I recently learned that 939 plane-loads of women die from pregnancy related causes every year. That is about 350,000 women; or one woman every 90 seconds. 47,000 of them die from unsafe abortions, and another 5 million suffer serious and long-term consequences of botched abortions. About 25,000 child brides marry every day in Asia and Africa. About 140 million women and young girls are living with the consequences of female genital mutilations. Domestic violence and domestic rape still remain largely underreported.
These statistics make it evident, that in spite of the international covenants, national policies, works of civil societies and global women’s rights movement, there is very little acceptance that women are important, equal beings with equal rights to all resources, and equal claim on the highest possible attainable quality of health, and equally entitled to a life of dignity.
Mahmoud Fathallah, the past president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spoke true words when he once said:
“Women are not dying of diseases we can’t treat. … They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”
But why this indifference to the lives of 50% of the worlds’s population?
At IWAC 2013, held at Bangkok in January, Prof. David Grimes, an obstetrician and an abortion provider who has been teaching for over three decades in the United States, discussed the possible answer: misogyny. But as Prof. Grimes’s plenary speech progressed, you could see just how inured we have become as a world to discrimination and hate crimes against women.
Take this ad for example:
Here’s a husband beating his wife because she got him the wrong brand of coffee. Along with the coffee does this vaguely promote domestic abuse? “There is nothing funny about this advertisement,” said Prof. Grimes to a stunned audience. “There is nothing funny about a man beating his wife. Not when domestic violence is a real issue.”
Then he moved to a more shocking advertisement: Gang Rape Fantasy that sells jeans!
“This is in such poor humor that we should simply not buy Dolce and Gabbanna anymore!” Prof. Grimes said.
And once you see these ads through the lens of feminism, human rights and misogyny, you realize just how inured we’ve become to women being treated in such despicable ways! So, we do need to ask ourselves — even if we are feminists — why 939 plane-loads of women die from pregnancy related causes alone every year. And why we fail to look at this as a shocking crime against women.
Prof. Grimes who threw light on the shocking statistics you read earlier in this blog asked a question that stayed with me long after his talk:
“What is it going to take for us to say ‘Enough! Let’s stop this!'”
With modern day technology, online petitions for change, twitter and FB we have so much ammunition to protest when something as denigrating as this is passed for “humor,” or when a woman suffers harm because of such behavior. It is probably a bigger crime now if we stay silent, and forget about our moral and ethical obligations to address misogyny and challenge it whenever possible.
And as we discussed earlier this week, there is also a tendency to infantilize women and disregard their authority over their own bodies. Unfortunately, this paternalistic attitude has bec0me the norm, and men and women are equally at fault for encouraging such patronizing behavior. And this though seemingly more benign it is still a dangerous trend.
But to identify the most invisible forms of misogyny, and work at rooting them out, it is also important to understand the institutions that allow such ideologies to flourish.
The institutions that largely define our daily lives in the modern world – religion, patriarchy, capitalism – are still mostly controlled by men. More dangerously, they are based on ideologies that are by and large very “masculine” forms of authority. We will spend the next month discussing patriarchy and the many ways in which it shapes the society we live in.