I remember seeing a public service commercial on television when I was six or seven years old, and it has always stuck with me. The ad depicted a cute baby, wearing only a diaper, laughing and smiling at someone off camera. The narrator spoke about how this child had been born with a disability, and would find it difficult, if not impossible, to do things in life that most people aspire to — well-paying jobs like doctor, lawyer, CEO of a major company, or President. The disability? This child had been born female.
Being a young girl at the time, and having been told “you can do anything you put your mind to,” that commercial opened my young eyes. But being the eternal optimist, I just knew things would be sorted out by the time I had children.
Historically, women have been viewed as property, and as less valuable or subservient to men. Domestic violence used to be viewed as a “family matter,” and polite neighbors minded their own business. This is not as true today, but women are still blamed for remaining in such relationships. “Just get out!” If it were only that simple…
Sadly, I was wrong about equality for women being a faint memory by this time. My children are grown, and still I see different standards for men and women. Often, women are the harshest critics of other women.
Violence against women is rampant across this world. Practices generally in the past, such as Sati, foot binding, and widow inheritance, and present day horrors such as acid burning, bride burning, infibulation, female genital mutilation, prostitution, sexual slavery, and rape.
For the women of Darfur, rape is an ever present danger. The Janjawid use the rape as a weapon to humiliate women, and to punish their communities. Women and girls are raped for the simple “offense” of leaving the camps for food or firewood. Rape is rarely reported in Sudan, and often the woman reporting a rape is the one detained by police.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week, at a conference calling for the end of violence against women said it’s an issue that “cannot wait.”
“At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist,” Mr. Ban said in his address at the opening in New York of the latest session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Noting that weapons of armed conflict today include rape, sexual violence and abduction of children to be conscripted as soldiers or sex slaves, the Secretary-General recounted his visits to war-torn areas and his conversations with survivors of violence.
“This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future,” he said. “It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind.”
[T]here is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”
Well said, Mr Ban.
A tiny baby girl was born yesterday. Let’s try to make this world a place where she never feels limited or less-than because she’s female. Until we do, the world just won’t be right.