Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some News on Violence Against Women

1.  This picture, from Ms. Foundation for Women, gives quite a nice summary of the television coverage concerning the Steubenville rape sentencing:

As I wrote before, think whether such things would be reported about someone who got his wallet stolen while inebriated, or about his hypothetical young attackers.

2.  When I read about this year's meeting of the UN Commission of the Status of Women  which did, happily, end up with a document aimed at reducing violence against women, I noticed that the group of countries which opposed such a document didn't just include the usual suspects (the Vatican, Iran and some other Muslim countries) but also Russia.  In addition to that, Egypt's new government was vocal in its opposition to the document.

About the latter:

It's not just Russia, Iran and the Vatican that are alarmed at the prospect of gender equality and women living lives free of violence. They found an ally in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which issued one of the most odious – and telling – responses to the CSW, claiming:
"This declaration, if ratified, would lead to the complete disintegration of society."
Why? Because, according to the Brotherhood, the proposed language granted women basic sexual rights and bodily autonomy; gave wives the right to report marital rape and requires law enforcement "to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger"; required equal inheritance rights for men and women; replaced "guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women such as: spending, child care and home chores"; recognized the rights of marginalized groups like lesbians, trans women and sex workers; and removed "the need for a husband's consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception".

But it was Russia's new fervor in this camp which interested me the most.  After all, Egypt was pretty predictable, given who is in power there, but Putin has been in power in Russia (whether formally or not) for a very long time.  So how come this shift in Russia's policies?

What I found in my research is the argument that Putin doesn't like abortion or homosexuality because he wants people to have more children.  As is the custom in such cases, the government tries to pressure women (and men) into doing that or tries to make not doing that impossible.  The government (as is also the global custom in almost all such cases) refuses to try to understand why people have fewer children and what could be done to change that, if so desired:

Russia's difficulties with language on sexual, reproductive and gay rights appears to be driven by what critics have described as a bid by President Vladimir Putin to shore up support in his country's largely conservative society.
Putin has criticized gays for failing to help reverse a population decline. Putin has also drawn closer to the Russian Orthodox Church, one of the most influential institutions in Russia.
 On the positive side, the document was adopted, and:

Suffice it to say that bringing all 193 countries into consensus wasn't easy, and it didn't happen without hard work and drama. There were many member states who expressed reservations about the document, including Russia and the non-voting but permanent member, the Holy See.
Those who disagreed most vehemently with the UN's Commission on the Status of Women's document were mostly from conservative Muslim countries, which focused their ire on references to women's sexual and reproductive rights, and equality in marriage and other human rights. There were moments during the negotiations when media reports from Egypt grew inflammatory, with the Muslim Brotherhood proclaiming that adopting such a proposal would result in "the compete disintegration of Egyptian society." Well, Egyptian women would have none of that. Protests erupted in Egypt, and work at the UN continued.
The strong-willed women, girls, and men at the conference were determined to work through the many complications, cultural differences, and language nuances, and dedicated the long hours it took to tediously parse every paragraph -- word by word, to arrive at a document that could finally be adopted by all 193 countries. In the end, the only member state that apparently didn't agree to the final document was Libya, and they, gratefully, did not block adoption of the 18-page text.