Thursday 15 May 2008

Swept under the rug...

Sometimes, being serious has its place. Like today.

Today is the day when bloggers around the world unite to share stories about human rights issues. The internet has already shown us how small the world really is and blogging has shown us the true meaning of a global community. I am hoping that every one of our stories will highlight the need for all us to stand up and say NO to anything and anyone who infringes on the rights of human beings anywhere they happen to live on this great planet of ours.

There are many, many, newsworthy and visible human rights issues coming from all corners of the globe. Many of these occur in far away countries, comfortably out of sight, and many of them occur in our own countries, in our own neighbourhoods and right under our own noses. Yet still, we do not see them.

There is nothing grandiose about human rights. It simply refers to the basic rights and freedoms to which we are all entitled. These rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.

I wanted to share a human rights issue that is very close to my own heart, abuse against women. It is now a social epidemic across the world.

Abuse against women is relentless, systematic, widely tolerated and even explicitly condoned. Millions of women throughout the world are deprived of their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.

In conflicts, such as those in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Iraq, women have been raped as a weapon of war with their attackers being granted complete impunity. Men in Pakistan, South Africa, Peru, Russia, and Uzbekistan beat women in the home at astounding rates, while governments refuse to intervene to protect women and punish their abusers (or they do so in ways that make women feel totally responsible for the violence).

As a direct result of inequalities in their own countries, women from the Ukraine, Moldova, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Burma, and Thailand are bought and sold, trafficked to work in forced prostitution, with insufficient government attention to protect their rights and punish the traffickers. In Guatemala, South Africa, and Mexico, women's ability to enter and remain in the work force is blocked by employers who use women's reproductive status to exclude them from work and by discriminatory employment laws or discriminatory enforcement of the law. Women in Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia face government-sponsored discrimination which leaves them unequal before the law and which takes away their legal authority and places it in the hands of male family members.

We also live in a world in which women do not have basic control over what happens to their bodies. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry and have sex with men they do not desire. Women are unable to depend on their governments to protect them from physical violence in the home, with sometimes fatal consequences, including increased risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Women in custody face sexual assault by their jailers. Women are punished for having sex outside of marriage or with a person they choose (rather than of their family's choosing). Husbands and other male family members obstruct or dictate women's access to reproductive health care. Doctors and government officials disproportionately target women from disadvantaged or marginalized communities for coercive family planning policies.

All of us should reject legal, cultural, or religious practices by which women are systematically discriminated against, excluded from political participation and public life, segregated in their daily lives, raped in armed conflict, beaten in their homes, denied equal divorce or inheritance rights, killed for having sex, forced to marry, assaulted for not conforming to gender norms, and sold into forced labor.

Arguments that support and 'excuse' these human rights abuses - those of cultural norms, "appropriate" rights for women, or western imperialism - barely disguise their true meaning: that women's lives matter less than mens. Cultural relativism, which argues that there are no universal human rights and that rights are culture-specific and culturally determined, is still a formidable challenge to women's rights to equality and dignity in all areas of their lives.

Ultimately, the struggle for women's human rights must be about making women's lives matter everywhere, all the time. In practice, this means taking action to stop discrimination and violence against women.

If you, or someone you know is a victim of abuse please read this story on the remarkable Mildred Mahammad, the ex wife of the Washington Sniper. There are many women living in fear of violence. It could be you, your mother, sister, daughter, friend or even your neighbour or work colleague. Sometimes the signs will be there. Sometimes you may never know. But one day, you may get the chance to offer the helping hand that they are silently crying out for. Please don't walk away.

NOTE: Matt from Matt-Speak, has posted an excellent human rights story on the growing epidemic of child prostitution. This is an extremely important issue and is very much linked to my call to stop violence, abuse and discrimination against females. Matt writes about many social and political issues and his site is well worth a regular visit.


  1. WOW! Lilly I am so impressed with this post. What a heart-felt, intelligent and well-written post. You brought to light many valid issues affecting womens' rights across the globe, some of which are too-often over-looked in societies which really do view women as non-equals. And, unfortunately, I am not speaking only of Middle-Eastern cultures which have accepted this behavior for eons, but this practice happens in large, modern cities everywhere.

    I'm also glad you mentioned cultural relativism, which, of course, is a crock! There is no place in today's world for this kind of hogwash. I truly hope enough bloggers not only post on this day, but continue to keep this and other human rights issues on the forefront. Together we really can make a difference.

    I wrote about something similar on my blog, the practice of forced child prostitution. If you don't mind I am going to update my post to direct readers to this post. I think they go hand-in-hand together. Thanks, Lilly, for a terrific post that I know will be very popular among many readers. Matt

  2. Matt - there are so many human right issues and I guess its been going on for a long time. I also worry sometimes that it makes us feel better about ourselves because it's mainly happening in third world countries or at least we like to pretend so. Violence against women, children and men too is not on. Yet it happens too often. The thing is, at the end of the day people all bleed, they cry, they are sad, they are hurt and want to be valued and loved just the same as each other. It's a truly horrible feeling to treated in any kind of inhumane way. Thanks for adding me to your blog. I am off to read your post now and will do the same for you.

  3. This is a topic that is also close to my heart, and I am glad to see that it being addressed. I have some personal experiences in this area that would curdle your blood, but we'll save that for another day. Too emotionally draining for me. It doesn't happen in only 3rd World countries. It's here. In our own backyards, and it has been for a long, long time.

    Keep bringing it to the surface, Lilly!

  4. troublex2 - thanks for your comment. Its not my usual palatable post but one I wanted to do anyway as its such an important issue. I know men are affected in this as well but my focus was on women just because its a widespread issue in many aspects of society for many reasons. I ahve been so busy I will be off to visit you soon.

  5. Hi Lilly, this is a wonderfull post is never enough when talking about this issues that afect our lives so much, I want to mention something that I consider abuse too in another way, against woman, I have a four year old girl, and she is growing in this crazy world, when I see so many propaganda to get the perfect body, you need to get a cirgury make over of your body and face, you need to get this products or clothes or eat this or that and drink diet, and fat free and sugar free, and then in a society and a media were they are so conservatives when it comes to freedom and do stuff, but media in tv and internet is allow to sell videos of teens showing their breast and butt for God know what reason... I know the reason, the rotten society, so maybe woman in this country can get the husband in jail for hittin her, but there is so many dangers out there now, so diferent, I just get scared...

  6. Hi Shine - thanks for stopping by, how have you been? You are so right about what you said, images of females - but its all so unrealistic isnt it?


Thanks for your comments.