Appeals Against Women Violence Must Promote Family Planning

By Donald A. Collins | 28 November 2012
Church and State

violence-against-women

There are many possible routes to enable desirable goals. What could be more important than helping women to better lives? Thus we should be quick to endorse constructive suggestions, particularly from visible, highly credible exponents, as they offer promising ways to surmount the frequent assaults of macho men against women.

But words are not deeds and the fact of real behaviors by too many governments and religions which influence those governments leaves rampant evidence around the world of huge disparities left to surmount before women can obtain gender equality.

The outstanding editorial service offered by Population Media Center’s Joe Bish again forwarded to its electronic list a story which offers positive hope to those of us who eschew the grim attacks from religious extremists against women.

In short, the 11/25/12 article he sent forwards another argument, slightly different but perhaps more effective in winning converts than just the straight suggestion often made by many of us favoring universal free family planning. The appeal against violence against women should and could encourage important changes, perhaps adding new voices against the religious sects who control so much of our world’s governments and now so oppose making sure women can obtain free, safe, easy to use birth control services.

Hey, who can be against violence? Apparently far too many are NOT. And violence can be non physical in the form of cultural and religious strictures.

Population Media’s Mr. Bish begins his story: “Today, November 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As you may know, PMC’s emphasizes — as primary components of our international programming — the elevation women’s status and the promotion of gender equity (along with the benefits of small families and encouragement of effective family planning methods).

“In addition to countless dramatic story-lines in our serial dramas on these issues, our collaboration with the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College, Vermont, to produce the electronic game, Breakaway, is a good example of our efforts to meet these challenges.” Ok, nice work at Champlain, but likely not going to be too well publicized. So here is where PMC notes real recognition of this violence problem, a forum which gives the issue maximum publicity, as Bish sends us this urgent message:

Below are remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Following them is a news story filed by the Kuwait News Agency, which reports on a sobering speech given by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in which she includes remarks on the story of 14-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousufzai.

“Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. […] We must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue. On this International Day, I call on all governments to make good on their pledges to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world, and I urge all people to support this important goal.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

And so much more powerful, was the story of the violence against the young female women’s rights activist, 14 year old Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan.

That story got huge circulation and can be viewed here.

A South African woman of Indian origin, this 11/25/12 statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay gave real teeth to the violence issue and its relation to practices in Yousufzai’s country, and bravely fingered the Taliban which represents another force espousing the same radicalism as the RCC bishops and the Vatican on matters of reproductive rights for women.

The Commissioner named Pakistan and Pakistan’s neighbor, Afghanistan, as major perpetrators of huge abuse. She said:

“Malala was targeted for her prominent role in promoting the fundamental right of education for girls and for criticizing the Taliban for actions such as destroying girls’ schools and threatening to kill girls who attend them. The fact that they tried to do just that to her brought into sharp focus the extreme intolerance and physical danger facing many girls who try to exercise their basic human right to education in many other countries.

“The sad truth is that Malala’s case is not an exceptional one and, had she been less prominent, her attempted murder might have passed more or less unnoticed. Despite all the advances in women’s rights around the world, violence against girls and women remains one of the most common human rights abuses – and the assault on their fundamental right to education continues in many countries. Often, as in Malala’s case, the two phenomena are closely related.

“In Pakistan’s neighbour, Afghanistan, for example, the situation has been chronic for much of the past three decades. During the country’s various evolving and overlapping conflicts, girls’ education ground to an almost complete halt. Since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, they have reverted to guerrilla tactics which have included – as a matter of policy — attacks on girls and women, especially in relation to their attempts to receive education.

“In the first six months of 2012 alone, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) verified 34 attacks against schools, including cases of burnings of school buildings, targeted killings and intimidation of teachers and school officials, armed attacks against and occupation of schools, and closures of girls’ schools in particular. Incredibly, there have even been at least three separate attempts this year to poison girls attending schools in Afghanistan, with over 100 girls affected on each occasion.

“The risk of violence against girls travelling to and from school also deters many from attending at all – and not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Household surveys in many countries identify distance as a major factor in parents deciding not to send their daughters to school, with security concerns one of the main reasons.

“It is estimated that education – especially, although not exclusively, girls’ education — has been subjected to deliberate attacks in more than 30 countries because of religious, sectarian, political or other ideological reasons.”

While such overt violence gains huge treatment in the press and in the hearts of fair minded and intelligent observers everywhere, I was sorry that this powerful female voice did not at the same time note fervently the behavior of religious sects and the governments they influence into practicing non violent violence by denying women the free, safe and unhindered access to all means of controlling their fertility.

Statistically, this non violent violence has huge effects on women, their families, and now as we can see from the growth of human numbers beyond the capacity of our planet to properly care for those humans, a violence which burgeons everywhere. The current wars and civil unrest has clear and obvious links to these failures over decades.

The young woman shot in Pakistan for asking for an education thus was really asking all of us to get educated about human rights. We pray for her full recovery, although former Arizona Congresswomen Gabby Gifford’s example is not encouraging. Thus whatever sacrifice will be exacted on Malala’s health and on her life remains unknown, but improved efforts to educate women about their rights could well stem from her sacrifice. We can only hope strong women’s voices will not add and amplify this young woman’s demands.

Using this horrible example of Malala really gives traction to the need to bring gender equality to women world wide. The fearless and effective long term efforts of this web site have indeed managed to beam the light of public censure on the statistically huge, humanely and morally unacceptable policies of the RCC leadership against its own women, as well as using its massive political clout in the USA to effect the reproductive health of all women worldwide.

The importance of these UN officials’ statements could be and should offer major attention, but regardless of the rhetoric of such beautiful words, it behooves every nation to look to its own conscience to review how well it is behaving. Yes, the RCC leaders bear huge guilt, but many other countries dominated by equally repressive religious sects are following the same or worse practices of not allowing women their full birthrights.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

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