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Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights’

Rape in India up 25 percent. Why?

In behavior, cities, Crime, culture, life, news, parenting, politics, urban life, women on December 31, 2012 at 11:17 am
Rape

Rape (Photo credit: Valeri Pizhanski)

While the rest of the world recently watched the horrors of a mass shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut with disgust and dismay at Americans’ deep and profound attachment to private gun ownership, (consequences be damned), my own shock, disgust and sadness at that (latest) massacre here has been matched — possibly exceeded — by the reports of rape from India, where a 23-year-old woman was attacked and raped then thrown from a moving bus.

Her battered, torn body gave up the ghost in Singapore, where she was sent in a last-ditch desperate attempt to save her life. A 17-year-old girl, also raped — one of the barely one percent of women even reporting this assault to authorities — committed suicide.

This prompted one Indian politician to suggest girls stop wearing skirts to school.

No salwar kameez — the modest tunic/trousers combination — will protect any woman from  the brutality and terror of rape.

Here’s one analysis — albeit by John Lloyd,  a middle-age white male journalist writing for Reuters:

Indian observers have cast both tradition and modernity as background causes. The country’s most prominent sociologist, Dipankar Gupta, said the “unmet aspirations” among hundreds of millions of young men “who know just enough English to know that they don’t know English” were a major cause of Indian criminality. (It’s a telling comment: Fluency in English is among the most obvious class markers in India; most of the protesters’ signs were in English.) Cities are seen both as a place where success can be achieved and where traditional respect for fathers gives way to life in a space where male hedonism can be indulged. For the six drunkards on the New Delhi bus ride, a rape and a beating were folded into a fun night out.

Female empowerment has unsettled men everywhere. Women who think and speak for themselves rip apart settled hierarchies; educated women who take jobs other than mechanical, peasant labor or household tasks threaten the grip men have over income and its patterns of spending. The rootlesssness of the mainly dirt-poor migrants who flock to New Delhi and other cities for work tears them away from a life in which marriage is embedded in family and social structures.

And the nation’s leaders too often create moral vacuums. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered an anguished and brief reaction over Christmas, in which he sounded like a man who felt every one of his eight years in office and 80 years of life, and had nothing to offer but sympathy as with the father of three daughters. His honesty is unquestioned, but his governments have presided over large increases in corruption and in reported rape cases. Neither of these has been more than sporadically tackled. Now, in the December days on the streets of New Delhi, there may be something more than a flash flood of protesters – something that points to a tipping point.

From news.com.au:

Her killing has prompted government promises of better protection for women, and deep soul-searching in a nation where horrifying gang-rapes are commonplace and sexual harassment is routinely dismissed as “Eve-teasing”.

Several thousand people massed again yesterday in the centre of the Indian capital – some to express sympathy for the victim who had been out to watch a film with her boyfriend, others to voice anger at the government.

Stringent security measures that have seen government offices and other public areas sealed off in New Delhi to prevent protests have been seized on by critics as further evidence of an out-of-touch government bungling its response.

From Counterfire, a radical left website advocating for social change:

This horrific incident comes at a time of growing outrage in India about how women are treated and about the prevalence of rape and sexual assault. Demonstrators have repeatedly taken to the streets, to be met with tear gas, water cannon and attacks from riot police.

Police are guarding the presidential palace, parliament and war memorial in an attempt to deflect the rage which so many people feel not just towards the perpetrators of this and other rapes, but towards the government and police who are regarded as at best complacent – and at worst as colluding in growing numbers of attacks on women.

Sexual violence and official complicity

The government was silent for days after the attack. It has done little to challenge the climate where sexual attacks are widespread and offenders walk free. It is now proposing naming sex offenders, which may make some small difference but is hardly likely to alter the fundamentals of society where women are often not believed and where, if they are known to have been raped, they face social stigma and are unlikely to get married.

In a recent case, police jeered and laughed when a young 17-year-old woman in Punjab tried to report a gang rape. She was urged to drop the case and either marry one of the perpetrators or accept cash compensation. She committed suicide by taking poison.

Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women.

Campaigners are demanding tougher sentences and better policing. Many will realise, however, that such demands will do little to stop rape and that there need to be fundamental changes in society if women are to be able to move freely around the streets and to have the right to live, work and study without the threat of sexual violence.

Broadside has readers in India.

I need to hear from you now.

What is going on?

Why are Indian women such objects of contempt, loathing and derision?

How is this considered acceptable by police, the judiciary, feminists, the press and the government?

The war on women escalates: Rush Limbaugh calls law student Sandra Fluke a slut

In news, politics, religion on March 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm
Français : Différents types de pilule contrace...

Image via Wikipedia

If you live anywhere beyond the United States — as many of you do — thank your lucky stars if you’re a woman who cares about reproductive rights.

Ba-boom!

That’s the sound of freedoms cracking and crumbling under constant, daily, escalating barrages of laws proposed, amended and passed restricting our rights to abortion and birth control.

And, hey, whenever politicians pause for breath, right-wing radio show talk hosts like Rush Limbaugh are eager to pick up their cudgels and start beating women bloody with their verbal abuse.

Like this:

What does it say about the college coed Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns — no! We’re not the johns. Well — yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word.

OK, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.

Women in the United States are living in the most toxic era I can remember since moving here in 1988. We joke nervously on Facebook about when burquas will be required.

But it’s not funny.

Thank God, on April 28, women will be marching in Washington D.C. to make our voices audible — and our bodies visible — above the misogynistic and appalling din of the religious right and the politicians they fund.

It’s become so bad that one of the few remaining moderate Republicans, a woman who supports the right to abortion, Olympia Snowe, will not be running again. Like all of us, she’s fed up.

Reported The New York Times:

“Everybody’s got to rethink how we approach legislating and governance in the United States Senate,” Ms. Snowe said in an interview on Wednesday. She shook her head at how “we’ve miniaturized the process in the United States Senate,” no longer allowing lawmakers to shape or change legislation and turning every vote into a take-it-or-leave-it showdown intended to embarrass the opposition.

The vote set for Thursday, framed as a choice between contraceptive coverage and religious freedom, was not the reason Ms. Snowe made her announcement, she said. Her retirement decision was bigger than any one vote. But people familiar with her thinking say the re-emergence of such hot-button social issues helped nudge her to the exit.

Georgia Chomas, a cousin of the senator who described herself as more like a sister, said social conservatives and Tea Party activists in Maine were hounding her at home, while party leaders in Washington had her hemmed in and steered the legislative agenda away from the matters she cared about.

As I posted last week, the American economy remains in the toilet. Having officially left Afghanistan, remaining American troops are being targeted there and killed by people we’ve spent billions trying to help.

Women’s rights look like the easiest, softest next target. Women have become complacent, people tell me, persuaded that the battles of the 1970s are long-over, our freedoms won and secure.

I think not!

Aux armes, citoyennes…formez vos bataillons!

American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack

In behavior, news, politics, US, women on February 21, 2012 at 1:26 am
Flag of Virginia

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American women are facing a barrage of attacks from the religious right and the elected officials who represent their interests.

The last time I looked, American women do have the vote. But you’d never know it.

Here’s a smart and lucid recent post about our current, increasingly embattled fight for access to contraception, with lots of helpful links.

The latest monstrosity?

A law in Virginia requiring a woman who wants an abortion to undergo a transvaginal probe.

From Dahlia Lithwick writing at Slate:

So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman, despite clear ethical directives to the contrary. (There is no evidence at all that the ultrasound is a medical necessity, and nobody attempted to defend it on those grounds.) As an editorial in the Virginian-Pilot put it recently, “Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”*

Here’s a CNN story about the state’s move to declare embryos as persons with legal rights:

Women’s rights advocates say these legislative and ballot efforts around the country to establish fetal personhood are part of a move to place greater restrictions on women’s access to abortion.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more attempts to restrict abortion directly,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that describes itself as advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights through research and policy analysis. “These efforts around redefining ‘person’ are a little more of a back door approach, because they don’t use the term abortion. They’re not an outright abortion ban. Instead they’re using a less obvious approach in a way that does not exactly indicate exactly how far they go.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, new laws in 24 states in 2011 restricted access to abortion services, while according to the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, the number of “anti-choice” measures being implemented in states has risen steadily over the past decade, from 303 in 2001 to 713 in 2011.

Let’s review….

The United States is still facing the highest unemployment since the Depression.

Income inequality is at a record high.

Millions of home-owners are in foreclosure.

And legislators are focusing their energies and animus on.…our reproductive freedoms?

Women Lack Confidence? As If. We Just Get Punished For Showing It

In behavior, women on January 26, 2010 at 10:49 am
Two women boxing

Image by Powerhouse Museum Collection via Flickr

Loved this thoughtful post from the blog BitchPhd about when, where and why women behave as though they lack confidence — when many of us actually don’t:

When did self-promotion, confidence, and even occasional arrogance become the exclusive domain of men? I believe that we can have a sea change in how women behave without it being a submission to the forces of patriarchy. And I firmly reject the notion that women are “naturally” inclined to be more collaborative, less arrogant, and less self-promoting than men. Zandt doesn’t say that, but it’s running as a subtext through what she wrote.

In order to answer the question of what behavior is “natural” to men or women, you need to look at girls. Pre-pubescent girls, girls who have had healthy childhoods in a loving environment and a stimulating education. They are not retiring. They do not deprecate themselves. If they are not shy (and some of them are) they will happily tell you all about the awesome things they’ve done and how great they are. They are just as arrogant as the boys, maybe even more so. They compete with each other and with boys, they try furiously to make themselves stand out.

I was one of those girls. And let me tell you, I was punished mightily for it, starting right about the time that puberty crept up. Teachers, friends, and friends’ parents repeatedly told me I was “conceited.” This was often not even for saying anything, but merely for succeeding in a given activity. I was lucky, though. These messages were never reinforced at home. My dad wasn’t a cheerleader-type parent, but he never cut me down, either. I’d tell him about how girls at school shunned me after I succeeded at something, whether it was getting a role in a school play or winning the spelling bee, and he’d tell me that I didn’t need to change my behavior. He didn’t tell me I was better than them, either, or that they were “just jealous.” He just said, you are all changing and growing up and maybe some of them will stay your friends and some of them won’t. I know it hurts, and I’m sorry. (Ps, my dad is awesome).

So I managed to retain most of that childhood exuberance. But I’m still surprised by my instincts toward self-doubt.

I doubt there’s a successful woman out there, anywhere, who hasn’t struggled with this. Recently, my own Dad jibed me: “You don’t lack for confidence, do you?” My father, who won international awards for his work as a filmmaker, isn’t one to mince words. “The apple falls close to the tree,” I replied. Growing up in a family of people who never had jobs, job security, raises, promotions or pensions — all of them freelancers in film, television, radio and print — taught me that self-doubt meant loss of income.

You can’t sell yourself, or your skills, and the two become conflated, if you think you’re lousy or someone’s better than you. They probably are! But that’s not the point. Anyone selling their services into the open marketplace needs a solid sense of their value. And showing it takes confidence. No one wants to hire the chick who fiddles with her hair or says “um” or “sorry”.

Yet women are, indeed, punished for their — you should pardon the expression — ballsiness. A feisty woman who’s ready and willing to fight hard for her ideas and vision isn’t someone many other women are comfortable with. Some men, and their sons, are also happy to beat the hell out of a woman who thinks she’s something, a lesson I learned firsthand.

I arrived halfway through tenth grade at a Toronto high school filled with kids who’d known one another since elementary school and one in which, like many, the boys ruled. I’d spent all my previous life surrounded by cool, accomplished women and girls in an all-female private school and summer camp. Deferring to boys because they were male was just…weird.

A small group of them were determined to teach me a lesson, and three years of brutal, relentless, daily and very public verbal bullying were my reward for daring to be so outwardly confident. How dare I? It left scars, no question, but allowing them to define me, and destroy my sense of excitement about the world? Not an option.

When I re-kindled a friendship with my high school best friend decades later after a reunion, I asked her why they’d singled me out for such abuse. “You were confident. You scared them to death.”

One of my favorite books on the subject, one I think every woman and female teen must read as they negotiate their careers, is Women Don’t Ask, by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. The authors studied a group of women and why they failed to ask for more for themselves when negotiating in a business setting — and the very real backlash from those who don’t is one of the issues.

A Searing Letter to The NYT Explains Why Women Need Access To Safe Abortions

In Health, women on December 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 22:  Mary Beth O'Don...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The letters page of The New York Times is almost always dominated by confident male voices. Women — why? — rarely take up more space in this coveted bit of real estate. This letter today, from a woman who had her abortion on a veterinarian’s table in 1962, left me wanting to cry, and to share it more widely:

A Pregnant Pause” (Week in Review, Nov. 29) gives an incredibly accurate picture of the generation gap on abortion rights, one that I had trouble understanding until I read your article.

I am nearing 70. In 1962, as a married lady of 20 with one more year of college to go for my degree, our birth control failed. I was pregnant. We were frantic. My husband and I were barely surviving financially, and we were struggling to support ourselves. If we could have supported a child, we would not have been using birth control.

We had a friend, a veterinarian, who offered to help us. I climbed onto the dog table, weeping, my husband holding my hand. After the procedure I hemorrhaged and we rushed to the emergency room. I told them the story, just leaving out how the hemorrhaging started, and they classified it as a “spontaneous abortion.”

Our lives went on, we’re still happily married, and we have two successful adult children. But as I watch the assault on reproductive rights, my heart is still filled with dread, and my memory returns to that morning on the dog table.

I hope no young woman ever has to handle her reproductive choice as I was forced to. They can make any law they want to make, but they can never make a woman have a baby. We will do what we have to do, and for today’s young, access to abortion must remain safe, affordable and legal.

Barbara Russakov
Anaheim Hills, Calif., Nov. 29, 2009

Twenty Legendary Women I'm Thankful For

In History, women on November 25, 2009 at 9:16 am
Portrait of Marie Curie (November 7, 1867 &nda...

Mammos, thanks to her, Mme. Curie.Image via Wikipedia

Over the millennia, there are thousands of women whose lives, talents and hard work have smoothed the path for others, thanks to their political bravery, their devotion to the needs of those they do not know and will never meet, their care for the earth and its resources, their skills in medicine or music or architecture or design.

As we sit down for turkey, stuffing and giving thanks, here’s my highly edited short list of cool women, any one of whom I’d love to have had lunch with — some of whom maybe I still can!

And, of course — my Mom. She met my Canadian Dad in France when she was 17, married him and moved from New York City to Canada, followed him and his film-making career to London, then back to Canada where she became a radio, television, film and print journalist. She traveled the world alone for years, from Afghanistan to Singapore, Fiji to Chile. We lived and traveled in Mexico, the first place she taught me the need to pay careful attention to other cultures. A multiple survivor of various cancers, and still kicking my butt, she taught me to be feisty, frugal, fearless and have fun.

I’d love to hear your votes!

Marie Curie. Everyone who’s ever gotten an X-ray owes a debt of gratitude to Pole Madame Curie, who, sadly died of leukemia from overexposure to radiation. Only four people have won two Nobel prizes; she won in 1903 for physics and 1911 for chemistry.

Susan B. Anthony, who helped win American women the right to vote.

Nellie McClung, who won Canadian women the right to vote. She’s on the Canadian $50 bill and a bronze statue of her stands outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. I dedicated my first T/S post, July 1, 2009, to her.

Lena Bryant, who emigrated from Lithuania in 1895 at the age of 16, and who founded Lane Bryant, by 1950 one of the U.S.’s most successful and earliest makers of clothing for larger sizes.

Virginia Apgar, a New York City physician and professor at Columbia University whose Apgar score for newborns, has since 1953, measured five key indicators of health within a baby’s first few minutes of life. She never married because “I never found a man who could cook.”

Suze Orman, who candidly admits she learned firsthand what it’s like to wear the leg-irons of consumer debt and who teaches women, especially, to take better financial care of themselves.

Alice Munro, a Canadian treasure, winner of this year’s Man Booker International Prize, and one of the world’s greatest living writers. I have met her, and she was as lovely and gracious as I’d hoped.

Jane Austen, who bequeathed to us some of the most enduring stories that still resonate centuries later.

Babe Didrikson Zaharia for being such a ferocious and multi-talented athlete long before anyone had heard of Title IX, civil rights or the Williams sisters.

Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who was fighting for the land years before it became fashionable to do so.

Sylvia Earle, aka Her Royal Deepness, whose passion for the oceans has made her the female equal of the much better-known late Jacques Cousteau.

Dian Fossey, one of several accomplished women (Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas) who made saving monkeys a powerful and compelling argument, devoting her life to them.

Billie Jean King, for her many tennis accomplishments, and for taking on the impossibly sexist-chauvinist Bobby Riggs and kicking his ass. Young women today have no idea how prevalent his brand of contempt was for women athletes.

Emily Roebling, whose name should be legend. Her father-in-law John Roebling won the contract, but died of tetanus. Then her husband, Washington, was severely injured by having descended too many times into the caissons to watch the progress of the Brooklyn Bridge, the 8th wonder of the world, as it was known at the time. While he had to sit in their Brooklyn home watching construction of it out their windows, it was Emily — unheard of in the 1880s — who, without any engineering or mathematical training, took over heading up this complex project. She defended her husband publicly, also unheard of at the time, and went on to become one of New York State’s first female lawyers.

Nellie Bly, a crusading journalist who chose to spend time in an insane asylum to report on its appalling conditions, then did a wild round-the-world journey in record time, also to write about it. Bold, brave and way ahead of the days when “embeds” or other forms of immersive reporting were considered cool.

Rosa Parks, who had the guts to take a stand for civil rights when so few others dared.

Margaret Bourke-White, whose photograph graced the first cover of Life magazine, and who became one of the U.S.’s best-known and most-respected women photographers.

Margaret Sanger, who in the early 1900s fought for the rights of women to have access to and to use birth control, a phrase she is said to have originated.

Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher and writer, an extremely rare female leader in that world, whose books, and wisdom, have helped millions. A graduate of Miss Porter’s, a prep school in Connecticut, and Berkeley, she began her career as a schoolteacher and now runs Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

Annie Oakley, for escaping a crazy, impoverished childhood thanks to her guts and self-confidence. She learned to shoot so accurately because she initially shot game birds and sold them to local hotels for food, needing the money even as a teenager to survive. She met her husband, Frank Butler, when she beat him at a shooting competition. She became one of the nation’s best-known and widely-admired performers — until William Randolph Hearst, deciding to ride on the coat-tails of her fame, published articles in his newspapers slandering her. She took three years away from her career to fight every single one of them, and won. Here’s a biography of her by one of my favorite female historians, Glenda Riley. I also wrote about her in my first book.

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