Women's Rights Not Won Yet

While I sit in my swivel chair in a posh downtown La Jolla salon, I flip through some fashion magazines, trying to pass the time until my foil highlights are done. For most of the time that I invest in typical women’s magazines, I’ll usually read things such as “”Who’s Hot in Hollywood,”” sift through “”One Hundred Fashions for Under $100,”” read about “”What Drives Men Wild in Bed”” and figure out “”How to Lose 10 Pounds in Just 10 Days.””

But this time, as I go through the pages, an article catches my eye. It’s about women’s rights. No, not about abortion issues, sexual harassment cases or any other issue we have come to associate with women’s liberation, but about basic human rights that have been denied to women all around the world.

While women in America have won voting and reproductive rights, the average American woman forgets that, while she may be currently fighting for equal pay for equal work, her international counterparts are still suffering physical abuse under archaic laws and traditions that give omnipotence to male authority.

Today, women all around the world still generally earn less than men, cannot own property (in some cases, they are even considered property), do not have access to education, health care or legal help, and are still being brutally raped, enslaved and even murdered without so much as a blink from their governments. Women make up two-thirds of the world’s 1 million illiterate people. Statistically, there are more women living in poverty than men. In some countries, women have to struggle to support and care for their families in the midst of civil wars and armed conflicts.

In China, newborn girls are carelessly discarded on the street like cigarette butts thrown out of a car only to lie dead, naked and covered with dirt and trash on the side of the curb (see this month’s issue of “”Marie Claire”” magazine and you’ll know that I’m not embellishing). In parts of Africa, female genital mutilations are widely practiced and accepted procedures. In parts of Asia and even in territories under the governance of the United States, women are being held in sweatshops, where they make a mere two cents per hour, packed 20 to a room.

In countries where strict interpretations of Islam are observed, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, premarital and extramarital sex (only on the woman’s part) are legally punishable by flogging or stoning, usually until death. Not to mention the other abuses that are socially mandated by customs: A woman who rejects a man’s advice is likely to get acid thrown in her face to disfigure her for life, while a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant is likely to be sentenced to 100 lashes. According to an article in “”Glamour”” magazine, 6,600 women are murdered each year in incidents such as these in India alone.

American women sit in relative comfort compared to their international counterparts. Although we are far from what we would call equality, women around the world are farther from it.

The good news is that we can all do something to help. The United States was one of 80 countries that ratified the United Nations’ “”Protocol to Prevent”” last December.

Contact your elected representatives and demand that they ratify the United Nations’ Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Children. Petitions can be found on Web sites such as the Human Rights Watch Web site, http://hrw.org, and Amnesty International’s Web site, www.amnesty.org.

These women’s cries should not go unheard.

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