Monthly Archives: November 2009

The Global Domestic Violence Epidemic

Since we’re in the middle of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence, I thought today I’d take a look at domestic violence. It’s certainly not something to be proud of that a quarter of American women are victims of domestic abuse, or that only half of such incidents get reported to the police. Or that an estimated 15-25% of married women have suffered marital rape — which was legal in every single state until 1976, and even today is still treated by many states as less serious than “rape-rape,” to use the words of Whoopi Goldberg. And what exactly is Obama’s domestic violence czar doing with her time?

Of course, it’s a sad fact that many women in the rest of the world are a lot worse off. Take Iran, where two-thirds of women have suffered from domestic violence at least once in their lives, and where there is a high prevalence of domestic abuse against pregnant women. Hop on over to Afghanistan, where 87% of women report having been subjected to domestic abuse, and women protesting a law legalizing marital rape and child marriage were spat on and stoned in April.

And don’t forget Turkey, where 4 out of 10 women are beaten by their husbands, and T.V. personalities advise women to “carry this pain within you and keep living with your husband,” promising rewards in the afterlife. Meltem Agduk, Gender Project Coordinator for UNFPA Turkey, points out, “Men believe that when they marry a woman, they possess her. They see a woman just like a car.” Actually, that might not be a great comparison … I see a lot of cars that get treated better than some women.

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Sudanese Teen Flogged for Wearing … Skirt?

You’ve probably heard something about the fact that Sudan has a problem with women wearing pants. Well, it turns out that wearing a skirt also won’t keep you safe from northern Sudan’s vague indecency laws.

Sixteen-year-old Silva Kashif ran afoul of conservative Islamic sharia law for wearing a skirt that stopped beneath the knee. Less than two hours after her arrest, she had been tried and sentenced. Her punishment: 50 lashes, delivered in the courtroom.

Kashif, originally from the south of the country, which is not subject to sharia law, expressed confusion over how she is expected to dress. “The trousers were an issue. My skirt was beneath the knee. What more can I do? I am Christian. My tribe and my customs permit me to dress like this.”

According to a 2005 peace agreement that put an end to civil war in the country, the government is supposed making efforts to be more lenient on Christians and those who have moved from the south of the country. However, for a woman to be prosecuted for indecent dress, all that is required is a single complaint filed against her. There are thousands of these filed each year, creating a strain on the legal system that leads to quicky trials that don’t take into consideration the defendant’s religious or cultural background — or, in this case, her age, since minors are not supposed to be subject to whipping as a punishment.

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Baltimore Pregnancy Centers Forced to Tell the Truth

When I was editor of my college’s progressive newspaper, some of the enterprising female journalists on staff wanted to find out first-hand whether crisis pregnancy centers were as bad as we’d heard. So two staffers went undercover to our local CPC, posing as a pregnant teen and her worried friend, to satisfy our curiosity.

The short answer: yes, they are that bad.

Under the guise of offering comprehensive reproductive health services, crisis pregnancy centers lure in women trying to decide what to do about an unplanned pregnancy. These (often young) women mistakenly believe that the fake pregnancy center, like a Planned Parenthood, will provide them with information on the full range of options available to them. Instead, they generally find themselves subjected to a mix of religious guilt-tripping (in our college investigation, the pretend-pregnant journalist was asked if she’d tried “crying out to God”) and outright lies to keep them from considering an abortion — a service crisis pregnancy centers don’t actually offer in any case.

So kudos to Baltimore for passing a bill mandating that pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion information post a sign in their waiting rooms making this fact clear, so that women who want a real understanding of all their options can get out while the getting’s good.

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Catholic Bishop to Pro-Choice Politician: “No Communion for You”

Once upon a time, there was a Church known for demonstrating concern over social justice and poverty. Then, one day, it decided that it had higher priorities, like controlling women’s bodies and denying people who love each other the right to get married.

On’s Gay Rights blog, Mike Jones has a post up on a Catholic bishop’s decision to deny Communion to Rep. Patrick Kennedy due to his defense of reproductive rights. With gay marriage ranking up next to abortion as one of today’s top sins for conservative Catholics, Jones wonders whether Catholic bishops will start withholding communion from supporters of the right for all people to marry and live happily ever after.

For lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, marriage equality is a significant women’s rights issue. But, unfortunately, this incident is a double-whammy here on the women’s rights blog, because our concerns are not confined to the hypothetical — as Jones points out, Catholic bishops are already denying the communion wafer to reproductive justice supporters.

When did the Catholic Church — which I know has a lot of very liberal constituents — become such a two-issue horse?

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Do You Know What a Feminist Man Looks Like?

If you take the homophobia and misogyny out of masculinity, what’s left? This is the question Courtney E. Martin poses in her recent American Prospect article, “What’s the Alternative to Tucker Max?”

Reporting on the National Conference for Campus-Based Men’s Gender Equality and Anti-Violence Groups, which took place on November 6-7, Martin watched in concern as one of the event’s organizers covered a chalkboard with suggestions from the audience: Machismo. Violent. Homophobic. The gender-conscious young male attendees, at the forefront of a new gender justice movement, were well-versed in the negative characteristics equated with masculinity. But where was the companion list of positive characteristics that men should live up to?

“This generation is saying no to toxic masculinity,” Martin writes. “But what are these young men saying yes to?”

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