April 24, 2006

Study reveals domestic abuse is widespread in Syria: The first study of its kind in the country shows 25 percent of women may be victims of violence. (Rhonda Roumani | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)

[A] new study released earlier this month that says as many as 1 in 4 Syrian women may be victims of physical violence is beginning to reveal just how widespread a problem domestic abuse is throughout the country.

The study, funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and conducted by the state-run General Union of Women, is the first of its kind to try to quantify and explain the types of violence Syrian women face.

As Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes argue in the essay we included in Redefining Sovereignty, feminists need to work with religious conservatives if they are to help liberate women in the Islamic world.



April 10, 2006

India sees rise of independent women (Karishma Vaswani, 4/10/06, BBC)

For many women in modern India, learning how to invest their savings and their income is increasingly becoming a way to safeguard their financial future.

Historically, Indian women have not had much control over their individual financial existences.

Having money of their own to spend and invest as they wish was not common.

But as the economy has grown, there has been a parallel increase in the rights of women as well.

Only a minority of Indian women have the education or the income to invest in equity markets, however.

Only a third of women in India have some type of formal education.

Caged by centuries of inequality, they have had to find other means to improve their livelihoods.

Take Mumbai-based social worker Vandana Nawalkar.

Thirty years ago, moved by the lack of opportunities that so many women in India face, she decided to start a co-operative snack shop run by women.

Hundreds of women now work in her snack shops around the city, and they are all equal shareholders in the business.

The final essay in Redefining Sovereignty is, Feminism in The 21st Century (Phyllis Chesler and Donna M. Hughes, February 22, 2004, Washington Post), which notes:

In the past, when faced with choosing allies, feminists made compromises. To gain the support of the liberal left, feminists acquiesced in the exploitation of women in the pornography trade — in the name of free speech. The issue of abortion has prevented most feminists from considering working with conservative or faith-based groups. Feminists are right to support reproductive rights and sexual autonomy for women, but they should stop demonizing the conservative and faith-based groups that could be better allies on some issues than the liberal left has been.

In the past feminists interpreted freedom of religion to mean freedom from religion. Too often they have viewed organized religion only as a dangerous form of patriarchy, when it can also be a system of law and ethics that benefits women. Too often feminists base their views of religious groups on outdated stereotypes. Groups that were hostile to feminism 40 years ago now take women’s freedom and equality as a given. For example, faith-based groups have become international leaders in the fight against sex trafficking.

Human rights work is not the province of any one ideology. Saving lives and defending freedom are more important than loyalty to an outdated and too-limited feminist sisterhood. Surely after 40 years feminists are mature enough to form coalitions with those with whom they agree on some issues and disagree on others.

Twenty-first-century feminists need to become a force for literate, civil democracies. They must oppose dictatorships and totalitarian movements that crush the liberty and rights of people, especially women and girls. They would be wise to abandon multicultural relativism and instead uphold a universal standard of human rights.