Another decade closes, another decade dawns, another thing you can bet on in the years to come: women across this planet will be disrespected, beaten, abused, violated, oppressed. Simply for being born female.
I have one child, a daughter. Not yet 2. But I know full well that her gender automatically brings with it the likelihood that at some point (perhaps at many points), she'll be treated like a second-class citizen. I'll do what I can to prepare her for it.
I was speaking at a conference recently and said that the great travesty of human existence is the pervasive mistreatment of women and the fact that to this day it goes on -- and it goes largely unmentioned.
It may be less overt in some places and some cases and there's no denying progress on the interminable march to equality. But as we hurtle -- or should I say stumble -- into a new decade, one thing you can be sure of (aside from death and taxes) is that women's rights and women's bodies will be violated again and again.
Nothing illustrates it more starkly than this:
Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore. Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. "We don't know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear," said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo's rape epidemic. "They are done to destroy women."
13-year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped. Reports indicate that she was raped by three men while traveling by foot to visit her grandmother in Mogadishu. When she went to the authorities to report the crime, they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium of 1,000 onlookers as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her until she died. A witness who spoke to the BBC's Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium. ... She said: 'I'm not going, I'm not going. Don't kill me, don't kill me.' "A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her." The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was "awful".
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That's more than 600 women every day.
That's the violent aspect of the problem. There's also the full range of sexism that manifests itself in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the wage gap, the gender barriers that became a central issue at the end of the 2008 primaries when my former employer, Hillary Clinton, spoke about 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. The vicious sexist attacks she endured are etched into my heart and brain.
And is anyone surprised that 2009's health insurance debate is ending with this: "Once again, at the final hour, women's rights and access have been traded away..." - Cecile Richards
It's the story of our lives.
So to my brothers, I say: let's start this new decade by vowing above all else to respect and honor our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and prove my prediction wrong.