“We will bear no more” is a slogan for Handmaid’s Tale — a TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel set in near future. Women in the novel/show are kept for reproductive purposes, are not allowed to read, let alone drive, and even leave the house without a man’s consent. Yet, for too many girls and women around the globe the show does not appear to be a dystopia or an unwanted future, it is their reality.

These misogynistic laws and restrictions are so unimaginable they may seem fictitious. But unfortunately, they are not. 

1 Women and girls undergo Female genital mutilation (FGM) against their will

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is legal in an overwhelming amount of countries, mainly sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States. However, the procedure is practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Therefore, it is a global issue. According to United Nations Population Fund, FGM is also practiced among migrant populations throughout Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The origins of the practice are unclear.

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. UNISEF

  • Female genital mutilation is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs. FGM can be performed as early as infancy and as late as age thirty. However, most girls undergo FGM between four and fourteen years of age to ensure their virginity until marriage.
  • Wold Health Organization reports that there’s no health benefit to FGM, but only harm. Among the immediate complications are: shock, severe pain, excessive bleeding (haemorrhage) and even death.
  • The long term consequences can include sexual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.).

As FGM is performed without the girl’s consent and can cause severe complications and death, it is a clear example of human right violation. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights

FGM violates the rights to non-discrimination, health, and bodily integrity. Although FGM is not undertaken with the intention of inflicting harm, its damaging physical, sexual, and psychological effects make it an act of violence against women and children. Finally, FGM sometimes threatens the lives of girls and women, thereby violating their human rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

FGM is not just a developing countries issue, it is taking place in the US as well. Equalitynow.org states that “while federal law bans FGM and “vacation cutting”, 25 states do not have laws criminalizing FDM”

2 A woman has “half person” status in court

If you live in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Iran and happen to be a female, chances are that in court you will be considered a “half person”. According to BBC World Service, “in Saudi Arabia a women’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man’s testimony.” Similarly in Yemen and Iran women when represented in court, are not considered full human beings. What’s more, in order to be taken seriously a woman’s testimony in Yemen must be backed up by that of a man.

3 Marital rape is legal

Should a husband be able to legally rape his wife? The answer is no, under no circumstances. However, marital rape is still reality for women in India and the Bahamas. The research institute for compassionate economics (RICE) reports that in India the number of women sexually assaulted by their husbands is 40 times the number of women who suffer such violence from others. What’s more, The Hindu states that “that sexual violence against women is “grossly under-reported” in India” and “just 1% of marital rapes and 6% of rapes by men other than husbands are reported to the police.”

marital rape in india

Unfortunately, marital rape is not uncommon. There is a global rape epidemic, “affecting close to a billion women and girls over their lifetimes”. “Rape of a woman or girl by her husband is expressly legal in at least 10 (out of 82) jurisdictions. These are Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. In four of these, marital rape is expressly legal even where the “wife” being raped is a child “bride” and the “marriage” is in violation of minimum age of marriage laws.”, says EqualityNow.

4. Women are not allowed to drive cars

In Saudi Arabia, women are prohibited from driving cars. This restriction seems even more ridiculous considering that women are not banned from getting education and even working. Wondering about the reason? Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, judicial adviser to an association of Gulf psychologists says that “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards”.

The driving ban seems even more ridiculous considering that women in Saudi Arabia are not prohibited from getting education and even working. As one Saudi man explained to Christian Science Monitor reporter, “What would happen if a woman got in a car accident, he asked? Then she would be forced to deal with the male driver of the other car, a stranger, with no oversight.”

One thing is clear – driving symbolizes freedom, independence and an ability for a woman to go wherever she wants to. Something completely unheard of in Saudi Arabia.

5 Rapists can claim parental rights

National Conference of State legislation reports that “there are between 17,000 and 32,000 rape-related pregnancies in the United States each year” and about 32% to 50% of impregnated rape victims keep their babies, according to various studies.

It sounds almost unbelievable, but if a rape victim happens to be a resident of Wyoming, Mississippi, Maryland, Alabama, New Mexico, Minnesota or North Dakota, she may have to share custody of her child with a rapist. In the state of Maryland, there have been several attempts to pass the law terminating rapist parental rights, but the last attempt just failed, for the ninth time.

states where rapists can claim parental rights

6 Domestic violence is decriminalized

First time is no longer a crime in Russia.

domestic violence in russia

In January 2017 Russia made headlines, but for the wrong reason. Russian president Vladimir Putin signed legislation that decriminalizes some forms of domestic abuse. “From now on, beatings of spouses or children that result in bruising or bleeding but not broken bones are punishable by 15 days in prison or a fine, if they do not happen more than once a year. Previously, they carried a maximum jail sentence of two years.” states The Guardian. In other words, a husband can physically abuse his wife or children once a year without facing criminal prosecution. This shocking and dehumanizing law was written by member of parliament Yelena Mizulina, “who also drafted the country’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law that’s had a chilling effect on LGBTQ life in Russia”.

As Independent reports

According to Russian interior ministry estimates, 40 women a day and 14,000 women a year die at the hands of their husbands or spouses, while 600,000 face violent domestic abuse each year.

Russia is not the only country where violence against women is legal. In Nigeria, for example, it is perfectly legal for a husband to beat his wife “„for the purpose of correcting“ her, as long as it does not cause grievous bodily harm”, says

Global Citizen.The World Bank Group states that a staggering number of counties – 59 have “no laws against sexual harassment at work. Myanmar, Uzbekistan and Armenia are among 46 countries where there is no legal protection against domestic violence.”

7. A 10 year old girl can get married

girls not brides

No, this is not a joke. This is a legal age of marriage in Sudan. “The Personal Status Law of Muslims, 1991 provides that a 10-year-old can be married by their guardian with the permission of a judge”, reports Girls Not Brides. This is the lowest legal age of marriage in Africa.

  • in Sudan, 7% of girls get married before they turn 15, and 1 in 3 girls are married before they turn 18
  • in Arab region 1 in 7 girls marries before her 18th birthday. The highest rates of child marriage are seen in the poorest countries—Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and South Sudan—where annual per capita incomes in 2011 were less than US$2,000.5

Child marriage is a global issue, affecting young girls in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe. It is also a violation of a girl’s human rights. For a girl early marriage means “an end to the her schooling, forced sexual relations, and early childbearing”, reports Population Reference Bureau. 

 

8 Women are legally banned from getting certain jobs

You are a woman living in China and you want to work at a coal mine? Too bad. Do you want to be a female truck driver in Belarus or a train driver in Russia? It’s not going to work either. Unlike in the US, where women have a right to hold any job, certain countries restrict women’s participation in the workforce.

  • in Belarus, there are 181 occupations from which women are banned, including train drivers, firefighters, blacksmiths, coach drivers on international routes, and drivers of large trucks
  • in Russia, women are prohibited from working in 456 specified jobs, including driving a truck carrying agricultural produce, woodworking and being a train driver
  • The China Mining and Technology University has a male-only entrance policy, as mining is considered “unsuitable for women” as suggested by Chinese labour laws, as stated by Telegraph. Chinese women are also restricted to study navigation and tunnel engineering.

“I think there are several jobs and professions that women shouldn’t do, for instance defend their country. Men should protect the homeland, not women. Women should stay at home and take care of the children and the family”, says Evgenny Nasonov who is with the Kremlin-aligned Young Russian Foundation which promotes Russian family values. And this is a very common view on a woman’s role in Russian society.

Aleksander Zaitsev, the Chief Technical Inspector for the Belarus Federation of Trade Unions, has a similar opinion on what women are supposed to do: “There are certain jobs that a woman just shouldn’t do, because she has her children and family to worry about. There are plenty of less demanding occupations out there for women. They should of course be paid properly.”

 

9 Women are exempt form road safety rules

women in india are exempt from road safety rules

In Delhi, India, road safety rules don’t apply to women. Telegraph reports that “under Indian law all riders and passengers must wear crash helmets”. However, women are exempt from that law. The reason is truly ridiculous: wearing a helmet is a sensitive issue because it can ruin a woman’s hairstyle. An obvious question arises: since when one’s hairdo is more important than the road safety? “A culture-wide devaluation of women’s lives in India”, as stated by The Washington Post, seems to be the answer.

10  A man gets away with kidnapping a woman if he marries her afterwards

Bride kidnapping is an old cultural practice in which a woman or a girl is abducted, held against her will and raped by her prospective husband in order to force her into marriage. It is common in Central Asia, Kyrgystan, Chechnya, the Caucuses, Ethiopia and Malta. According to The Advocates for Human rights in these cultures “the loss of virginity, though it is through forcible rape, makes the victim unmarriageable”. Another unfortunate effect of bride kidnapping is that the families agree to marry off a girl at an earliest age possible in order to avoid this traumatizing practice.

Just like raping bridal kidnapping “remain under-reported, as they are considered a private issue that should remain within the family”, says Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Girls Not Brides reports that “nearly 1 in 10 girls are married before the age of 18 in Kyrgyzstan. A large proportion of child marriages in the country happen as a result of bride kidnapping, according to the United Nations Population Fund.”

However being identified by certain cultures as a cultural ritual, bride kidnapping still remains a human right’s violation.

 

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