by Anber Raz
Many of us who work in the field of women's rights, when asked what we do for a living will often say we work in human rights. Firstly because women's rights are human rights, and secondly to avoid the inevitable quip which we get in certain settings of ‘but what about men's rights?'
What about men's rights? My reaction to this question is often inwardly visceral and along the following lines:
When men are being murdered by a current or former partner at the rate of 2 women each week as in the UK...
When they are raped at a rate of 1 woman every 90 seconds as in the US, with an estimated 1 in 5 women who will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime globally...
When they are prostituted at a scale of an estimated 10 million women in India alone...
When men are legally discriminated against, denied equality of opportunity, deprived of sexual and reproductive rights...
When they are aborted at a rate of 2000 unborn girls every day in India, as estimated by the United Nations...then we'll talk about men's rights!
This is not to say that men's rights do not matter- equality matters, but we are not beginning on an equal basis.
Why is it that some people find women's rights so offensive, especially in the context of violence against women? Why do they feel the need to counteract the issue by placing the blame on women? I remember attending a child protection seminar organised by a social services department, whilst working for Women's Aid. The aim was to provide training for social workers on the impact of domestic violence on children. I was stunned when at one stage at least half of the room, which was predominately male, agreed that sometimes women ‘asked' to be hit, especially when they ‘nag'.
The fact that everyone has the right to live without the fear of violence or without being discriminated against seems a no brainer to me. But how many people truly recognise the scale at which half of the world's population is discriminated against on a daily basis due to their gender, and who or what perpetuates that discrimination?
When you see things as isolated incidents it is easier to sympathise. But when you see it everyday, at a global scale you realise something: that it is ingrained within society, within the media that glamorises women not as sentient human beings but as mere sexual objects to be used; and within a society which still thinks that a woman can be responsible for being raped. It is institutional and it is epidemic.
If violence against women was recognised on the scale at which it exists in the world, it would be nothing short of genocide. When you realise that, it hits you like a ten ton truck that can leave you catatonic. But you have to fight, you have to speak out and I for one am sick of having to justify why it matters: I don't have one reason as to why women's rights matter to me, I have over 3,209,000,000!
So the next time you hear of yet another woman being stoned to death or murdered for loving the ‘wrong' person, please do something about it. Respond to that woman-hating article in the newspaper, to those who say "she asked for it". Lobby your governments, take the streets and protest! In the words of one of the greatest women writers of our time, Andrea Dworkin:
"Everything that didn't happen to you is a little slack in your leash. You weren't raped when you were three, or you weren't raped when you were 10. Or you weren't battered, or you weren't in prostitution, whatever it is that you managed to miss is the measure of your freedom and the measure of your strength. And what you owe to other women. I'm not asking you to be martyrs. I'm not asking you to give up your lives. I'm asking you to live your lives, honorably and with dignity. I'm asking you to fight."
Picture: via Ianqui's flickR account.
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