Women’s Rights in 3rd World Counrties
Womens Rights in 3rd World Countries
There was a young woman who left her home in Mycrorayan in Kabul, Afghanistan for Peshawar after the January 1994 fighting and told Amnesty International of the following situation. “One day when my father was walking past a building complex he heard screams of women coming from an apartment block which had just been captured by forces of General Dostum. He was told by the people that Dostum’s guards had entered the block and were looting the property and raping the women.”
The following story comes out of Iran. “On August 10, 1994, in the city of Arak, Iran, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning. According to the ruling of the religious judge, her husband and two children were forced to attend the execution. The woman urged her husband to take the children away, but to no avail. A truck full of stones was brought in to be used during the stoning. In the middle of the stoning, although her eyes had been gouged out, the victim was able to escape from the ditch and started running away, but the regime’s guards recaptured her and shot her to death.”
From China comes the following observation. “Still in the streets an occasional old crone hobbling around on her miniature bound feet was a relic of the pre-Revolutionary, almost dead past. I also heard an echo of that past in a silk thread factory in Wuxi, China. A woman member of its Revolutionary Committee was introduced to me as a veteran worker. The description astonished me because she looked so young. On inquiry I learned that she was indeed only 34 years old, but that she had toiled in the mill for twenty-six years, having begun this job as an 8-year old child.”
These three incidents reflect typical crimes and injustices against women in the Third World countries. Crimes against women include abuse, slavery, false imprisonment, murder and rape. In these countries, women are considered to be inferior to men and are not granted equal rights or protection under the laws. The governments, religions and cultures of these countries support the inequalities, thus allowing vicious crimes against women to continue without any recourse by the victims. The phrase “women’s rights” refers to the basic human rights that are withheld from women simply because they are women. Womens rights promote political, social and economic equality for women in a society that traditionally confers more status and freedom to men. A basic right is for girls to grow up to be women: today twelve percent of the females born worldwide are missing, many of them victims of infanticide. Other womens rights include: the right to live free of physical abuse, the right to live free of sexual exploitation, the right to health care and nutrition, the right to an acceptable standard of living, the right to chose her own partner, the right to vote, the right to control property, and the right to equal treatment before the law along with freedom of speech. Women in Third World countries do not have the rights that American women enjoy. In most of these countries, women do not even have rights equivalent to those of American women in the nineteenth century. For example, the women have arranged marriages, have very limited access to education and are abused by their arranged husbands. In these countries, women work twice as many hours as men for one-tenth of the income. The inequities vary from country to country, but one thing is in common; the inequalities are all being committed against women. This paper will explore the condition of women in three Third World Countries: Afghanistan, China and Iran.
“They shot my father right in front of me. He was a shopkeeper. It was nine o’clock at night. They came to our house and told him they had orders to kill him because he allowed me to go to school. The Mujahideen had already stopped me from going to school, but that was not enough. They then came and killed my father. I cannot describe what they did to me after killing my father.” (15-year-old girl, p. 10) This is the story of a 15 year old girl who was repeatedly raped in her house by armed guards after they had killed her father for allowing her to go to school. Afghanistan’s women do not have many rights at all. All women in Afghanistan are totally deprived of the right to education; Afghanistan has closed down all schools for girls! Women are also not allowed to work. They have been ordered to remain in their houses, and employers have been threatened with dire consequences for hiring female employees. Women cannot venture out of the house alone unless accompanied by an appropriate male member of the woman’s immediate family. Afghanistan women do not have the right to quality health care if that health care involves male providers. No women can see a male doctor, family planning is outlawed, and women cannot be operated upon by a surgical team containing a male member regardless of the severity of the situation.
The women of Afghanistan also have no legal recourse. A women’s testimony is worth half a man’s testimony. A woman cannot petition the court directly; a male member from her family must do it for her. Women are not allowed to do anything recreational. All sporting facilities have banned women from their use. Women singers cannot sing, nor are they allowed to show their faces in public or to male strangers. Women cannot wear make-up or brightly colored clothing. They may appear outside their homes only when they are clad head to foot in shapeless garments called burgas. They cannot wear shoes with heels that click or travel in private vehicles with male passengers. They do not have the right to raise their voices when speaking in public, nor can they laugh loudly since the culture believes that her laughter lures males into corruption. Women in Afghanistan have few rights at best. They are controlled mostly by their husbands and cannot do anything that relates to politics or government. Most men look upon women as possessions with their bodies and minds owned totally by the men to whom they are sold through marriage. When a women does go against these cultural and religious laws, the usual consequence is a beating or stoning.
Beatings in Afghanistan occur for what appears to be small insignificant things. If a woman is wearing brightly colored shoes or thin stockings or violating any of the other rules of appearance, they may be beaten which sometimes results in death. Fortunately an era of change is developing, and slowly some of these consequences are becoming less frequent and less severe than they were even five years ago.
“How sad it is to be a woman! Nothing on Earth is held so cheap. No one is glad when a girl is born, by her family sets no store.”
Although Fu Xuan wrote this poem in 3 AD, the poem still sums up the life of a girl in China. Women are still considered inferior. In China, many people live on the farm, and strong hands are needed in the fields; therefore, the Chinese favor sons over daughters. Sons take care of their parents in their old age, while daughters leave their homes when they marry and became part of the husbands family. Wh…..en a baby girl is born, the family views her as a temporary possession. Some parents sell the baby girls when they need the money; these girls are often brought up as household servants or as prostitutes. At other times, baby girls are drowned at birth.
Women in China are still considered inferior to men. A women is expected to obey her father as a child, her husband as a woman, and her son in her old age. On the other hand, it is a moral obligation of the person in authority to be just and reasonable. Therefore, the man should be kind but at the same time deal severely with faults.
The 19th century saw the beginnings of womens rights for Chinese women. Western missionaries started schools for girls in China that introduced western ideas that influenced the Chinese. In 1901, foot binding was officially banned although it continues to practiced as traditions are hard to destroy..(Sui Noi Goh page 67) In 1919 educated Chinese women took part in movements to modernize China, and give women equal rights with men. In the early 1990s, the Chinese themselves set up schools for girls. During the “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950s, Mao Zedang gave women equality with men, saying women “held up half of the heavens.” Women were urged to work in the fields and in the factories with men. Childcare centers were set up so children could be taken care of while their mothers worked Greater attention was paid to womens health as well.
Although ideas regarding womens rights have been introduced in China, change is slow due to the long standing reverence for male children. “Since 1995, the population in China has been about 1.2 billion. Because of the rapid growth in the population, women are urged to undergo sterilization, and pregnant women are urged to have an abortion.”(Sui Noi Goh page 50-51) Since is not the most favorable way to go about controlling the population, China has come up with the “one-child policy”. This policy permits one child per family if the first born is a boy but permits two children if the first child is a girl No matter what, there may be no third births. “In 1994, a survey of couples of childbearing age, 63% had a single child, 25% had a second child, and the remaining 10% had three or more children.”(Soi Noi Goh page 50-51) Once a female child is born, the simplest method to avoid having a penalty for having more children is to not record her birth. Families often put baby girls up for adoption, or they frequently abandon them. “In China the gender ratio among Chinese children is 111 males for every 100 females.”(Sui Noi Goh page 50-51) This statistic strongly suggests that anti-women sentiment still exists.
Iran is an unusual country. Religion has always been important to Iranians, but since the revolution of 1979, Iran has become a religious state, where religious rules are state rules. It is the teachings of Islam that determines every aspect of daily life, customs, laws, and government. Thus, when contemporary womens rights in Iran are analyzed, one refers to the fundamental Muslim views regarding women. In a local hadith Islamic class in the year 1,000, the question was asked, “Are women basically good or bad?” The answer was, “I was raised up to heaven and saw that the denizens were poor people: I was raised into the hellfire and saw that most of its denizens were women.” This quote demonstrates that men think poorly of women in Iran. In the Islamic culture, women are considered to be the property first of her guardian (usually her father) and then ownership over her is transferred to her husband.
Iranian women actually many more rights and freedoms than some other countries in the Middle East. Girls are allowed to go to school and learn, although the schools are segregated according to sex to keep up with the Islamic beliefs. “Before the 1970s, only 34 % of the girls attended primary school and even fewer went to universities.”(www.geocities.com/~Irrc/Women/iman.htm) Today children between the ages of six and twelve must go to primary school, but not all parents send their daughters to classes. Women of Iran do not own the clothes that they wear. They have no rights over the children and little protection against a violent husband. If a husband kills his wife, her family must pay a considerable amount for his death sentence. If they cannot meet the cost, he goes free. A husband can order his wife out of the house. He can divorce her without telling her, and he can have up to four wives. Iranian women have also been pushed out of the work force. All women have been forced into part-time work so that nothing hinders their holy duty of motherhood.
In Iran, the women have arranged marriages. The husband is normally chosen by how large a dowry the womans father will provide. Ninety percent of the time, there is no way to get out of an abusive marriage. Abusive behavior is tolerated and goes unpunished.
Womens rights have changed over time, usually getting better. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. This Declaration has a preamble and thirty articles. These articles list the rights of women and men in all aspects of life. The first article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explains it all.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
This article explains that all women and men should be equal in dignity and rights; equality and rights should not be based on sex or gender. Although not all countries have signed this Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration has more than seventy countries that have agreed to abide by this code of human rights. Afghanistan, Iran and China have not signed this Declaration.
Outlook for the 21st Century
As of today, womens rights are generally improving, but much advancement is still needed. Hopefully in the 21st century, the worldwide womens rights movement will see more progress. With the support of the internet and news media, people throughout the world are becoming more informed about the atrocities commited against women and the need for womens rights. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights is constantly being updated because more people are demanding that there should be written laws for the humane treatment of women around the world. Since the beginning of time, women have always been treated as inferior to men. The fact of the matter is that the situation will not change overnight. As more people become informed about womens rights and become indignant about the abuses, positive changes for women will surely occur.
In conclusion, inequalities and atrocities against women in Afghanistan, China, and Iran are still occurring today. Although some progress has been made and the world is becoming better informed about the plight of these women, further actions are needed immediately to promote the welfare and human rights in these three countries as well as in the rest of the world.