In a world where women form half the population and give birth to the other half, I still find it hard to understand why issues surrounding their health, rights, sexuality, body and decisions remain under debate. I can’t understand why so many complexities and complications are created out of basic, simple issues – women’s rights.
I know I belong to a world in which being born a man is the best thing that can happen to a human being. A world in which, if I were male, I could date five women at a time and not be labelled a whore, I could be 40 and single and not be called frustrated, I could impregnate a girl and not be kicked out of school, I could be paid what I deserve for my work and I would never have to defend whether and when I get pregnant.
We may choose to be optimistic and say ‘Well, things are getting better’. We may note that HIV infections in the developing world have been cut by half, fewer women now die in childbirth and that more girls are guaranteed formal education and the opportunity to choose their own path. But what have we got to say about the 43 percent of women who still suffer domestic violence, or the quarter of a million women who are raped annually, or the 39,000 children who get married off every day? Why so many despicable acts against the girl, against the woman?
It’s a shame we’re in the 21st century and she is still stripped of her land and property when her husband dies because she’s a woman. It’s a shame she has no power to decide when and if to have a child, and is brainwashed into believing she was born to populate the earth. It’s a shame it’s still her fault she is raped, persecuted for being brutalised and forced to live with a man who harms her – because she’s the woman.
It’s a shame she will be married off before she turns 14 and get pregnant two months later, because she’s a girl. It’s a shame she will never inherit any land, and her brother is guaranteed a better future than her, because she’s a girl. It’s a shame she will be forced into a life of slavery and sex before she turns 16, because she’s a pleasure machine, a girl. It’s a shame she may never know what a classroom looks like but rather be told her place is in the home, because she’s a girl.
It’s a shame she runs the risk of being stoned to death, because she makes eye contact with a man. It’s a shame she will be repeatedly tortured and abused physically and sexually, or murdered by the person she is most intimate with and trusts the most, a man.
It’s a shame we still choose to fund the missionary health centres that ban contraception outright and choose to ignore her reproductive rights. It’s a shame we still put our personal and religious beliefs before her sexual and reproductive health.
I know it’s not all gloomy. I know that just recently 5000 people gathered in Kuala Lumpur to talk about these issues, that more funding is being earmarked to address them, and that the world is finally giving much-needed attention to a topic that is so basic and yet so vital. But I also know that we still have a long way to go before we can confine these issues to history.
Mallah leads the team at UV and her job entails opening up the organisation to new ideas and opportunities. An unapologetic feminist, go getter and lover of lives, Mallah envisages a world where women wouldn't need to fight for their rights any more.In her spare time, she sings and listens to all of ...