Thursday, November 02, 2006

The perils of simply being female

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I'm on the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance mailing list and this morning the coordinator of that organization sent me an article from the New York Times by Bob Herbert entitled "Punished for Being Female". Here's how it gets started:

Bride burnings, honor killings, female infanticide, sex trafficking, mass rape as a weapon of war and many other hideous forms of violence against women are documented in a report released last month by the United Nations.

The report, a compilation of many studies from around the world, should have been seen as the latest dispatch from that permanent world war — the war against women all over the planet. Instead, the news media greeted its shocking contents with a collective yawn.

The war analogy is not an overstatement. In many parts of the world, men beat, torture, rape and kill women with impunity. In Ciudad Ju├írez, a Mexican city on the Texas border, 300 to 400 women have been murdered over the past several years. Many were raped and mutilated. The widespread belief that punishment for these crimes was unlikely was a “key factor” in their occurrence, the report said.

Each year thousands of wives in India are murdered and maimed — many of them doused with kerosene and set ablaze — by husbands dissatisfied by the size of their dowries or angry about their wives’ behavior. In Ethiopia, the abduction and rape of young girls is a commonplace way to obtain a bride. In many instances the parents agree to the marriage, believing that the raped child is no longer fit to marry anyone else.

In Pakistan, a woman cannot legally prove that she was raped unless four “virtuous” Muslim men testify that they witnessed the attack. Without those four witnesses, the woman herself is vulnerable to prosecution for fornication or adultery.

While it’s undoubtedly true that men maim and kill other men in astonishing numbers, what I’m talking about here is the way that women, by the millions, are systematically targeted for attack because they are women.

Until the civilized world collectively says, "No, we won't stand for this," it will continue. Why are female life, female dignity and female well-being so devalued in the world?

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