The Illusion of the International Women’s Day

 

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— By: Alexandra Kinias —

The hype over the International Women’s Day [IWD] has subsided and men are free again to abuse and mistreat women for the next 364 days. I don’t mean to be satirical over this international event nor is my intention to undermine the global efforts to improve women’s conditions and status worldwide. Yet, I have mixed feelings regarding the dedication of certain days to celebrate one cause or another. And IWD is not exempt; not that I disregard the attention that celebrating this day brings to many women’s causes.

Such celebrations remind me of a time when I was growing up in Egypt where the Egyptian government celebrated the ‘Traffic Week’. Not for just a day, but every year, traffic police forces, on full alert, patrolled the streets, to bring law and order – For One Week. They enforced traffic laws, issued tickets for violations and the television broadcast public awareness programs on safe driving and road etiquette. No doubt that such event was created with good intentions, yet it was a total farce. Once the ‘Traffic Week’ was over, the streets of Egypt were left in extreme chaos for 51 weeks. And today Egypt is ranked among the highest countries in the world for road fatalities.

IWD falls under the same category as the ‘Traffic Week’. The only time that traffic came to order was when the government of Egypt decided to take action and punish the violators. And the same goes for women’s issues. With all due respect to the money and efforts spent, nothing really is accomplished until governments intervene to not only issue laws that protect women, but also to enforce them.

I fail to see how conferences and seminars where someone picks the tabs for all the attendees’ flights, accommodations and per diem in a five stars hotel in Europe or the U.S. would benefit an eleven years old girl forced into marriage in a remote village in Yemen or Afghanistan. The monthly income of these girls’ households is often less than the room rates in the hotels where the dignitaries meet.

And while the dignitaries are annually celebrating women’s days, in luxurious hotels worldwide, crimes are still committed against women in every corner of the world. In Afghanistan, in February 2014, a new law passed by the parliament that bans the relatives of an accused person to testify against them. This law is a major setback for the efforts that had been exhausted in fighting violence against women over the last two decades. Afghanistan is a country plagued by honor killing crimes, forced marriages of minors and domestic violence. This law will silence the victims, as these women will no longer be able to bring their attackers – who are usually a family member – to justice. [1]

In Egypt, on the other hand, a doctor will be prosecuted for homicide on charges of killing a 13 years-old-girl. The young victim died in his clinic after she underwent the brutal procedure of female genital mutilation [FGM]. The law that banned FGM under which the doctor will be tried passed in 2008, yet it went into effect in 2014, when the government of Egypt took action to enforce it. [2]

At midnight on March 8th, the IWD was officially over. The lights were turned off in the conference halls. The microphones were switched off, and Facebook profile pictures, of IWD’s supporters, were changed. And from there on it is business as usual. The dignitaries flew back to their offices to write reports and recommendations that will be saved in digital files, printed and bind in reports. They will get their promotions and life goes on. All will be forgotten until next year. Meanwhile, women living thousands of miles away from the luxurious hotels where passionate PowerPoint presentations were addressing their issues, will still be raped, abused, killed by a family member, denied their rights to travel without a man’s permission, and girls will have their genitals mutilated and forced into marriages.

References:

1. New Afghanistan law to silence victims of violence against women

2.Egypt launches first prosecution for female genital mutilation after girl dies 

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Filed under Editorial, Violence against women, Women's Rights

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