International Women’s Day – a reminder on gender inequality

9 Mar

Iran has stopped women from protesting outside Parliament on International Women’s Right Day by deploying large number of riot police and plain clothes officers according to BBC. A few who arrived were promptly whisked away.

This was prior to the arrests of more than 32 women who had protested outside a courthouse in Tehran a few days before International Womens’ Right Day to show solidarity with five women on trial for organising a protest last June against laws they claim are discriminatory against women. These five women had organised a demonstration last June that was broken up by police violence.

The commendable and courageous act of these women activists who had exercised their freedom to peaceful assembly will serve as an inspiration to other women activists who are continuing their struggle for women rights.

In a lesser well-known article on Counterpunch by Yifat Susskind, communications director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, she revealed the systematic violence from Sunni and Shiites Islamist militias that has swept across Iraq after the US toppling of Saddam. According to her, “

The “misery gangs” of these Shiite militias now patrol the streets of Iraq’s major cities, attacking women who don’t dress or behave to their liking. In many places, they kill women who wear pants or appear in public without a headscarf. In much of Iraq, women are virtually confined to their homes because of the likelihood of being beaten, raped, or abducted in the streets. As the occupying power, the US was obligated by the Hague and Geneva Conventions to provide security to Iraqi civilians, including protection from violence against women. But the US military, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the reign of terror that Islamist militias were imposing on women. In fact, the US enabled these attacks: in 2005, the Pentagon began providing the Shiite Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army with weapons, money, and military training in the hope that these groups would help combat the Sunni-based insurgency.

Perhaps more disturbing is the violence against women taking place in the US military. A Salon.com article by Helen Benedict, who interviewed more than 20 female Iraqi war veterans has all of them agreed that “the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.”

World-wide, the abuse and discrimination against women continues unabated in different forms and degrees, whether in traditional or more westernised societies. The International Womens Right Day reminds us that there is still work to be done.

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References:

Iran police stop women’s protest, 8 March 2007, BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6431617.stm

Iran women arrested over protest, 4 March 2007, BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6416789.stm

Violence Against Women Under US Occupation, Iraq’s Other War, Yifat Susskind, 8 March 2007, Counterpunch

The private war of women soldiers, Helen Benedict, Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/07/women_in_military/

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