A Social Justice Issue
No one is perfect. Surely as humanity as a whole, our world is also lacking perfection. From this arise the many social justice issues we face today. Equality is the one that stands out the most and receives the most constant attention, but there are many parts to this. The largest rights violation that still seems to elude the most change for the good is the equality rights for women and female children. Everyday women are beaten as a form of ‘love’, arrested, whipped for petty crimes, forced into abortions and sterilized against their will, sometimes by their own government. Female babies and/or young girls are arrested, forced to marry, raped by older male siblings, family members and strangers, suffer female infanticide, forced to abort or be aborted, and killed in every possible form, simply because they are born female. The Catholic Church (taking in to consideration that it is a religion originating from Europe, descended after Judaism and then Christianity, and has been affected over many centuries by its neighboring countries and its subsequent religions) believe a man should love and respect his wife as he would himself. Initiatives must be made to put forth a greater effort to change how women in general have been treated in our unforgettable past of pain and suffering. However the most damage is being done by the unethical values based on their religion which is overriding the laws put down to protect human rights (even if they do exist).
As there are many different situations of women’s rights to equality being abused, we will look at them in categories of culture and regions, most of which are populated by those of the Islamic faith. First, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country’s counter-insurgency has caused “the use of gender specific violence in war by the mass rapes of women in Bosnia” (TWN). Even with the Geneva Conventions attempted to protect women and girls from gender specific violations, but the violations are still normal, and continue to be practiced. Even after the conflicts there is also the continuing abuse against women’s rights with the trafficking of women and girls even after the conflicts. These girls are tricked and then sold into ‘slavery’: “Stripped of their passports, physically abused and warned that escape is impossible, trafficked women and girls can only hope that after several months of providing sexual services to clients, ‘owners’ will declare their debt paid and allow them to keep half of their earnings, as promised.” (Hope Betrayed)
In Turkey, “reforming laws pertaining to murder of females, even rape victims subject to killing by the family’s males” (Toronto Star). This country has many cases, some of which I will quote:
“Kadriye’s demise was precipitated when she was raped and impregnated by her 18-year-old cousin.” Her rapist skipped town to avoid marrying her, and her brother Ahmet killed her to cleanse the family honor; the mother’s final reply for wanting her son back in one piece, having already buried a daughter: “. . . Maybe his father would slap him on the face twice, and that will be the end of it!” (Sev’er)
“Guldunya was raped by a relative, but kept silent about the violent intrusion. The secret was broken when the rape resulted in a pregnancy.” Her family shipped her to Istanbul to fend for herself; however she was able to find shelter for herself and her newborn daughter. Then two of her brothers were sent to kill her, sensing danger and before she was nearly killed to death in the street she found an adoptive family for her child, and later after moving hospitals and with police protection, she was stabbed to death. “As long as her child remains anonymous, her family will claim a cleansed honor, and fly a white flag on their roof”. (Sev’er)
“Women who are raped have four choices under the current law’ Adam Sozuer, a medical doctor closely engaged in the issue. . . ‘Mary the rapist, commit suicide, become a prostitute or be killed.” (T.S)
In Tanzania, 60% of Tanzanian mothers deliver at home, often without the aid of skilled birth attendant, which puts in jeopardy both the lives of the mother and the child. “Nine thousand women die every year while giving birth or through complications during birth. There are 529 deaths in every 100,000 live births” (Yahoo News)
In Guinea, the girls are sent to host homes where they are treated horribly by those whom they are supposed to work for. ” Girl domestic workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch described working excessive hours, carrying heavy weights at a young age, working for no pay, starving while the host family eats, and being insulted, shunned beaten, sexually harassed and raped.” (Bottom of the Ladder)
In Libya, women and girls have been gathered in enormous numbers to be put into ‘rehabilitation centers’ for non-existent crimes or petty indiscretions, where their rights are violated on a regular basis. “Libya is subjecting women to arbitrary deprivations of their liberty and a host of other human rights abuses by locking them up indefinitely in social rehabilitation facilities. By detaining women who have transgressed socially-acceptable norms and rape victims whose families have abandoned them, the government is choosing to prioritize chastity, virginity, and a traditional concept of family ‘honor’ over human rights” (Libya: A threat to Society?)
In Côté d’Ivoire located in Africa, has had a continuing power struggle between the country’s rebels and the pro-government forces. During the entire struggle, women and female children were taken advantage of by either force as a show of forceful terror: “Rebels in Côté d’Ivoire carried out horrific sexual abuse against women in areas under their control, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, forced miscarriages, and forced incest. Women were subjected to sexual violence in their homes, as they sought refuge, after being found hiding in forests, after being stopped at military checkpoints, as they worked on their farms, and even in places of worship. Sexual violence was often accompanied by other acts of physical violence such as beating, torture, killing, mutilation, or cannibalism. Numerous women and girls were abducted and subjected to sexual slavery in rebel camps, where they endured rapes over extended periods of time. Resistance was frequently met with punishment, even death” (My Heart is Cut)
In China, thousands of women are forced by anonymous men into abortions of their female babies, and sterilized to further prevent their country’s overpopulation. This is all done against their will, women as adults are not violated, but are as babies, children and young girls. Hillary Clinton stated during her speech at the U.N. Conference on Women: “It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, drowned, suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.” (Schmetzer)
In India, female babies continue to be killed simply because they are girls and are unwanted. The child, the girl, ‘cannot’ be given up for adoption without fear that the child might be beaten or sold into prostitution, especially if given it up in a 3rd world country that turns a blind eye to the rights of females. Instead Kuzhipappa is chosen, which means ‘child that was meant for the burial pit.’ The action of killing female babies occurs so frequently that it has its own name and terminology.
In Palestine, women and girls suffer a wide range or physical violence at home from their husbands and other family members. However, regardless of how horrific the abuse they often do not even report it to the proper authorities “Palestinian women rarely report violence to the authorities. This is true regardless of whether the crime is spousal abuse, child abuse, rape, incest, or ‘honor’ crimes. The low rate at which women report such crimes is a symptom of the significant social and legal obstacles still in the way of meaningful gender-based violence prevention and response in the OPT.” (A Question of Security) The Islamic religion which most of these women states that a woman is to submit to her husband and they have never known any other way to live than in tyranny and fear, all the while having no knowledge of their rights. The customs by which they live oppresses and restricts these women so much that they can be hunted and killed by their relatives. “The killing of female relatives under the guide of family ‘honor’ is a serious physical threat to Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza.
A Palestinian woman’s life is at risk if she is suspected of engaging in behavior her family or community considers taboo, such as talking with a man who is not her husband or a blood relative (even in public place), refusing to tell a close male relative where she has been and with whom, or marrying someone without the approval of her family: in short for doing or being suspected to have done anything that is perceived to bring dishonor on herself and on her family.” (A Question of Security)
In Afghanistan, women are beaten as a sign of love and don’t want their way of life to change. Even after the Taliban left, they are still not allowed to attend movies, they are forced to wear a burka (a robe that covers them from head to foot), and tortured in many forms for unjust reasons. Galsuma’s life alone would shock you: she was forced to be married at the age of four for the equivalent of $80; she was beaten with slabs of wood until she broke bones, and she was whipped with electrical cables. “The AIHRC [Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission] estimates that between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages have no rights to refuse” (T.S. 2)
In Iraq, women are again treated like second class and suppressed by their husbands and male family members. Although the laws do exist to protect their rights, including the rights of women suffering a variety of abuses, the way they were socializes tells them that it’s their fault when their beaten. It doesn’t if they defend themselves against abuses like rape; if it is found out they are targeted by their own families, to be killed to ‘cleanse the family honor’. Had they treated women with respect, taught their women to defend themselves or defended them, there would be no reason to kill them. Instead the governing laws chose a different method which still allows women to be suppressed, even if it may save their life: “Rape, sexual violence, and abductions are felonies under Iraqi law, punishable by lengthy prison sentences. Yet victims of abduction and sexual violence still face important legal and social barriers to obtaining justice. Some of theses barriers are the provisions in the Penal Code that allow a man to escape the punishment for abduction if he marries the victim. The penal code also allows perpetrations of rape, sodomy, sexual violence, or attempted sexual violence to receive reduced sentences if they marry their victims. A high-ranking police official described the procedure positively to Human Rights Watch.
‘This is part of our law, the kidnapper and kidnapped are married so that there won’t be other cases, or revenge.’ (Climate of Fear) In a twisted way, a man who would normally ask for the woman’s hand in marriage, but be denied by the family because they don’t want to color the family ‘honor’. If they really wanted to be together, all he would have to do is kidnap her, allow her to be raped, he would get charged and if they married his sentence would drop and she wouldn’t be killed. However the fact still remains that the women is at fault in every situation and is the target when things go wrong. They don’t treat women with any form of respect, let alone teach her rights and how defend herself better by using the law on her side or self-defense training. Instead she always becomes the victim, she isn’t allowed the same privileges as a man and when he wants something and takes it, she is to blame instead of the man responsible.
In Mexico, a country whose religion is Roman Catholicism and whose ethic values demand the equality of every individual, including females is committing just as many atrocities against women as any 3rd world country. In the town of Ciudad Juarez near the U.S. and Mexican border, the trafficking of kidnapped women and girls has produced a startling number of their murders: “Some 320 women were victims of unsolved murders in Ciudad Juarez between January 1993 and July 2003. Suggested motives have included drug trafficking, trafficking organs, trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, domestic violence, sexual violence and the production of violent videotapes.” (Arieff)
In Canada, I was witness to a violation of women’s rights. The woman was working at a Drugstore, when the men in the back for receiving kept flirting with her. She kindly asked him to stop, when he continued she called the head office of the company to resolve the situation. Later her manager asks her to come in to discuss it, when they locked her in the room and forced her to sign a confidentiality agreement, to prevent anyone from finding out about it and to allow the man to continue harassing her. She finally decided to quit her job, and after many attempts by family members and friends on their behalf, she and her husband, unaccustomed to fighting for their rights, left it alone and continued their life, as if nothing had happened.
Most of the countries in which evidence has found human rights violations against women, majority tend to be Islamic or poverty-stricken countries of the Roman Catholic. So what does religion have to say about these acts of violence against women? The Catholic Church is not defined by the individuals of the church stating what is wrong or right, but the Pope. The Pope is a mortal man like any one of us who given the authority to translate what the word of God is to his people. Considering the inconsistencies of the Catholic Church on many positions, it is clear that the word of God isn’t being properly translated. God by Jews, Christian and Catholics alike are everywhere at once; the creator of the universe is infinite in love, desiring a personal relationship with every individual person that he created with love. Why then does the Catholic church, led by the Pope believe that they are supposed to pray the same prayers repetitively when it clearly states that the Our Father is an example? Why must they confess their prayers to a priest if they are supposed to have a personal relationship with God, there is no need for a middle man. Why do they insist on praying to Mother Mary and a boat load of Saints if they are not God and do not have his almighty powers; they believe that Mary and the Saints would make sure that the prayer was personally heard by God, but that would defy the belief that he is everywhere at once, he hears us and knows us from the start of our lives to the finish. To pray to Mary and Saints would be like defying God first set of commandments sent to us by Moses: Thou shall not bow or pray to any false gods, but one and only true God.
Therefore the interpretations of man have conflicted with the teachings of God, those interpretations have been made for hundreds of years by the ruling Popes. These interpretations also include rules of absolute celibacy by the priests and nuns which cannot be found anywhere in the bible, let alone the originally translated King James. From there, the church has had an underlining of gender based discrimination, saying that women cannot be priests or that priests cannot be married the teachings of the faith might be tainted. Women cannot hold, until recently, places in the church other than Nun, alter girl, etc. and in countries like Mexico, who are poverty-stricken they do not have the resources to teach the ‘Word of God’ so they can’t make their own decision from their interpretations of God’s teachings to see that women are equal to men. They believe and state that a woman, who is abused and violated by her husband, can only be divorced if the marriage is considered invalid by the Pope himself. He decides whether the marriage is invalid if one or both partners did not freely and fully consent to getting married, there is a precarious stance on whether a woman is or isn’t permitted an invalid marriage based on violent and/or sexual abuse. Since when does the Pope decide that a marriage is invalid if he isn’t God and doesn’t have all the information and variables needed to make such an important decision that may prevent further harm to the women? Certainly nearly all the marriages in these countries are considered invalid, but since it needs the Pope’s required confirmation of an invalid marriage, there is no certainty that all the women in abusive relationships would find freedom. This stance in the church allows divorce based on the following scripture: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave his life for it. . . Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own babies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. . . Every husband must love his wife as himself, and every wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:23-33) The scripture states that women are to be loved with respect by their husbands, and the wife is to respect her husband, NOT submit. If the scripture clearly states that the marriage would be considered invalid, why then would the approval of a mortal man with a high religious ranking be needed, especially since it’s proven that he and generations before him have misinterpreted the bible?
In the Islamic Faith, practiced in a majority of countries responsible for women’s rights abusers, wrongly interpret their own religious documents to justify their actions. A controversial Koranic Sutra 4:34 states that there is sanction of spousal punishment, including beating. This is Kareem’s reply, a chairmen of the Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago: “it’s amazing how many men know this quoted from the Koran – if they know nothing else in it.” he goes on to explain further what exactly is meant by the quote if you were to read on in the Koran: “Most already understand the ‘beatings’ as light taps.” Most would have to mean the more educated those who have been raised not to abuse their own Koranic teachings by misinterpreting and wrongfully abusing, sexually violating and even killing women. “Further study, he maintains, would reveal that husband may punish their wives for religious infractions only and that holy writ calls for ‘mutual consultation between husbands and wives'” (Time). How can so many Islamic followers, especially in 3rd World countries, be violating their own teachings, by overdoing the rightful and holy written punishments justly allowed to their women? The Catholic Church and Islamic teachings (which in the article could be mis-apprehended to cover up what is really said) both state that a woman is to be treated equally and with love.
Evil can only be countered and balanced by Good. Evil actions, the numerous violations of women’s rights, can only be countered and balance by initiatives for the good of these women. When they reach the bottom and worse of their oppression, their false punishments, their unjustified persecutions and their violated rights, there will be nowhere to go . . . but up into the light. As followers of our Faiths, truly faithful, free and more than capable to lending a helping hand to those in need, we have, as men and women born to know and live in equality, to fulfill our duty to the best of our ability. This duty is to take initiatives when others cannot, to take hold of our ploughs and our seeds, and direct it at the rich earth from which it will grow the minds of tomorrow’s harvest. We must practice the ethic values of our faiths by helping others in need with good deeds, small or large. When we take on the task of helping those less fortunate than us in poor poverty-stricken countries like the 3rd worlds, we must help them in a way that they can help themselves, without becoming totally dependant on us for help. They must learn their rights, how to defend themselves, tend their first aid, teach to properly deliver their children into the world and raise them to respect others. Putting funds towards Canadian Agencies help women in these countries; CARE Canada feeds many widows in countries struck by war and poverty. Also the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) gives funds so that millions of women can become independent, starting their own businesses.
As people, born and raised into freedom and equality, it is our sacred duty to see to that the gift of freedom and rights are given to those who have been denied such liberties by their fellow men. You have learned of the many countries that remain affected by this plague of violations of human rights, such as Turkey, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Tanzania, India, Guinea, Africa, Libya, Canada and more. As followers of our faith, either Christianity, Islam or whatever religion one may believe in, all religions stand in the same light on the same earth. As a follower of Christ, I know a woman is to be treated with love and respect. Hence I will take the initiatives to slowly set in place a change that will bring about the Liberation of Women in these countries by: raising awareness, providing education and funding and financial support. These violations of women’s rights to freedom and equality are one of the many scars that cover our ever-growing humanity. Humanity as a whole our world is lacking perfection. No one is perfect . . . but at least we try to make things better for all.
Works Cited Page
“A Question of Security Violence against Palestinian Women and Girls” Human Rights Watch. November 2006. Vol18, No7 (E)
Arieff, Irwin “UN panel sees grave women’s rights abuse in Mexico” Reutres. January 2005.
Armstrong, Sally. “The Untouchables Gowramma is a prisoner in her own country.” Reader’s Digest. August 2005
Beech Shadong, Hannah. “Enemies of the State?” TIME. 26 September, 2005. Vol. 166, No.13
Benrakis – Reuters, Yannis. “About Face” TIME. 3 December, 2001.
“Bottom of the Ladder Exploitation and Abuse of Girl Domestic Workers in Guinea” Human Rights Watch. June, 2007. Vol. 19, No. 8 (A).<http:>
“Climate of Fear Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad” Human Rights Watch. July, 2003. Vol. 15, No.7 (E) goddard=”” john.=”” killing=”” backlash=”” may=”” pri=”” .=””> (18 May2004)
“Hope Betrayed Trafficking of Women and Girls to post-conflict Bosnia and Herzagovina for forced prostitution” Human Rights Watch. November 2002. Vol. 14, No.9 (D)
“Libya: A threat to Society?” Arbitrary Detention of Women and Girls for ‘Social Rehabilitation’ “. Human Rights Watch. February 2006. Vol.18, No. 2(E). <http: libya0206=””></http:>
Murphy, Paul. “Killing Baby Girls Routine in India” San Francisco Examiner. 21 May, 1995. P.C12. <http: .=””>
“My Heart Is Cut Sexual Violence by Rebels and Pro-Government Forces in Côté d’Ivoire”
Human Rights Watch. August 2007. Vol.19, No.11 (A). <http: cdi0807=””>
Nyambura, Helen. “Childbirth Kills 9,000 Tanzanian Women Annual” 9 March, 2005. (3 September 2005)
Schmetzer, Uli. “Hillary Clinton Slams China’s Rights Violations”. Chicago Tribune for the Edmonton Journal. 6 September, 1995.
Sev’er, Aysain. “In the Name of Fathers: Honour Killings and some examples from South Eastern Turkey”
Stackhouse, John. “Killing Unwanted Baby Girls continues in pockets of India.” G&M. 20 November, 1993.