On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment — which guarantees American women the right to vote — was adopted. After the amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878, suffragettes fought tirelessly to make equal voting rights a reality.
Today, we celebrate their victory but also call to mind the oppression that females around the world still suffer. We, the free, must do what we can to fight for their rights.
There are many forms of persecution that women across the globe face. Too many societies view women as inferior, ignoring their innate human dignity and trampling upon their natural rights. Violence, arranged marriage, mandated “modesty,” and barriers to education are just some of the injustices that females still suffer today.
Domestic Violence and Honor Killings
Some in America believe that we live in a patriarchal society. What these people fail to understand is that there are true patriarchal societies in the world — societies where women are horribly and brutally oppressed and cannot receive restitution for the wrongs done to them.
Last year, there were 96 honor killings in Afghanistan alone.
In countries like Pakistan, honor killings are performed by males who deem that women in their family have acted shamefully. Just a few months ago, two Pakistani women were shot and killed after a video of them kissing a man surfaced. In Afghanistan, a teenage girl was stabbed to death by her brother, who escaped to a Taliban-controlled area where he would suffer no repercussions. Last year, there were nearly 5,000 cases of violence against women in Afghanistan. 238 were killed; 96 of those were labeled honor killings. In Jordan last month, a father savagely murdered his daughter in public. Many such crimes go unreported, but it’s suspected that Jordan sees 15 to 20 honor killings every year.
Rape and domestic violence also occur unchecked and unpunished in many countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo — deemed the “rape capital of the world” — 400,000 females were raped between 2006 and 2007 alone. In Syria, roughly 46,500 women have been raped and/or beaten. Over 20% of women in Iraq are victims of domestic violence. These and other such nations are extremely hostile for women and don’t have laws that effectively reduce violence.
Child Marriage and Unequal Divorce Laws
Approximately 650 million women worldwide were married before they turned 18. Many African, South Asian, and Middle Eastern countries have extremely high rates of child marriage. In Niger, 76% of women were married off before they reached adulthood. Sharia-based Iranian law allows girls to be married at 13, or even younger if the father consents and permission is obtained from court judges. More than a quarter of all girls in India are married before age 18, despite its technical illegality.
Approximately 650 million women worldwide were married before they turned 18.
In many countries — especially those under Sharia law — divorce laws disproportionately favor men. While Muslim men can divorce their wives, women must obtain consent from their husbands to get divorced. Women in Yemen, for example, don’t have equal rights to divorce, inheritance, or child custody. Thus, millions of women have no say in who and when they marry, nor do they have the ability to escape such arranged — and often abusive — marriages.
Women in different areas of the world are also subjected to strict laws regarding their dress. In Afghanistan, Taliban fighters still physically punish women for not being fully veiled. Iran has compulsory hijab laws. Despite the penalties for not complying — which range from flogging to imprisonment — many women are fighting against this oppression.
In Afghanistan, Taliban fighters still physically punish women for not being fully veiled.
Even in countries like Malaysia, where women enjoy more freedoms, sexism in dress still abounds. During the early stages of the pandemic, the country’s Women’s Affairs Ministry advised women to avoid domestic abuse by wearing makeup and dressing well for their husbands.
Lack of Access to Education
Women lag behind in literacy rates worldwide. In 2015, only 11% of females in Niger were literate. In 2018, only 29.8 percent of Afghani women were literate. In West and Central Africa and South Asia, literate men drastically outnumber literate women.
Worldwide, 132 million girls don’t attend school. In Iran, schools are segregated. Poverty, child marriage, and violence against women all factor into the educational disparity between genders. Lack of education has serious and far-reaching effects on young women, including higher levels of depression, unintended and unhealthy pregnancies, and less opportunity for decent-paying employment.
Worldwide, 132 million girls don’t attend school due to poverty, child marriage, and violence.
Though many American feminists rail against our education system, women in the United States actually have some of the best access to schooling at all levels. In fact, 56% of American college students are now women. The energies that American women spend on fighting for “equal rights” in education on our soil would be far better spent fighting for the rights of the countless women in countries around the world where education is almost entirely reserved for the male population.
On this day, we should absolutely celebrate the freedoms afforded to women in our country. We should also, however, be aware of the many ways in which women around the world are treated as less than human. We are the land of the free, the land of equal opportunity, the land in which all are endowed with certain unalienable rights. We are a beacon of hope for those in nations where freedom, equal opportunity, and natural rights remain an unreality. Today, we should be filled with both gratitude for our country and a righteous anger for all of those women who live in societies that don’t afford them the same opportunities that we enjoy.