LIFESTYLE

12 Issues Facing Women That Are Just As (If Not More) Important Than Body Image

05/03/2015 11:35 GMT | Updated 05/03/2015 17:59 GMT

This feature has been specially commissioned by Jameela Jamil as part of her guest editorship of HuffPost UK Lifestyle for International Women's Day.

Women are constantly fed messages by the media that suggest being slim and young is the key to beauty and success. So naturally, feminists regularly talk about body image.

We talk about the unrealistic expectations placed on women. We talk about skinny shaming. We talk about fat shaming. And we talk about everything else in between.

With around one in every 250 women estimated to suffer from an eating disorder, discussions around body image are undeniably important.

But body image isn't the only challenge facing women. There are many, many other issues out there that rarely get the media coverage they deserve.

So here are 12 issues facing women that we need to give equal focus to, not just on International Women's Day, but the rest of the year:

1. Domestic Violence

violence against women

Around one in four women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes.

According to new research, women who suffer at the hands of domestic violence are stuck in their situation for nearly three years, on average, before getting the help they need.

More than 85% of victims are in contact with professionals - on average five times - in the year before they get help.

As Diana Barran, SafeLives' chief executive, said last week, it is simply not acceptable that victims should have to try to get help repeatedly.

But with more and more women's shelters being closed every year due to budget cuts, immediate and apparent help is becoming less likely than ever.

2. Female genital mutilation (FGM)

fgm

FGM is a global problem. The World Health Organisation estimates that three million girls undergo some form of the procedure every year in Africa alone.

But it's also at our back door.

Here in the UK, the Home Office estimates that 170,000 girls and women living in the UK are survivors of the practice, with 65,000 girls under the age of 13 being at risk - these are the highest figures of any EU country.

In July, David Cameron hosted the first Girl Summit along with UNICEF, and we thought the issue of FGM was finally going to be tackled both here in the UK and abroad.

But since then, the subject seems to have dropped off the radar once again.

3. Breastfeeding

In December Louise Burns was asked to cover herself with a napkin while she breastfed her child in Claridge's Hotel. She was made to feel "humiliated" as though feeding her child in public - a completely natural thing to do - was somehow wrong.

Since then, mothers across the word have shown their support for public breastfeeding by posting brelfies (breastfeeding selfies) and Prime Minister David Cameron has said it's "totally unacceptable" for mothers to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding their babies in public.

But more still needs to be done to end the sexualisation of women's bodies and quash any stigma still attached to breastfeeding.

4. Sex-selective abortions

female foetus

Sex-selective abortion is illegal in the UK, but figures from 2014 suggested the practice had become so prevalent in the UK that between 1,400 and 4,700 females had disappeared from the national census records of England and Wales.

MPs recently rejected a proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, to clarify in law that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal in the UK. Many MPs (and journalists) raised concerns that the amendment was a move towards limiting women's abortion rights in the UK.

"Crucially this bill implies specific protection for foetuses in the event that they are aborted for sex-selective reasons, thereby giving rights to some foetuses in some circumstances," Lisa Hallgarten wrote on the New Statesman.

But that doesn't change the fact that around the world, female foetuses are aborted on the grounds that a male child is considered preferable to a daughter.

Clearly, we need to find a way to tackle the underlying issue.

5. Catcalling

nyc woman

Compared to some of these issues on this list, you may be inclined to say catcalling is "not a big deal." After all, its not a matter of life and death, is it? "Roll your eyes and ignore it" you may add.

But in November a man who was almost killed for defending his girlfriend against a cat caller.

Catcalling is no laughing matter. Nor is it a compliment.

When a woman secretly filmed herself walking round New York City in October, she was catcalled a total of 100 times in 10 hours. The video soon went viral, presumably because a lot of women can relate.

6. Trafficking

sad woman alone bed

Men, women and children are trafficked within their own countries and across international borders. According to charity Stop The Traffik, the practice affects every continent and every country - that most definitely includes the UK.

According to Equality Now, 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor and trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

They say women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

7. Stalking and harassment

stalker

According to Women's Aid, stalking is one of the most common types of abuse.

Government figures support the claim, showing around one in 25 women aged 16-59 are a victim of stalking every year.

Recently, police said the number of women being stalked is growing due to the internet.

A source said to the Express: ""The prevalence and popularity of social networking sites means that stalking can be done at the touch of a button, rather than the old style of stalking, which involved waiting at someone's house and following them wherever they went."

8. Boko Haram

On 14 April 2014, 276 School girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.

The world was outraged by the kidnappings - initially at least - with high profile people such as Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai showing their support for the #BringBackOurGirls champaign.

But the media interest has all but disappeared, despite the fact that approximately 230 of the girls are still missing.

As Yousafzai said last month: "These young women risked everything to get an education that most of us take for granted. I will not forget my sisters. We cannot forget them.

"We must demand their freedom until they are reunited with the families and back in school, getting the education they so desperately desire."

9. Low rape conviction rate

violence against women

Reports suggest the conviction rate for rape is criminally low. Estimates suggest 12,000 men and 85,000 women on average are raped in England and Wales every year, but only 1,070 rapists are convicted of their crime.

An average of just 15,670 rapes are reported to the police each year.

Until something is done to eradicate the culture of victim-blaming in the UK, this is unlikely to change.

10. Poor Parliamentary representation

ed miliband

In the UK, 77% of MPs are men. The House of Commons is made up of 502 men and 148 women.

The imbalance in other parts of the world is even more shocking, so it's not surprising that women's issues so often fail to be the priority.

The 50:50 parliament campaign aims to address the problem in the UK - if women are to be taken seriously, we need more women in the positions that matter the most.

11. Gender pay gap

man and women office

Women now make up 47% of the UK workforce, but figures from 2014 show that for every pound a man makes, a woman will only earn 80p.

Currently, the average British woman earns £2.53 less than the average British man per hour.

Unfortunately, it's a similar story in America.

12. Trolling

man sat computer dark

In 2014 the #GamerGate furore confirmed that online trolling is becoming a huge problem for women.

Female game developer Brianna Wu fled her home after receiving rape and death threats online. Developer Zoe Quinn also received graphic threats before details of her home address were posted on social media.

The threats made over #GamerGate almost certainly echo the threats female journalists, authors and campaigners faced the previous year.

We cannot assume that trolling has nothing to do with us because it happens to "other women."

Each and every topic in this list is about silencing and intimidating women into not having a voice - and that affects every child and woman in the world.

HuffPost UK Lifestyle are running a month-long campaign during March called All Women Everywhere, championing women from all walks of life. If you would like to contribute, please email us here.

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