Is mysogyny on the rise across the world? And how would we tell if it was?

Chris K , Rob Knight on Liberal Review and Jonathan Calder have all blogged on the horrific news that a gang rape victim had her punishment, yes, her punishment of 90 lashes increased to 200 for having the cheek to appeal her sentence.

And last week, we heard reports from the Chief of Police in Basra that 42 women in the city had been murdered between July and September for not covering up; which makes me wonder how many women had been beaten or assaulted for the same ‘crimes’? This is not just happening to Muslim women but Christian women as well.

And there! We can see the game is given away; because this sort of behaviour towards women is not as a result of religion as often assumed, but, as a result of militant misogyny.

The UN undertakes country comparisons related to Gender as part of their reports on Human Development. There is the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and also the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). The GDI measures all the same things as the Human Development Index but just splits them by gender, male and female. The second, GEM, looks at the proportion of women that work as political representatives, or are managers, senior officials or work in professional or technical positions. Now, it very easy to pick many, many holes in these two measures and some of the assumptions around what is deemed as being ‘developed’; but they’re there and they’re better than nothing.

But they miss out the day to day impact, which the two examples of rampant misogyny above, have on normal women’s lives. ‘Cos, you see, wonderful though it is that 33% of Iraq’s MPs are women (just under twice as many as in the UK), that doesn’t seem to be helping the women of Basra right now. There will be no direct reduction in the GEM of Iraq as a result of these killings even though, I would suggest that women are seriously less empowered now than they were 4 years ago, as a result.

And of course, Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to be empowered at all, but there is a different between a woman getting gang raped and given 90 lashes and one being given 200 lashes. Again, I can’t see where this sort of degradation in women’s rights and quality of life are being measured – although, if anyone does, then do let me know!

I think its time we have a different sort of measure of women’s freedom and rights; one that measures the qualitative impact of misogyny on women’s lives. So one might be able to see that in recent years, Afghanistan’s has gone up as women are at least now allowed out of the house but Iraq’s has gone down because of the type of thing that is happening in Basra. I am not suggesting that this would be easy to do, but we need more than a clutch of newspaper reports to measure these things.

And in the UK, well how does the fact that so few reported rapes actually end in any sort of conviction (5.3% this year, when it used to be 33% in the 70’s) figure in any UN measure of women’s empowerment? Or the fact that so many people think that a women who goes out late at night holds some sort of responsibility for her rape, if she is raped.

Next Saturday, 24th November will be the ‘Reclaim the Night” march in London at 6pm; last time over 1200 women marched in support of women’s right to go out onto the street free from fear of violence or rape.

Our misogyny may not be hard coded into our penal system as in Saudi and thankfully the women of London are not subject to militia’s going around killing us for being ‘inappropriately dressed’ as in Basra but there’s still plenty of misogyny here, if 1 in 8 men think it’s Ok to hit a woman if she’s been nagging or if a third of us, both men and women, think a women is partly responsible for her own rape if she flirts, has been drinking or is dressing sexily.

Sometimes, it feels to me that as Liberal Democrats see feminism as surplus to requirements, because as liberals we would not discriminate against anybody of whatever sex; but on days like today I know that if we are going to achieve better lives for women all over the world we have to be clear and say that feminism has a vital role to play and has a long way to go before misogyny is overcome; we need to be proud to be feminsts!! Laws (of the legal rather than the David kind) help but they are not enough.


Tristan said...
19 Nov 2007, 12:54:00

I would caution against despair that things like this are on the increase. Its likely that we are seeing a greater reporting of such cases.

Also, elsewhere in the world women are being treated far better than at any time in the past.

Of course, any cases are cause for concern and unforgivable, but at least we are now hearing about it, which is the first step to doing something about it...

(trying to optimistic here, it doesn't do to be pessimistic all the time...)

Anonymous said...
22 Nov 2007, 23:20:00

If misogyny is on the rise, it's because of growing awareness of false abuse allegations, and the refusal of governments to punish false accusers. Deal with those problems and the public anger will subside.

Left Lib said...
3 Dec 2007, 23:19:00

The Iraqi government does not have much power or influence. The real power in Iraq is in the hands of criminals, terrorists and religious fundamentalists.
The reputation of the west in the region is a poor one, particularly given their inability to resolve the Arab - Isreali conflict. In the case of the US, that is because they have sided with Isreal.
It is not at all surprising that in a democracy the Iraqis would reject western values at the first opportunity, and unfortunately that means women's rights.
Ironic when you think about it. Under Saddam Hussein's terrible dictatorship, Iraqi woman had more rights than most women in the region. Democracy has directly undermined those rights that women once had. A failed state is worse than a totalitarian state.

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