What about all the women?

The string of tragic events occurring recently to young women all over the world has prompted me to do some thinking about how a little over half of the world’s population lives. The tide of victimization of women has been rolling through the globe since the beginning of human history but the phenomenon has received a considerable amount of media attention lately due to some high profile crimes occurring in different parts of the globe, irrespective of cultural setting and illuminating the neglect with which this issue has long been treated.

Sonia Faleiro, a reporter for the New York Times who regularly contributes to their India Ink blog on South Asian issues, spoke in great detail about the rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey in December 2013 and the veil that has been casted over the plight of women and girls in India. Faleiro describes her experience as a young woman in India and how her friends encouraged her to carry knives and makeshift weapons to protect herself from assault. Pandey’s assailants brutalized her so viciously that her body was actually destroyed; she died 6 days later in a hospital. Despite this, however, the Washington Post estimates that only 26.4 percent of rapists in India are ever even charged with a crime, just a little over a fourth.

Women, however, are not just passive recipients of fast-changing global trends, particularly when it deals with outbreaks of violence. In the Arab world especially, where the often misunderstood role of women varies widely within and between communities and nations, women have taken a strong role in the wave of regime change that has swept the region in the past three years. Women in Egypt were a  powerful impetus behind the riots in Tahrir Square that eventually led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak (despite claims of widespread sexual harassment during protests). Women are currently engaged in active combat on both sides of the conflict in Syria; an estimated 5,000 women are involved in direct combat in the Syrian civil according to the New York Times.

 woman fighting in the Free Syrian Army with her husband and daughter in their home in the northern city of Aleppo. The woman, who goes by Umm Jaafar, was a hairdresser before the conflict began.
Woman fighting in the Free Syrian Army with her husband and daughter in their home in the northern city of Aleppo. The woman, who goes by Umm Jaafar, was a hairdresser before the conflict began.

Despite their major role in the international system, women still struggle to gain equal access to resources and remain unequal partners in the global economy. Last year’s UN Annual Women Report stated that food prices had soared to a three-year high and that unemployment has remained consistently high in many regions of the world. Women, who are often household managers and caretakers, are particularly susceptible to changes in the global economy due to lack of educational opportunity and job insecurity. This isn’t just a problem in the developing world, the paradigms that keep women out of qualified positions exist in the developed world as well. According to a report by McKinsey&Co on the economic position of women in America, surveys found that though women comprise 53 percent of new hires, they make up only 37 percent of managers, 26 percent of vice-presidents, and a mere 14 percent of executive committee members. Irrespective of culture or region, doors are being shut on the advancement of women in the global economy in startling numbers.

It is important to remember as our country moves closer to the point of allowing women to serve on the front line of combat in our armed forces that though our culture pretends that violence is not an issue that should involve women that women are the subjects of violence and extreme poverty every single day. Women the world over aren’t shielded from atrocities just because of their gender. In fact, women often face greater brutality than men when it comes to being victims of violence and crime. Regardless of how one feels about the various waves of feminism that have arisen over the past century, it is impossible to deny that women (who make up a little more than half of the global population) The status of the rights of women all over the globe can no longer be seen as a “soft policy” issue; it is an issue that strikes to the very core of what we are as a species.

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