It should be recognized that being a woman, in many places, can be more difficult. It has always been this way, but today, in an era in which human rights, under the auspices of the UN, seem to have more to defend, the forms of discrimination that history has left us are supposed to be decreasing. Nevertheless, that is not the case, because women are still victims of serious violations of their rights. We cannot deny the achievement of several progresses, but it is also true that there is no country that has rid itself of the problems related to women’s rights.
This past week, in different parts of the world, there have been various forms of discrimination against women:
Sowing terror, jihadist terrorist activities in various parts of Africa are increasing. And more and more frequently, the protagonists and victims, are women.
The use of suicide bombers appears to be a new tactic deployed by the terrorists of Boko Haram in Kano, although in the more Northern areas of the country, the Islamist group has already made use of them. Aside from the attack on Wednesday in the University College of Kano, on Monday two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a trade show and in a service station of the city, killing one person and wounding at least six others.
On Sunday, another woman suicide bomber killed herself in the failed attempt to hit police officers. The Nigerian police has said that they have arrested a 10 year old child suicide bomber who hid under a vest packed with explosives under a traditional dress and that she was preparing to blow herselves up.
Some observers note with concern that is the fourth suicide bomber in less than a week.
Kano is Nigeria’s second largest city by population and it is located in the heart of the Muslim north: six attacks have taken place in five days. The celebrations for the end of Ramadan were also cancelled so as to avoid large gatherings of people.
The images of this video come from an Indian village where two men are stripped, bound and beaten for hours by a group of women. This is the way to get justice after the pair had attempted to rape two women. Before handing them over to the authorities, the women repeatedly hit them with shoes and sticks.
In 2012 there were 635 rape cases (572 in 2011) of which, according to national statistics, only 27% resulted in a conviction because the others have not been reported for fear (also of social exclusion and fear of not finding a husband), shame or lack of trust in institutions (considered corrupt and incompetent by many).
In the last twenty years the cases of sexual violence have doubled in the country.
In India the death penalty, in specific cases provided by the law,continues to exist. Protesters, blocked by the police, have asked for the penalty to apply to cases of rape, for which normally a sentence of imprisonment for a limited number of years is applied.
Bülent Arinç, Deputy Prime Minister and spokesman for the Islamic conservative government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a speech on the “dissolution of morals” in the country, said: “A woman knows what is moral and what is immoral. For this she will not laugh in public, will not assume haunting behavior and will protect her chastity.” The words of Arinç – who has also criticized consumerism, excessive use of mobile phones, television and the media that turns teenagers into “sex addicts”- have triggered a strong reaction of Turkish women: in less than 24 hours, social networks were flooded with pictures of girls and ladies smiling with the hashtag # kahkaha (laughter) and # direnkahkaha (resist and laugh). An ironic and brilliant move that is filled of a strong claim to freedom and joy.
The whole world has started posting pictures of happy women, reaching the number of 300 thousand tweets. The Deputy Prime Minister became aware of the sensation aroused by his statement, not at all repentant, and commented the phenomenon by stating: “My words were extrapolated to a broader context. I spoke of the importance of chastity, appropriate behavior for women and men, mutual fidelity between spouses and I do not take back my thesis.” He then concluded: “There are some artists who have sent me their photos with fake laughter. A real smile redeems a person, but these are artificial smiles. There are smiles of people who go on vacation with their lovers, leaving their husbands at home.”
Turkey, historically, has always been much more progressive with regard to women’s rights, compared to its neighboring countries. But in recent years the fear of citizens and activists is that it is taking several steps back. Just think of the tragedy of child brides, honor killings or to too many women who are victims of domestic violence (39% according to the United Nations, 2011).
This is the reason why Turkish girls are refusing to give up their smile.
In 1979 the UN adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is a document that goes beyond the enunciation of the principles of non-discrimination and equality, aiming at the impact at a cultural level, which is what matters most and that may have more specific effects on the problems of women.
The agreement, in fact, has the objective of taking all appropriate measures to its Member States so as to change the socio-cultural models and the prejudices that generate discrimination against women, to take care of family education and pay particular attention to motherhood.
Even more important is the task of the UN with the “Millennium Development Goals”, established in 2000. These goals, in a brief recap, aim at the eradication of poverty, the spread of elementary education and health, but also affect the status of women in the world. The 3rd goal aims to: “Promote gender equality and empower women and responsibility”, while the 5th one says: “Improve maternal health”. The third objective, in particular, aims at achieving an equal number of men and women in all levels of education and institutions. The fifth goal works at increasing contraception, pre-natal assistance and the diffusion of family planning.
Although there is growing awareness on the importance and seriousness of the condition of women, and in spite of the considerable efforts that are being made by the most influential international organizations, the problem remains far from reaching a satisfactory solution that is adaptable to these times, as the aforementioned examples are proof of this. There is still much to do, not only in law, but also in culture and especially in the way of daily activities.