As International Women’s Day comes and goes for another year, what has changed in the lives of women all over the world? In the midst of celebrations, speeches, and conferences, there were still campaigns running to promote equality, safety and freedom of women in every continent. The people working tirelessly to provide these necessities are doing a world of good, but their work is not finished yet.
In Mozambique, a dangerous new law is about to be passed in Government that allows rapists to marry their victims to avoid prosecution. This often happens to young girls who’s family fear that they will be dishonoured if their child is a victim of rape or even falls pregnant outside of marriage. If the law is passed, many more young girls will be forced into a life of terror and abuse, with no prospect of a happy, loving marriage.
Image courtesy of Amnesty International
In the Middle East, women’s rights are constantly under threat and human rights workers have made hard–won improvements to the law with, for example, the Elimination of Violence against Women law introduced in 2009. The military presence of the West in Afghanistan has caused insurmountable tension, resulting in plans for massive withdrawals of troops. Although this may bring peace to politicians, it will also take a way massive amounts of funding that have been pumped into the region for many years and the relative peace and protection that Afghan women have enjoyed could be snatched away from them.
Image courtesy of Musadeq Sadeq Associated Press
The situation in Congo over conflict minerals is also causing women to suffer. The violence and destruction brought about by warfare between rival groups looking control of the mines leaves helpless women and children stuck in the middle of a conflict fuelled by the developing world’s desire for new technology.
It’s not just developing countries that need our help and support, cuts on abortion rights and laws are happening in the US and, closer to home, in Spain. The conservative Government has just passed a new law, that was supposed to be vetoed on a secret ballot, meaning that women will only be able to have an abortion in the cases of rape, or if the mother’s mental and physical health is under threat.
The procedure will also need the approval of two doctors. Previously, women had been able to have an abortion up to 14 weeks and up to 22 weeks if the mother’s health was at risk. 16 and 17 year olds will now have to obtain their parents permission to have an abortion. Campaigners are worried that this will cause an increase in dangerous illegal abortions.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) campaigners are also focusing on England as a report revels 23,000 girls under the age of 15 in England and Wales are at risk from the practice. The FGM act of 2003 makes this illegal but immigrants from FGM practicing countries and their relatives still pose a threat to young girls. Education campaigns on the risks of FGM are being publicised to spread awareness.
But it’s not all bad news, inspirational male and female activists all over the world are dedicating their lives and even putting them at risk to help women and girls all over the world.
Girl Rising is a campaign for promoting girls education all over the world, a topic that has received much publicity over the past year with Malala Yousafzai being nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
As there are 33 million fewer girls in school than boys, this needs to change. The economic and social benefit of education girls needs to promoted and embraced by all countries. The launch of the campaign and film, held in Pakistan, drew in world-renowned actors and film makers, attracting the attention of the world’s media. It documents the lives of nine girls brought up in unforgiving circumstances, showing the courage and determination of them and their families as they overcome the obstacles to live their lives.
France is set to follow suit with Sweden, Iceland and Norway countries as it prepares to change its laws on prostitution, making the buying of sex illegal and not prosecuting the women providing it. It is hoped that women will feel less victimised and will be more encouraged to seek help, as well as blaming the men who go looking for sex. The law is not perfect as it still poses problems for those in the sex industry, but it has kick started the process of seeing prostitutes as more than just .
Amnesty’s student led ‘Wall of Solidarity’ campaign was well-received by activists in Afghanistan. Thousands of students around London had their photo taken with a message in support of peace and equality, which were turned into virtual bricks, and pieced together to form a wall. The publicity has given them hope and confidence to pursue their cause with new enthusiasm, securing women’s rights in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East.