Crime: being female. Punishment: death
In the United States 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2013. There is no reason to think that statistic has changed, because our entire culture believes, deep down, that women are intrinsically worth less than men.
Buttressed by bible statements ripped out of context and horrifying rhetoric from those we elect to high office, many Americans – both male and female – feel that it is right to privilege men over women, and to overlook violence inflicted upon women’s bodies, minds, and spirits. As a theologian, this breaks my heart. As an American, I feel terribly, terribly ashamed.
Listen to this young woman’s story, if you can bear to. Also note her punishment for daring to speak out against her abuser:
To me, the failure of her friends to support her and of her school to protect her, was almost as horrifying as her abuse. Women who break the silence to tell their stories, face this reality every day.
Some have called the systemic evils that afflict women and girls a “War on Women,” but there is a key difference between war and what is happening to women now:
War is between two armed parties. You don’t get to call it war, if one of the sides is totally unarmed. In that case, it’s called genocide.
Sometimes the violence begins even earlier. The intentional abortion of a female fetus in order to ‘try for a boy,’ is widespread in China due to a strong cultural preference for boys. Coupled with China’s “one child” policy, this attitude is fatal to one out of 6 females. Girls are routinely aborted, abandoned at birth, or simply killed. 1.1 million female lives are lost in this way every year.
It’s not only China. In India, one girl is aborted every minute, simply because she is a girl. This, in spite of laws that make sex-selective abortion illegal. But laws mean little unless they are enforced, and an estimated 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population due to gendercide.
Call it war or gendercide, it must stop. And it CAN be stopped. Really.
In 1990, South Korea’s record of gendercide was almost as dismal as China’s. However, by 2007 their male-to-female ratios at birth had normalized. South Korea remains the only country in modern history to achieve this – and they did it in less than 20 years!
This incredible change was driven by strictly enforced laws against sex-selective abortions and infanticide. The government also eliminated its one-child policy, focusing instead on better family planning, maternal and child health care, and a public awareness campaign anticipating the shortage of brides.
These reforms were not undertaken for noble purposes; women there are still heavily devalued relative to men. But the reforms were a nod to the reality that faces everyone: women are needed. When women die, we all die.
Reforms are possible. With the results of the last election boding ill for respect and dignity for women and girls, it is now more important than ever to work for change in America.
Because it does.