The America We Are and the America We Want to Be

December 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

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It’s Wednesday morning, November 9th at around 11:30 am, and I’m sitting on my couch still in my pajamas, with puffy, red, tear-filled eyes. I’m exhausted and sad and deflated and confused. My eyes are at a level of red and puffy you get after hearing the faint sound of the flute start to play in “My Heart Will Go On” at the end of Titanic.

I’m clutching a pillow tightly as I watch the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party take the stage to concede the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. A woman I was so sure would be my next president. Sitting in a pool of tears—disillusioned and angry—I listened as Hillary Clinton demanded we fight on.

And as she spoke, it honestly felt like she was speaking directly to me when she said, “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it. And so we need—we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives…”

So as I sat there lamenting on what could have been—day-dreaming about the inauguration of America’s first female president and a promised presidential cabinet with an equal number of men and women—I began pondering what I, a twenty-two-year-old graduate student, should be fighting and advocating for. Of course, there are countless civil and social issues that need passionate advocates, but as a woman, I thought of the many issues that were at the forefront of gender inequality in the United States.

As the days wore on and acceptance set in, I braved the hollows of social media and was encouraged to see groups of women joining together to work through the question, “What now?” This has led me to wonder, could this be a catalyst for a new feminist movement in the United States?

So gals, if this is the beginning of a new women’s movement, then what exactly do we need to be fighting for? Let’s take a quick look at where America is now in terms of issues that are at the forefront of gender inequality:  

  • Epidemic of Sexual Assault on College Campuses

“Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males’ experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” [1]

  • Rate of Intimate Partner Violence  

“On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men…1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime…1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” [2]

  • Gender Pay Gap Between Men and Women

“According to the White House, full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn. This means that women have to work approximately 60 extra days, or about three months, to earn what men did by the end of the previous year. However, our own estimate, which is based on hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers, finds women earn 84 percent of what men earn. Based on our estimate, it would take approximately 40 days, or until the end of February, for women to earn what men had by the end of last year.” [3]

  • No National Paid Maternity Leave

“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied paid maternity leave for about 34 OECD countries — advanced nations — and seven additional European Union countries. On average across OECD countries, mothers are entitled to 17 weeks of paid maternity leave. The United States is the only country with no national law to provide that benefit. According to the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, the United States and New Guinea are the two countries out of 170 that provide no cash benefits of any kind to women during maternity leave. Of the 41 other developed countries highlighted by the report, the United States also mandates the shortest period of time off — 12 weeks.” [4]

  • Lack of Women in Leadership Positions in Both Private and Public Sector  

“Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions: They are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. They hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats…Women today hold only 18.5 percent of congressional seats, and they are just 20 percent of U.S. senators. They hold only 24.2 percent of state legislature seats. They are only 10 percent of governors. Only 12 percent of the mayors of the 100 largest American cities are women.” [5]

  • Objectification of Women in Media

“Women have often been cast, unfairly, in submissive roles in society. They have always been judged on a certain standard of beauty, which can vary from culture to culture. Women seem to be more valued for their looks and body image, while men are valued for their intelligence and ability to achieve wealth and power…Statistics show that 53% of 13-year-old American females are self-conscious about their bodies; the number grows to 78% by the age of 17. It stands to reason that being bombarded with media images that represent an unattainable standard with respect to appearance would engender feelings of insecurity.” [6]

These statistics are just a select few of the numerous issues plaguing gender equality in the United States today. This is the America we are, but it’s not the America we want to be. In fact, it’s not even the America we need to be.

We must stop looking at our beloved country through red, white, and blue colored glasses and open our eyes to its imperfections. Let’s celebrate our successes and freedoms, while acknowledging our many flaws.

Work together to decrease the unacceptable rate of sexual assault on college campuses. Speak out against intimate partner violence. Actively fight for equal pay for men and women. Demand our elected representatives acknowledge our lack of national paid maternity leave. Empower the capable women around us to pursue positions in leadership.

And finally, let us ensure that each and every woman in our life knows that she matters, both her voice and her spirit. Remind her she is so much more than her outward appearance.

This is my America and it is your America.

Let us advocate together, women and men to make our country a better place. Let us stand together to actively fight against injustice and inequality. Allow this election to be a catalyst for a new women’s movement.

Let’s fight gals, because it’s worth it.

*Note: Please see resources at the end*

 

Ways to get involved in the fight for gender equality:

  • Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2016:

On November 15, 2016, the US House of Representatives passed HR 5332, which builds on the National Action Plan on Women that was proposed by Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State.

If you want to call you senator to request their support for this bill: 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard)

Find out more:

HR 5332: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5332

Details of HR 5332: https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/us-house-passes-bipartisan-women-peace-security-act/

 

  • The American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Grassroots organization that works to empower women through a variety of programs.

http://www.aauw.org/issues/

 

  • Inclusive Security

Organization that seeks to “change the international security paradigm”

https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/about-us/what-we-do/

—by MPL

 

References:

[1] Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence

[2] National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics

[3] Gender Pay Gap (2015)

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

[4] Greeberg, Jon. (2016) Yes, the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/25/kirsten-gillibrand/yes-us-only-industrialized-nation-without-paid-fam/

[5] Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap (2014) Center for American Progress

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/

[6] Objectifying Women – We Don’t Have to Accept It (2015). Nobullying.com

https://nobullying.com/objectifying-women/#

Most Prevalent Issue of 2016: ISIS

November 28, 2016 § 1 Comment

In 2014, after ISIS fighters invaded the Nineveh province in Iraq and kidnapped thousands of Yezidis, these ISIS fighters sexually tortured the Yezidi women and girls (2). ISIS fighters raped the captives repeatedly, justifying their actions it by saying that Islam allows sex with slaves or women who don’t subscribe to ISIS’s idea of Islam (1).

After systemic rape and physical abuse, ISIS then forced women, even little girls, into marriages or sold them as sexual slaves to other buyers (2). ISIS used social media sites, such as Facebook, to sell the women in order to fund their campaign (1). In one case, a fighter was trying to sell girls on Facebook for $8,000 each, with guidelines for what horrendous acts were “allowed” to be committed against the girls being sold (2).

Hundreds of Yezidi women and girls have escaped captivity and returned to their homes, sometimes through the help of others. One man, Abdullah Shrem, and a team of smugglers dedicated themselves to saving Yezidi captives from ISIS (4). Per CNN’s report, he has rescued 240 Yezidis so far, although it has not been easy due to the dangers of smuggling people through ISIS territory (4).

Many people worried that girls and women who returned from captivity would be subject to further hardship due to the stigma attached to women who have experienced sexual violence. Blessedly, there has been a concerted effort in the Yezidi community to welcome the returning escapees despite their experience (3). Despite these efforts, these women still face hardships from the ineffective and insufficient healthcare in Kurdistan. Many also lack familial support as their family members are still lost, enslaved, or dead (2, 3). There are still hundreds of missing Yezidis being sold online, but the Human Rights Watch urges local and international leaders to pressure ISIS to release civilians and stop their tortures and the sex slave trade (2). We hope that people’s efforts to save Yezidi women and other captives will continue and be fruitful.  

We awarded “Most Prevalent Issue 2016” to this case to bring attention to the plight of Yezidi women, and to highlight that slavery is still rampant in this war-torn area. Rape is a recognized weapon of war and condemned by the international community. ISIS fighters are violating not only Yezedi women, but international conventions on conduct in wartime. We hope to bring this matter to the broader attention of the world to end the violation of women and use of rape as a weapon during war and conflict.

jeni-casera2

 

—by RNP

  1. Warrick, Joby. “ISIS Fighters Seem to Be Trying to Sell Sex Slaves Online.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 28 May 2016. Web. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/isis-fighters-appear-to-be-trying-to-sell-their-sex-slaves-on-the-internet/2016/05/28/b3d1edea-24fe-11e6-9e7f-57890b612299_story.html
  2. Human Rights Watch. “Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape.” Human Rights Watch. 14 April 2015. Web. https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape
  3. Braunschweiger, Amy. “Interview: These Yezidi Girls Escaped ISIS. Now What?” Human Rights Watch. 2015. Web. http://features.hrw.org/features/Interview_These_Yezidi_Girls_Escaped_ISIS/index.html
  4. Damon, Arwa, Hamdi Alkhshali, and Bryony Jones. “Meet the Man Saving Yazidi Slaves from ISIS.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2 June 2016. Web. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/02/middleeast/saving-yazidi-captives-from-isis/index.html.

Refugee Survivors

November 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Men who have died for the service of their country are usually the first to come to mind when people think of victims of war. The effects of war and conflict on women are an afterthought. Women and girls left behind become the refugees of another nation – if not multiple nations.

These women, girls, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and female cousins live on without their sons and fathers, their brothers and uncles. They endured the terrors of war alone, surviving the savagery of rape and sexual assault prevalent throughout war and conflict (Botelho, 2014; Hall, 2014). Conflict forced these young girls, intelligent women and strong grandmothers to desert their homes, flee from their country and find peace elsewhere.

These honorable women deserve recognition equal to that of the men who have fought for their country.

I must elaborate why these women are personally honorable. This past summer I volunteered with an organization that works with refugees who are survivors of torture. As a volunteer driver, I drove refugees to and from appointments. It was a daunting task, especially because I only speak English. I felt humbled interacting with these women, knowing every person I encountered was a survivor of torture.

What I learned was not that these people are first refugees, tortured survivors, and finally people. There are, first and foremost, humans—humans who happened to survive torture and are refugees in this country.

One woman I gave a ride to was in extreme pain. I specifically remember driving significantly slower over bumps or sewage holes in the road to minimalize her pain. I got out of my car and opened her door when we arrived. She didn’t know me. We couldn’t speak the same language. But when she looked me in the eyes, she hit me on the shoulder as anyone would with a friend, and we laughed together.

I do not know her story, or where she was from. I did know this much, however—she was a person far from her home, displaced because of conflict, war, and suffering. I do not know if she had been raped—not just one time but multiple times—as a young Yadizi woman was (Hall, 2014). I do not know what caused the pain she felt.

But in that moment, I did know this woman was, yes, a refugee, but more importantly a person that survived, and still survives. I honor her and all the other women–young, teenaged, middle-aged, and elderly, who survive and seek refuge today.

—by MLFD

[1] Botelho, G. (2014), Cnn, http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/12/world/meast/isis-justification-female-slaves/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

[2] Hall, J. (2014). ISIS releases sickening video clip showing syrian woman being stoned to death by group of men – including her own father. Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2801575/isis-releases-sickening-video-clip-showing-syrian-woman-stoned-death-group-men-including-father.html

Political Gender Gap under Female Presidents: Taiwan

November 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

Men and women are considered to have different strengths when it comes to politics—women make better compromisers while men take more risks. The problem is that we don’t see many women represented in political positions, particularly in positions where the woman has to be appointed.

Over the summer I lived in Taiwan during the inauguration of Taiwan’s first democratically elected female president, Cai Yingwen. Reporters from all over the world came to document this historic moment that signified a new era of progress for all Asian countries.

I could not help but ask local Taiwanese their opinion of Cai Yingwen. No one seemed shocked or worried that their president was a female. Because she was only recently elected and unable to create instant stability, many Taiwanese people responded with uncertainty. They wanted her to improve their economy. Many people did not feel particularly partial or impartial towards her, but a phrase often repeated was that the “younger generation” really supports her.

I wanted to know if the election of Cai Yingwen would result in more women representatives in Taiwan. Professor Ping Tung from the National Pingtung University and UN representative for Taiwanese aboriginals informed me that, since the inauguration of Cai Yingwen, the number of women in a 40-seat cabinet had actually decreased from eight women to four women.

CEDAW in Action (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) writes,

“Tsai’s gender equality policy in 2012 promised that the gender ratio in governments — whether local or central, and regardless of pay grade — would at least be one-third women, but the last time there were so few women in the Cabinet was under then-premier Vincent Siew in 1997, she wrote. Tsai’s recent predecessors have done better, Lee said, referring to President Ma Ying-jeou and Chen.” (Hui-ping and Chung). This ratio is surprising because cabinet members are appointed by the president on recommendation of premier.

In 2008 Taiwan had one of the highest percentages of women in government in the world. “With a record number of women currently serving in the Cabinet, statistics reveal the ROC ahead of the international curve. Eight women, or 20 percent, currently serve in the Cabinet, and 34 female legislators, or 30 percent, were elected…”

Instead of appointing more women to the Taiwanese cabinet than her previous male counterpoints with a woman at the helm of the Taiwanese state, the reverse has occurred. The election of a female president does not mean an automatic increase of women in government positions.

I know many factors may impact the decrease of women in the cabinet, even with the presence of a female president. But it is surprising.

After seeing this decrease in women in positions of power in Taiwan, I thought about my own country and the new presidency. President-Elect Trump has an entire cabinet to fill. Will there be more women appointed to cabinet seats in the past, or will it continue to be predominantly men?

Before 1993, the percentage of women in the U.S. cabinet never rose above 18%. Under President Bill Clinton, the percentage increased to 32% from 1993-1997, and again to 41% from 1997-2001. After dropping to 19% in 2001 under President George W. Bush, currently under President Obama the percentage is 35%, 6% less than President Clinton. What will President-Elect Trump decide to do?

It is my hope that my country will recognize the importance of gender balance in all government and political bodies. My experience in Taiwan suggests that having a woman in power does not always mean there will be more women appointed in government. President-Elect Trump’s appointee choices may serve as a forecast for the amount of women his administration will employ during the coming years.

Women bring important insights to decision-making and policies that will not be considered with their absence. Women need more representation in the highest government bodies to bring their perspective to discussions about the future of the country.  With such great imbalances between men and women in political bodies, we can only achieve imbalanced policies.

—by BJL

Works Cited:

[1] 2015. Women and Leadership. January 14. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/women-and-leadership/.

[2] Chen, Hui-ping, and Jake Chung. 2016. Women’s Groups Prostest Lack of Women in Cabinet. May 4. Accessed October 22, 2016. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2016/05/04/2003645451.

[3]  Agency, Central Intelligence. 2016. The World Factbook: Executive Branch. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2077.html.

[4] Idiazabal, George. 2010. Taiwan Today. September 24. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=119269&ctNode=449.

[5] Klein, Ezra. 2013. Obama’s record on appointing women is worse than Clinton’s. August 26. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/08/26/obamas-record-on-appointing-women-is-much-worse-than-clintons/.

Sexual Violence and Politics: 2016 Election

November 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

The President of My Childhood

As a young 3rd grader, our teacher gave a box of crayons with an assignment to draw the president of the United States. On my manila paper, I automatically drew a smiling man with a black suit holding an American flag, standing behind a podium giving a speech. This stick figure, with two black rectangles stacked on top of one another for a suit, was the good guy; the best American in the whole country. The words he (now potentially she) would say in his speeches would be inspiring, captivating, and important. Ultimately, he would protect me and all other Americans at a moment’s notice if anyone was ever in danger.

I had never considered as a young girl that sexual violence and sexual harassment could be associated with the potential presidential nominee, let alone the best American in the whole country, who has sworn to protect me and my rights as a citizen. The remarkable trend that is underlying this whole experience that women like me are facing is the American growing perception of how grave a crime like sexual assault is. Digging deeper into this topic is particularly timely, as a majority of the registered voters are women.[i]

We hear about how, “grabbing a woman’s genitals is not sexual assault,”[ii] and how a candidate’s sickness is an indication of their fitness to lead a country,[iii] but we hear far less about issues of significant interest relating to sexual violence that plagues the U.S. and other countries around the world. One such issue is sexual assault in the U.S. military. According to Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans view sexual assault in the military as an extremely or very important issue.[iv] By not responding to these issues, or dismissing these issues as non-relevant will actually negatively affect a presidential candidate’s chances of attaining office. This is highlighted by a uncovered video from years ago showing Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, which produced a wave of revulsion, and many Republicans denounced him with some withdrawing support.[v]

Sexual assault allegations and dug up, vulgar interviews of a presidential candidate are more shocking to the American public because what we see is more transparent than it ever has been before. But what is it about this election that stirs up in us a revulsion towards the offending candidate so much so that this error can cost him a large majority of the female vote?

History and Numbers

Stanford history professor Estelle Freedman, author of “Redefining Rape,” said the Trump tape and the reinvigorated discussion it sparked on how society treats women could lead to the next cultural shift around sexual violence.”[vi] According to Dr. Valerie Hudson of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Trump’s remarks have reinvigorated the modern feminist movement more so than any other previous election.[vii] While these remarks from the presidential candidate are hurtful, abrasive, crude, and hateful towards women, he has indeed sparked a debate that has too long been held in the shadows of American politics.

Sexual violence and harassment not only characterizes the dehumanization of persons, but also infiltrates all aspects of society.[viii] In American Perceptions of Sexual Violence: A FrameWorks Research Report (2010)[ix], from expert interviews, “experts described a ‘ripple effect’ of sexual violence: they listed the costs to the criminal justice and health care systems, the decline in worker productivity, and general feelings of unease among all community residents when violent acts occur, among other impacts.”[x] Thus, it goes without saying, that sexual violence is an extremely important issue and incredibly poignant at this point in the election. If a candidate gets this wrong, it may lose he or she the presidency as this issue feeds into all aspects of a society.

Move Ahead

Regardless of whatever side of the party line we stand on, these considerations are confronting all Americans during this Presidential election season. While we are facing the potential implications of having a head of state who is, unfortunately, associated with sexual harassment and violence against women, there other current heads of states around the world in power today who have been accused of sexual assault or harassment. It takes brave women, like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard calling out a member of the opposition party for his “misogyny,”[xi] to stand up to sexual violence that pervades politics today.

The perpetuation of this violence and harassment affects how women and girls see their potential to run for elected office. Data from the Center for American Women in Politics 2008 survey of 1,268 state legislators shows that “43% of male respondents stated that it was entirely their own idea to run for office, whereas only 26% of female respondents said the same. On the other hand, 53% of female respondents admitted that they had not considered running before someone else suggested it, and just 28% of male respondents had not already considered running.”[xii]

What to do in the face of an ever publicized outcry for justice in the face of sexual violence and harassment by our political leaders? Encourage every girl and young woman, and even current elected official to run for office and pursue their dreams of making a difference at the top-most levels of policy-making. Charge them to not entertain the insults that sting so deep and cause fear to rise within our strong, able bodies, telling us ‘No, you can’t do it, so don’t bother.’ Let them know that this pursuit is brave, noble, and just.

Let it be our goal that the next generation of 3rd graders, crayons in hand, can draw a leader that strives to end the sexual assault and harassment of women. Let our leader be one who protects his or her citizens equally, encouraging and inspiring women, and men, to become leaders for the next generation.

—by MPH

 

[i] Kellman, Laurie. 2015. “Fact Checking Trump’s History of Insulting Women.” PBS NewsHour. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/facti-checking-trumps-history-insulting-women/.

[ii] Redden, Molly. 2016. “Trump backers claim grabbing women’s genitals is not sexual assault.” The Guardian, October 10. Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/10/sexual-assault-definition-trump-comments.

[iii] Kosar. “SHOCKING News Released About Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Health! (BOMBSHELL).” The Political Insider. Accessed October 27, 2016. http://www.thepoliticalinsider.com/shocking-news-released-about-hillary-rodham-clintons-health-bombshell/.

[iv] Pew Research Center. 2013. “Sexual Assault in the Military Widely Seen as Important Issue, But No Agreement on Solution.” Pew Research Center.  Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.people-press.org/2013/06/12/sexual-assault-in-the-military-widely-seen-as-important-issue-but-no-agreement-on-solution/

[v] Graham, David A. 2016. “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet.” The Atlantic. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/donald-trump-scandals/474726/.

[vi] Paquette, Daniel. 2016. “Donald Trump, Michelle Obama and America’s Long Struggle to Define Sexual Violence.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/31/donald-trump-michelle-obama-and-americas-long-struggle-to-define-sexual-violence/

[vii] Asquith, Christina and Valerie Hudson. 2016. “Donald Trump is the Best Thing to Happen to American Women in Decades.” Foreign Policy. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/10/18/donald-trump-is-the-best-thing-to-happen-to-american-women-in-decades-election-feminism-hillary-clinton-sexism-2016/.

[viii] McMahon, Sarah and Karen Baker. 2011. “Changing Perceptions of Sexual Violence Over Time.” VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women and the National Resouce Center on Domestic Violence. Accessed October 28, 2016. http://vawnet.org/material/changing-perceptions-sexual-violence-over-time.

[ix] O’Neil, Moira and Pamela Morgan. 2010. “American Perceptions of Sexual Violence: A FrameWorks Research Report.” The Frameworks Institute. P. 4. Accessed October 28, 2016. http://www.frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/PDF_sexualviolence/AmericanPerceptionsofSexualViolence.pdf.

[x] Ibid. Page 10.

[xi] Ghitis, Frida. 2012. “The Speech Every Woman Should Hear.” CNN. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/18/opinion/ghitis-hypocrisy-womens-vote/.

[xii] Shuttleworth, Rachel. 2016. “Dare to lead and #DeclareYourAmbition!” Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://amysmartgirls.com/dare-to-lead-and-declareyourambition-d493985ab34?list=related#.qdt3k1539.

Women’s Right to Elect Birth Method

October 22, 2016 § 2 Comments

The saying often goes that the end justifies the means. The “end” of improved maternal health seems a worthy candidate for sacrifice, but what if the “means” are denying women the right to choose how they will give birth? And what if the desired end of improved maternal health is actually just a disguised political agenda? This is essentially the current situation for women’s maternal care in Turkey. The book “Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Emerging Sexual and Reproductive Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa” by Wynn and Foster shares research about this phenomenon. This post will share some of their findings and consider some implications a lack of autonomy in choosing maternal health care may have.

Since the discovery of caesarean sections many lives have been saved. According to the World Health Organization, caesarean sections can be life-saving in certain situations such as during abnormal fetal position, prolonged labor, or fetal distress. Furthermore, maternal and newborn survival rates are optimized when country’s caesarean section rate reaches 10%. However, there is no evidence that survival rates increase as the caesarean section rate surpasses 10%.

In fact, a scholarly review by Boutsikou and Malamitsi-Puchner found that caesarean sections increase the likelihood of respiratory problems for the baby. In addition, repeated caesarean sections increase risk for uterine rupture during a subsequent vaginal birth. This condition requires surgical intervention. Caesarean sections also increase the risk for placenta accrete which increases risk for premature delivery. Caesarean sections also tend to limit the number of children a woman has.

Outcomes such as these have led to many countries engaging in an effort to decrease the number of caesarean sections they perform. At first glance, it may seem that Turkey is one of these countries, but it is not what it may seem.

Caesarean sections are popular among women in Turkey and many women would prefer the procedure, but caesarean sections were banned in 2014 unless the health of the mother or the child requires it. Essentially, elective caesarean sections are prohibited. On the surface, it seems that the rationale for this legislation is to optimize women and child health. But rather than improve women and child health, President Erdogan is concerned with his country’s high caesarean section rate because high caesarean sections may decrease the birth rate, which might hinder Turkey’s future economy.

President Erdogan said “We are very sensitive about children Turkey. I love children. In my country I want at least three children for each family. Because I know that we need a young and dynamic population…I declare openly that I am a prime minister who is against delivery by caesarean section.”

Assuming this law is implemented, caesarean sections would decrease in incidence, and consequently, the birth rate would increase. President Erdogan would have his “young and dynamic population.” But the we should consider what the effect on women will be. How will being denied the right to make their own choices about their care affect the kind of mothers and citizens they become? How will that affect the economic future of Turkey? These are the kind of questions that the book sparks.

For full research on the situation in Turkey and other insights on maternal health, keep an eye out for the book “Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Emerging Sexual and Reproductive Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa” scheduled for publishing this December.

—By ENB

 

References

American Pregnancy Association. “Placenta Previa.” APA. Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Boutsikou,T. and A. Malamitsi-Puchner. 2011.“Caesarian Section:Impact on Mother and Child.”Acta Paediatrica 100: 1518-22.

Foster, A. and Wynn L. Abortion Pills, “Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Emerging Sexual and Reproductive Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa.” Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2016.

Khazan, Olga. “Why Most Brazilian Women Get C-Sections.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

VBAC.com. “What Is a Uterine Rupture and How Often Does it Occur?”VBAC.com. 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

World Health Organization, HRP. “WHO Statement on Caesarean Section Rates.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

World Health Organization. “Caesarian Sections Should Only Be Performed When Medically Necessary.” News Release, 10 Apr. Web. 2015.

The WomanStats Awards

October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

The WomanStats Project gives Awards each year to people, organizations, and countries for their achievements in raising the status of women throughout the world. These awards give credit to the people who can inspire us and show us that change for the betterment of women can happen, and indeed is happening.

We also give reprimands for countries and practices that perpetuate harm against women. These awards bring awareness the practices perpetuate harm to women and ask for change.

These are the recipients for our 2015 awards:

For our first category, Three Cheers, we awarded the countries that have made significant advancements in creating a better environment for women. The winners are Nigeria, for their president Goodluck Jonathan banning female genital mutilation, and Gambia for doing the same. While it is very positive that these countries took this step in protecting women’s health, there will still be a lot of work that must be done to change attitudes and practices regarding FGM to follow this new law.

Our second category, Please Reconsider, we give to countries that have perpetuated or worsened gender inequality. The recipient of this award is Sierra Leone for formally banning “visibly pregnant” girls from attending school. Even worse, experts say that girls’ pregnancies in Sierra Leone are usually caused by rape. We hope Sierra Leone will make changes to make their schools and country more hospitable to all girls and victims and survivors of rape.

The third category, What in the World?, goes to strange stories or practices related to gendered issues. The recipient is a practice in India where men marry multiple women just so they can collect water during droughts while the first wife takes care of all other responsibilities. Changing social, political, and, especially in this case, environmental circumstances can alter the manifestations of the devaluation of women. The gender expectation that women will collect water is used in this case to treat women as servants.  

The fourth category, Missing Data, which is given to countries that have a significant lack of data on women’s experience in their country. The countries that received this are Vanuatu, South Sudan, Kosovo, Suriname, Guinea-Bissau, Pakistan, Swaziland, Solomon Islands, Djibouti, and Luxembourg. The WomanStats Project is continually seeking data for these countries (and others) for our many variables and we are always accepting data from qualified sources.

Fifth is “Best Advocate for Gender Equality” which goes to NGOs, individuals, and other organizations that are contributing to the fight for gender equality. This year the winner was Dalit Women Fight, an NGO that brings awareness to and protesting caste discrimination and more specifically sexual assault of women from the Dalit, or “untouchable,” caste in India. They hold Self-Respect Marches to bring the government’s failings regarding sexual assault to light. They are currently touring in the United States all throughout October to combine their efforts and spread their cause across a wider support group. http://www.dalitwomenfight.com/

Sixth, the category is “Film of the Year,” which awards films that portray women’s stories, from history, the present, or fiction, well. This year we awarded He Named Me Malala. This documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, is about the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai. It shares her personal and political journey to her present activism for girls’ right to education.

Seventh, “He for She” goes to outstanding male advocates for gender equality. We chose Lieutenant General David Morrison, a retired Australian Chief of Army, for his condemnation for sexism and sexual harassment in the military, which he shared through a YouTube video that became viral. His condemnation causes us to look at our own militaries and how they all are culpable of levels of sexism within and make strong stances against discrimination.

Eighth, the category “SHEro of the Year” goes to outstanding female advocates for gender equality. In 2015, we awarded Inkosi Kachindamoto, Malawian Senior Chief, who ended (at least) 330 child marriages and she banned child marriage in Malawi. Most of the girls who are forced into early marriage get pregnant and must drop out of school, leaving them uneducated and without future prospects. Better educated women create stronger communities and empower women. Chief Kachindamoto is directly helping keeping girls in school, when previous to her decision, only 45% of girls stayed in school past 8th grade.

The ninth category is “Most Creative Approach to Ending Gender Inequality,” which we award to people and organizations that utilize different and new methods to promote gender equality. The winner was Sheroes’ Hangout in Agra India, which is a café run completely by women who have survived acid attacks that have left them with scars. Their goal is to foster a community of confidence for women who have been disfigured and normalize acid scars so that women who have them will not be ashamed of their own appearance.

The tenth, and last, award is “Most Prevalent Issue of the Year,” which is a look back at the most widely-discussed or worrying political, social, or moral issue that have affected women. This year we chose the ISIS-led mass kidnapping and rapes of specifically Yazidi women, as well as others, in ISIS-occupied Iraq and Syria. These women were horrifically tortured and raped and were also sold as sex slaves to various buyers in order to fund ISIS fighters. Hussein Alqaidi, Director of the Office of Kidnapped Affairs in Kurdistan, said that 3,735 are still captive and 1,882 of them are girls and women. Families have to buy back their captive family members in order to rescue them but this is becoming increasingly difficult. More information on the issue can be found here: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/10/yazidis-hope-rescue-isil-held-family-members-161005123206084.html

To see more information and sources on the winners and recipients of these awards, go to the WomanStats 2015 Award page here: http://www.womanstats.org/awards2015.html

Please also submit nominations for the 2016 awards here: http://ow.ly/LKn5303JURy

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