Saturday, July 11, 2009

True Freedom for Women

As an American woman, I know I have freedoms that many other women in the world do not have. Although the United States is far from perfect, I often think that, as a woman, I was fortunate to be born where I was born.

Slavery is the most appalling part of American history, and we still deal with way too much prejudice in this country. Where you think all American people would be ashamed (and most are), many are still racist. Even more disgusting, are the ones who still celebrate it and fly the confederate flag. But, thankfully, slavery was abolished many years ago.

Unfortunately, there are still millions of people living in slavery today. The majority of these people are women.
As I live my normal life, I do what I please. I live in my own place. I drive my own car. I go to work each day, leave when I want, do pretty much whatever I want - within financial limitations of course. There is still a great deal of sexism, still not equal pay for equal work. But, I am free and do not face the atrocities that many other women do.

In many countries, women are not allowed simple freedoms that we take for granted. They cannot leave their houses unless they are with a male. They cannot dress as they wish and have to be covered up when they do leave. They also face terrible abuse on a daily basis.

The newest law in Afghanistan makes us realize that it isn't getting any better. After the law was amended that actually allowed husbands to rape their wives or starve them if they did not submit to them sexually, the updated law wasn't much of a change at all. According to

The amended Shia personal status law was passed by the Afghan cabinet in secrecy earlier this month. But despite some contentious clauses being removed, it still states that a man need not support his wife financially unless he has "access to her." Women in traditional rural Afghan society rely on their husbands for support.

The new law also still gives rights of guardianship entirely to fathers and grandfathers. By stipulating blood money should be paid for underage girls who are raped, human rights groups allege it also implicity sanctions child abuse.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch said: "This review process has been shrouded in secrecy.

"The result is that, despite some modest improvements, many key amendments proposed by civil society groups and parliamentarians have been ignored, and some of the most repressive provisions remain."

Under the Afghan constitution, the country's 10 per cent Shia minority is allowed to settle family affairs under its own jurisprudence.

After the outrage surrounding the original law, human rights groups and Afghan MPs took part in consultations with the government. However, some groups said they were then coerced into agreeing a diluted version of the law.

One Afghan activist involved in the process said: "The main problem is that the marital rape article is still there."

There will not be true freedom in the world for women until all women are free. There are too many areas of the world, like Afghanistan, where women are treated as slaves and can be treated as cruelly and violently as the man of the household wishes. It is not right that slavery is still in existence at all - and Afghan women are only one example. Until all people of the world are treated equally and with respect, we are truly not a civilized world at all.

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