11 October 2012 saw the first observance of the International Day of the Girl. The focus was on ending the practice of child marriage, but several more issues came up. And there were different ways of observing the day. Among them, even if a couple of days in advance, was the Taliban attack on Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who has been campaigning for the girls’ right to education. Perhaps the Taliban planned it like this, or they did not realize it, but this was a very clear statement on girls’ and women’s rights, and will hopefully backfire on them.
It is amazing that men are allowed to commit such crimes in their zeal and immense self-righteousness. One wonders whether they have mothers, sisters, wives or daughters, and if they do what they think of them. There is no doubt that they have no female friends, nor could they ever if they are unable to accept the equality of the male and female human beings.
How can one end this? Can these people be educated or they are so immersed in their beliefs that they can never consider any alternative? What are those with any influence upon them, from family members to religious and political leaders, doing? And if there is no hope for change, how can they be isolated in their unreal world and rendered unable to harm other people, especially female people?
There is all the talk about the Arab spring, and what is happening in Syria or in Bahrein, etc. Often there are suggestions that those revolting against authoritarian regimes should be given weapons to defend themselves. But nobody has proposed to arm the women, who are suffering under authoritarian rule in several countries, even if they are the slightly larger and usually the more hard-working part of the population. Why not arm the women in the tribal areas of Pakistan, or in parts of the Middle East or Africa, to give them at least a chance to stop the aggression against them? They may not be used to it, it may not be in their nature to take life instead of giving it, but it would definitely be legitimate self-defence…
Giving actual arms to the oppressed female populations around the world may be an extreme measure. But arming them with knowledge, through education, and with other means to care for themselves and their families, like microcredit, can make a big difference for them and those around them. Moreover, there should be no compromise at the normative level on the equality of rights of all human beings. Reservations of any sort, like reportedly those about to be introduced in the new Egyptian constitution, would be a further slide backwards and should not be tolerated by anybody, first of all by those directly affected, the more-than-half of the human population that are women.
Ixelles, 11 October 2012