide as a cause worth fighting. To be faced with the truly heinous treatment of women in these countries is gut wrenching to say the least; where forced marriage of young girls, rape for discipline, female genital mutilation, and honor violence and killings are status quo in the regulation of womanly obedience. It surely makes the issues of the western feminist movement look small; I don’t say that to diminish the issues we face here at home, but it is merely a reference for perspective.

In countries like India young girls are sold to sex traffickers. Rural girls are kidnapped, or lured under false promises of employment, where they are then sold into city brothels. They are savagely beaten, raped, forcefully addicted to methamphetamine, often experience tactical mental manipulation, or most commonly a combination of all of these things. Once they are manipulated into complete subservience, they are then forced to prostitute themselves. Girls are required to see 10 or more customers a day, everyday of the week, every cent of their income going to brothel owners. Some brothels host prepubescent girls, with many clientele specifically seeking this out. Their futures are bleak and hopeless in a country where little recognition is given to this issue. Some foundations fight to aid these young girls and women. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn authored the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. I highly suggest adding this to your reading list, it is one of the books that got me hooked on the movement. It is an emotionally difficult experience to read, as it is entirely firsthand accounts of girls and women and their experiences with sex trafficking, forced prostitution, rape and abuse. Since the 2009 release, their book has inspired a movement. Also, they have created a four-hour documentary with the same title, traveling all over the world from the US to Cambodia to Afghanistan. Another foundation that I’ve just learned about, as they are our newest sponsor at my place of employment, is Operation Underground Railroad (link provided below). Their operation directly aids in rescuing children from sex traffickers in the US and around the world. Check out their webpage if you’d like to donate, volunteer, or take part in one of their 5K and 3K run events for fundraising and awareness.

Women in Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan and Iraq face a daunting task for revolution; shocking news I know. Ali here, reporting to you commonly known facts. In a country where women aren’t really considered human beings at all, due to cultural, legal and social enforcement of radical Islam and Sharia law. Some wild claims have been made that women in these societies like the way their world is, and would not want it changed by westernized democracy. Hi, Ali here again, reporting that is utter bullshit. These are wild and transparently false claims put out there by brainwashed propagandists. As a comparison for reference, that would be like the world holding the Westboro Baptist Church as an accurate representation for all of Christianity. Insulting, right? Good, now you understand the wildness of these claims. Imagine it, for most women in westernized countries it is simply unimaginable; no right to education, (young girls like the famous Malala, shot in the head for protesting the right to learn), no right to employment, enforced head-to-toe body coverings, required male chaperones to go anywhere, arranged marriage, public beatings for making eye contact with any man who is not a husband or relative, stoning, acid burning for any “shame” brought upon by a woman, yeah sign me up for that! Organizations like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, RAWA, is direct proof of the outcry, the outrage, the widely united front against their oppression. The hijab (headscarf), the burqa (full body), and any sort of covering of the female body is not female empowerment, it is not giving a woman power over her own body, it is oppression. I am a woman, my ankles and wrists show freely, and I am still in complete power of my own body. During the late 80’s, the Turkish government outlawed wearing the hijab, but in 2013 this ban was lifted. This has caused a rift, between young progressive women, and their generational predecessors. Young women who do not see the necessity of the hijab, and see precisely what it does stand for, are now openly shamed and publicly criticized by men and women who support the hijab. These women are even physically attacked for not wearing their hijabs, because if a woman is not wearing her hijab, she is clearly a harlot seeking sexual attention and the epitome of impurity. This has led to a united front against any type of dress code oppression. Movements like the “Don’t Mess with My Outfit” March have united large groups of women to fight for their own freedom. Check out this post about the topic and you can see a YouTube video of  a woman being physically assaulted for her clothing in Istanbul: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/women-in-istanbul-stage-dont-mess-with-my-outfit-march-against-increasing-islamic-modesty-standards/ Also, another book to add to the list, check out Veiled Courage: Inside the Afghan Women’s Resistance, by Cheryl Benard; a documentation of the covert operations of women inside RAWA.

Of all the types of oppression and abuse that women experience, by far, the most violent and gruesome is that of female genital mutilation, abbreviated FGM. There are several types of mutilation used against women and have been classified by four criteria. I have read books and researched the topic, and it is not an easy subject to venture into; especially when reading or listening to first hand experiences of women that have been subjected to this medieval tradition. I will not go into full detail about the four types of FGM but I will provide links with information and, as always, encourage education. The gist and purpose of FGM is to take away any sexual pleasure or desire a woman would experience during sexual intercourse. It is also seen as a means to keep “purity” intact. This is usually done by cutting parts of the exterior genitalia such as the clitoris or labia. In more severe types of FGM, the exterior labia (majora) is sewn to enclose the vagina. You don’t have to be a vagina scientist to understand the serious implications of this type of mutilation. Trouble with urination and menstrual flow, severe and chronic pain, obvious complications during intercourse and childbirth, and of course the more immediate impacts of the procedure are infection and shock leading to death. These heinous procedures are performed on young girls, children, usually between the ages of four to 14. In many cases, without any sort of anesthetic.

This FGM crisis is closer to home than you’d think. The US has seen a rise in the incidents of FGM correlating with an influx of immigrants from countries whom widely practice this “cultural custom”. America, the land for religious freedom, is the ideal place to settle for immigrants and refugees of war torn government-less countries. And assuredly their cultural and religious beliefs will be protected here. Well this is what I say to that. No type of violence should be condoned by any religion, any culture, any custom, and should certainly not be protected by vague legislation and blatant abuse of the constitution. There are 24 states in the US that do not have any specific legislation to protect these children from FGM, one of them being the state in which I live, New Mexico. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of FGM herself, is an advocate for these young girls. She actively speaks out against such crimes, specifically in the name of Islam. If you are interested in getting involved in advocacy I highly recommend visiting her website, the AHA foundation; I have provided the link below.  The biggest step toward protection for these young girls within the US is to push for legislation. American pediatricians are finding numerous cases of FGM and reporting it to authorities. In most of these cases, these crimes are protected by the shenanigans knows as “religious freedom”. In the words of the brilliant Sam Harris, if it was a religious belief to cut out the eyeballs of every third born child, people would be rampaging in the streets to put a stop to it. But because we are discussing something that no one wants to talk about, no one wants to be faced with, that is the genitalia of young girls, people will stick their heads in the sand and look the other way. If you live in one of the 24 states without such protections, contacting your state representatives and presenting your concerns about the subject is the best step in progress for change. I recently contacted the AHA group with interest in how I can go about this. I was provided with great information on how to find my own state representatives and the steps for contacting them. I will provide the link below, if you live in the state of New Mexico, to help you on your way to making a difference. I sent an email to my State Representative, Christine Trujillo. If you need further help with this, there are letter samples from the AHA website. Also, for a list of the 24 states please visit the AHA website, and some of the states have quick links to find your own state representatives and drafted letters to use. It might shock you to find your state on the list: California, Texas, Colorado to name a few.

It is time to see change, make change, and be a part of that change. Look outside of yourself, at this absurd world we live in. Especially if you’ve been given the undeserved luck of being born in a world where you are not faced with this inhumane suffering. Where our voices can be heard, our voices can make a difference, direct that voice to such a justified cause. I have the constitutionally protected right to use my voice, and I choose to use it for those who do not have this luxury.

Please check out these great links and foundations if you wish to educate yourselves and take steps toward advocacy and change:

Operation Underground Railroad, helping child victims of sex trafficking: https://ourrescue.org/

Information on the different types of female genital mutilation: http://www.dofeve.org/types-of-fgm.html

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s foundation: https://www.theahafoundation.org/

Search for your New Mexico State Representative: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Members/Find_My_Legislator

Half the Sky Movement: http://www.halftheskymovement.org/pages/about-half-the-sky-movement

Check out Audible.com for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide: https://www.audible.com/pd/Nonfiction/Half-the-Sky-Audiobook/B002V1O3G8/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1502894546&sr=1-1

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan RAWA: http://www.rawa.org/rawa.html

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