This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It is a time to celebrate the lives of women and to renew our commitment to women’s human rights throughout the world.
That it is even necessary to have such a day should give us pause. There is not, after all, an International Men’s Day. But the truth is that while women may be half of the world’s population, they most assuredly are not equal stakeholders when it comes to human rights and empowerment.
Here in the U.S., women’s reproductive health rights are under sustained siege as never before. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan women are raped with impunity. In Mexico and Guatemala, thousands of women have gone missing and been brutally murdered and the perpetrators roam freely. Honor killings continue to be a huge problem in the Middle East and female genital mutilation is still a common practice in many parts of Africa. In southeast Asia and eastern Europe, women are trafficked into sexual slavery. In India there are dowry murders.
The above isn’t even close to an exhaustive list of human rights violations perpetrated against women, but merely serves to illustrate that misogyny in its many guises is globally systemic. There are so many people working to stop these atrocities, but yet they continue unabated, year in and year out for the very simple reason that putting a halt to them challenges the patriarchal power structure that controls our world.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of tackling even one of the problems discussed above. The idea of addressing them in their entirety seems beyond human power. But indeed, for women to be fully empowered, we must insist that the connections between individual misogynies be made and that the problem be addressed in full. And yes, that implies profound changes for both men and women, but they are changes for the common good and on this 100th anniversary of IWD, we must find the will to make it so. Anything less imperils us all.