The empowerment of women in the western world is one of the most astonishing revolutions in modern history. Millions of women across the world who were once dependent on men have taken control of their own fates and risen to positions of extraordinary power. This peculiar transformation of our society, one that has changed some of the most intimate aspects of people’s identities, has been widely welcomed by both women and men. With this in mind it is hard to question that the modern woman is well on her way to equality. So why do we still need an International Women’s Day?
The reasons are many – too many one might say. Women’s rise to power in the western world has been a difficult one with bras burning left and right and more than a few men standing in the way of women trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder. But there is no denying that the hard climb is over and women’s subtle takeover of the modern-day world has slowly begun.
It is true that we still struggle with domestic violence, that sex slaves are imported on a daily basis, that equal pay is still not a reality and that the conviction rate for rape cases is far too low. The list is long and dark, but these evils seem trivial compared to the struggles faced by the women who live in the shadow of our modern world. A shadow we should cast our gaze on more often than the sun.
It is not an easy gaze to cast though, but one that clearly justifies why we still need an International Women’s Day. Look at young women in Iran for example. They are often jailed for baseless reasons, and then raped before being executed in a barbaric effort to keep them out of heaven. Even women who abide entirely by the rules of the clerics ruling Iran are not immune to their cruelty. Women as young as fifteen have been stoned to death on ridiculous charges of infidelity. The Islamic leaders of Iran state that the horrific and inhumane punishment is part of the constitution and is consistent with the implementation of the holy Sharia laws of Islam.
Or take a look at South Africa. Here it is estimated that a woman is raped every 83 seconds. And to add further hurt to the injury, Aids is now most predominant among the women and children, not the men spreading it. In Papua New Guinea girls get just five years of formal education before going to work and are four times more likely than men to contract HIV. In Haiti nearly 50 percent of women in the capital’s slum, Cité Soleil, have been sexually assaulted – rape was declared a criminal offense just three years ago.
On the other half of the world it is no better. In Nepal the female literacy rate is at 35 percent and if girls aren’t married off in their teens, there’s a good chance they’ll be sold by their families to sex traffickers. In Sierra Leone only 24 percent of women are literate, and one in eight die during pregnancy or childbirth. Life expectancy here is around 43 years. In Afghanistan a woman dies during childbirth every half-hour, domestic violence is sky high and 87 percent of all Afghan women have been assaulted by a family member.
And the list of horrifying statistics goes on. International Women’s Day is no longer about putting men in their place in the western world for making stupid sexist comments or staring with hungry eyes at your cleavage in the lunch line. It’s about much more. Women are being oppressed, enslaved and abused throughout the world, merely because they are female. This is the real issue – one easily forgotten by men and women alike.
ArtRebels salutes everyone working to make life better for all of the oppressed women around the world and urges you to celebrate International Women’s Day. Not in the spirit of burning bras that are probably made by needy women in third world countries, but for all those ladies in need of the most basic human rights that we have come to take for granted. From South Africa to Nepal and Afghanistan, a new generation of women is ready and determined to change the course of the future for themselves and their families, but they need our help – and that’s what International Women’s Day is all about.
We would like to end this post with a video produced by We Are Equals featuring Daniel Craig and Judi Dench that highlights many of the gender inequality issues discussed.