How can we celebrate Women’s Day when many women across the world are still suffering?
Amsterdam – Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate womanhood and women’s achievements throughout history. But although the day has been celebrated in different forms for well over a century, the worldwide suffering of women persists.
How can we celebrate Women’s Day when many women across the world have limited access to healthcare and education? Many unmarried women who seek reproductive healthcare for family planning or treatment for possible sexually transmitted infections are being stigmatized or sent away. In Morocco, unmarried women trying to access sexual health services are often refused help.
How can we celebrate Women’s Day when so many women worldwide are living in period poverty or being stigmatized for having a period? As well as period poverty, the stigmatization of women’s menstrual cycles means that girls living in the Sahel, Tibet, and parts of India, as well as many other parts of the world are being turned away from school, their homes or even being abandoned altogether simply for menstruating. In parts of the world, menstruating women are perceived as dirty.
As long as women are being told by men that they are half of the “deen” (religion) because they cannot pray or fast for 12 weeks a year, they are being degraded based on biology.
Despite the uterus bringing every human being into the world, in many cultures men believe that women should still be obedient to their fathers, brothers, or if they get married, husbands.
Such entrenched beliefs lead many women to suffer in silence, believing that it is their duty to be “patient” or have “sabr” for their situation, as well as allowing such atrocities as the legalization of marital rape in Morocco to persist to this day.
How can we celebrate Women’s Day as long as some women continue to be forced into sex work? Sex workers are criminalized in many countries and face harsh punishments.
Only the Netherlands and in Senegal have decriminalized sex work, and there are multiple organizations in these countries to support women and provide alternative means to financial stability. But unfortunately, these are unique approaches. Meanwhile, illegal sex work in countries such as Morocco is becoming increasingly widespread, having wide repercussions for Moroccan women.
There can be no happy International Women’s Day as long as countries like France continue to violate Muslim women’s rights and police their right to freedom of expression by restricting the wearing of hijabs and niqabs.
Countries that advocate for freedom, equality, and democracy, but judge Muslim women for expressing their faith as they choose are just as oppressive as countries and communities that judge women who do not cover “enough.” No government, institution, community, or individual should ever tell a woman how to dress or how not to dress, especially if it is in order to prevent sexual provocation.
In Saudi Arabia, women face some of the hardest challenges in the world in terms of rights.
Under male guardianship laws, women are still not able to make major decisions without male permission. They cannot travel alone without permission and can be divorced through a mobile application. The news that Saudi women were finally granted the right to drive should not be newsworthy; it should be the norm.
It should be a shame that any human being is limited in their freedom of movement based on gender.
As long as women are subject to patriarchal systems and laws, no woman is truly free.
Even in Amsterdam, the city I call home, I am either over-sexualized or deemed less intelligent and unambitious as a Moroccan Muslim woman.
The intersections between discrimination based on gender, race, faith, and sexuality mean that even in parts of the world which are believed to have achieved relative “gender equality,” women are facing discrimination in shifting, compounded ways as compared to their counterparts a century ago.
In the wake of International Women’s Day, I call on us all to raise the bar of our expectations for equality and refuse to settle for less than true justice.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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