The Blog

Patriachy Is Political


For generations women's rights campaigners have been working to create a world where there is greater gender equity and parity.

But across the world there have been growing signs that hard fought gains are in danger of being rolled back.

It is not just the rhetoric that has evolved. Women's human rights are in danger of being reversed. Women cannot be complacent.

This week in Russia lawmakers are being urged to back a bill that will decriminalise almost all acts of violence in the home.

Ultra conservatives in the country say the state should not interfere in the 'rights and life' of the family. Instead men who are violent towards their wives or partners, may soon be able to evade prosecution.

The new proposed law stipulates that only 'broken bones or concussion or repeated offences' will lead to criminal charges.

As women survivors of violence know - violence comes in many forms - not just those the Russian state is now describing.

According to the Russian Interior Ministry figures, 40 women a day are killed by their husbands and partners.

Lawmakers will call for changes in Russia's domestic violence laws so rape and 'serious bodily harm' are criminalised.

But being caught for beating a spouse or a child will only result in a fine of less than $500 and the culprit facing community service or 'administrative arrest.'

But it is not just Russia where women's legal protections are being eroded.

Child marriage

In Bangladesh where ActionAid works, there are currently attempts to row back on legal protections for girls by changing the law so girls under 18 can be married legally to preserve a girls 'honour' and her families reputation.

Women in Bangladesh will be taking the streets this week to protest attempts to reduce the age of child marriages.

Meanwhile in Pakistan violence and sexual harassment of women and girls is being reported more widely than ever before. Yet 'honour' killings continue.

This includes the murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch in Pakistan in 2016 which has been widely reported around the world.

But here too, legislation to protect women and girls is under pressure.

Around the world, so called honour and family reputations continue to be entwined with the forceful control and exploitation of girls and women's bodies.

There is no honour in treating girls and women as sub human and denying them their human rights. There is no honour in killing girls and women.

The shifting global landscape

In the past year there has been a huge shift in the political landscape across Europe and the USA and a rise in reported hate crime and open bigotry on both sides of the Atlantic.

Women are amongst the most vulnerable to hate crime, its women who are visibly identifiable as 'other' such as Muslim women who wear the hijab or niqab who face threats because of their identity.

The challenge for organisations such as ActionAid and grass roots campaigners is not just to advance the rights of women and girls - it is to defend the rights that have already been won.

Whether in Bangladesh, Pakistan or in the United States and Europe - there is a global urgency to protect women and girls from violence and ensure funding is safeguarded to defend their rights.

Finally, global women's rights defenders, campaigners, and feminists must urgently embrace intersectional feminism fully or they too will stand accused of denying marginalized women their agency and rights.

The message from women's rights campaigners is clear: patriarchy is political and in 2017 there must be no rowing back on the rights of women and girls.

Shasta Aziz is a freelance journalist specialsing on race, identity, and gender and is ActionAid UK's International Women's Day Project Coordinator

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