My eldest daughter Megan is soon to being her final year at university; nine months of gestation leading to an outcome whose ripples will affect the rest of her life. Whatever the outcome, I’m very proud of this young lady, and have every confidence that she will rise to life’s challenges. Being a woman, she will have to contend with many of the prejudices that come her way, but being Meg she will find a way to break through them.
In the last couple of days it feels like I’ve been bombarded with details that should just how far our world has to go in its treatment of women. It began when I caught a snippet of Crossing Continents on Radio 4 which was reporting on Chinese men from “bachelor villages” and their struggle to find partners. In a variation on speed dating, the eligible women sat at red tables and the numerous men carried red roses. Only if the woman accepted their rose, were they allowed to join their prospective partner to begin a conversation. The story resonated with me as I compared my experiences from the world of online dating, but that’s a whole other story! More to the point, this scene hinted at something far more sinister. The social engineering that sought to control the country’s population through one child families, combined with a preference for male children created a culture where female foetuses were aborted and those who survived to birth often died through neglect or infanticide. Consequently the nation faces a situation whereby there could be as many as 24 million more Chinese men that women by 2020.
The attitude to women as second class citizens was underlined because this week saw the conclusion of the Delhi rape trial that has galvanised opinion across India. The four men responsible were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging for their brutal assault on a 23-year-old student who died from her injuries two weeks later. The court room has been besieged by protestors demanding the execution of these men, but there is a larger issue than the horrific treatment of this young woman. A survey published by the UN this week, revealed that across many parts of Asia almost a quarter of men interviewed admitted to rape, and of these approximately half admitted to more than one instance. Many saw it as their “entitlement”! It will take more than the deaths of four men in India to change this.
Worst of all, I was talking to my friend Jane on Friday when she began to cry in response to something she had just seen; a report of an 8-year-old (yes, eight year old) Yemeni bride, dying as a result of internal injuries caused by sexual trauma on her wedding night with her 40-year-old husband.
There is a terrible conflict in Syria raging at present that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, leading to the leaders of two of the world’s super powers finally taking action to address it, yet this is seemingly a fraction of the numbers of women who suffer as a result of “cultural attitudes” that are left unaddressed.
Megan is fortunate to live in a society which whilst imperfect allows women of all ages and races to contribute; at work, at home, and in the armed forces. I despair at the prejudices that she and her sister will face, but I’m delighted at the freedoms that they will have in facing them.