International Women’s Day and Islamic Misogyny
09 Mar, 2009
- In 1910, March 8 was celebrated for the first time as the International Women's Day (IWD) in many industrial nations. As a proposal of the Socialist International, the day demanded the rights of women to vote and hold public offices, their right to work and vocational training and an end to discrimination in jobs.
Since then, the International Women's Day is commemorated on March 8 and is a national holiday in several countries around the world. It symbolizes a long-standing struggle of women of all continents and ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds, who have been deprived of equal rights with men.
IWD is a symbol of women as an integral part in the making of history. It symbolizes a denial of all forms of religion- and culture-based gender-discriminations, which consider women less worthy than men, for example in Islam. The day is rooted in the historical struggle against the Dark Ages of European Church and in the demand for "liberty, equality, fraternity" during the French Revolution.
IWD has today assumed a new global dimension for the establishment of women's rights in developed and developing countries alike. Nevertheless, the growing international political Islam, strengthened by countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a serious barrier in the way of achieving its goal. Despite many coordinated efforts globally, the international community, including the United Nations, practically ignore the fate of hundreds of millions of Muslim women, who are conscious or unconscious victims of Islamic misogyny. Today, the struggle for equality, justice, peace, democracy, secularism, and development is not separated from the struggle against misogyny.
While 8th March was historically a secular symbol against the dominance of Catholic Church in the West, it should now become a worldwide struggle against the misogyny of Islamic Mosque. Today, the horrendous shadow of Islamo-misogyny has spread its wings over a great sphere of the globe, where hundred of millions of women have fallen into its clutches.
According to the World Health Organization, 85 to 115 million girls and women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation in many Islamic countries, including 28 African nations, despite the fact that it has been outlawed and condemned by the international community. More than 90% of women in Egypt are the victims of this barbaric practice.
In many Islamic countries, women, fallen victim to rapes, are often killed by their families to preserve family honour. Honour killings as a legacy of Islamic traditions have been reported in Jordan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and other Persian Gulf countries.
Rape as a means of humiliation, confession, and torture has been used against women in Iranian political prisons. Rape of girls before execution is systematically committed, interpreted as an Islamic principle that “it is a sin to kill a virgin”.
Since the installation of the Islamic regime in Iran (IRI) in 1979, a fast-growing majority of the Iranian women, identified as "bad-hijab" (mal-veiled), have been suffering from the atrocity of the IRI fanatics in their day-to-day life, and more recently, from organized Islamic “Morality Police”.
Since 1979, physical assaults, arbitrary arrests, acid-throwing, harassment and psychological pressure have become the part and parcel of women's life in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has clearly specified that, for women, no other sort of dress is acceptable except the Islamic hijab.
The first public demonstration of Iranian women after the Iranian revolution was short-lived. On 7 March 1979, on the eve of the IWD, Khomeini decreed that all women employed by the government must wear the “chador” (an all-enveloping black veil), an extension of the four walls of home. Thousands of women filled the streets in protest. For three days, they marched and rallied; on the third day, they staged a sit-in protest at the Palace of Justice, demanding a legal guarantee for their right to choose what to wear and where to work, at home and in society at large.
Khomeini’s supporters, armed with knives, attacked the women; they cursed them, yelling “Wear your head or get your head rapped.” They stood at windows along the parade-route and exposed their genitals, saying, “This is what you want, you whores!”
When Iranian women, for the last time, gathered to celebrated the IWD peacefully in front of Iranian parliament on March 8, 2007, the Morality Police attacked the gathering of some 700 women's rights activists; they hit them, while the security forces arrested a number of them.
These examples of women's rights violations in Iran make it clear that the International Women’s Day is not tolerated by the misogynistic IRI. Opposed to the claim of some reformists of the regime that men and women enjoy equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities in all aspects of life in Iran, a gap in the women's rights from that of men always remains a reality.
Over the years, conferences, demonstrations and commemorations have been held globally to reflect on the progress made in women's right. It is now time to call for what has not been made. International Women's Day should now be made a rallying point against Islamo-misogyny, poised to damage the achievements gained in the history of women's rights.
Although the Charter of the United Nations proposes gender equality as a fundamental human right, the organisation is reluctant to create standards, programmes and goals for advancing the status of women equally worldwide. For example, the UN avoids condemning the enforcement of hijab on women in Iran.
Of course the UN Charter, signed in 1945, was the first agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. However, the Charter was prepared before the advent of the international political Islam. Today, the global community is affected by political Islam. Consequently, the UN need to adopt new resolutions to defend the rights of women in Islamic societies. Women in Islamic societies need international support. In the light of many conclusive reports of misogyny in Islamic countries, the UN must react effectively without delay.
The UN, which condemned the Apartheid regime fairly in the past, is now expected to condemn the gender apartheid of Islamic regimes in support of women’s full and equal right. It is time for internationally community to challenge the misogynistic Islamists across the globe. Confrontation of the widespread violation of basic rights of women in the Islamic world has been long overdue but ignored. Safeguarding the women’s rights is now essential to regaining the sense of International Women’s Day.
Many daily examples of misogyny in Iran show that the IRI by imposing different status for men and women has reduced the women’s role to a means of procreation.
Soon after the revolution, Mr. Abolhassan Banisadr, the first Iranian President, who had lived in France for 15 years, was asked by a television interviewer if it was true that women’s hair emits sexually enticing rays and if this is why Islam requires the veil. “Yes, it is true” was his reply.
Concerned of backlash from women against ongoing misogyny and outside scrutiny, the Islamic regime responded by forming its own women’s group. This group produced a newspaper, “The Moslem Women,” the main task of which was to inculcate misogynistic norms and pseudo scientific arguments into mind of women. Through the tortured sense of women’s freedom and origin of women’s rights, its real role is to promote the regime's misogynistic policy, especially imposition of hijab on women.
The international community must reject and denounce these kinds of state-run women’s organisations in Iran. These “yellow” organisations are a greater threat than the governing male fanatics to the liberation of women. The real activists, working to defend women’s rights and to bring about real change in Iran, risk their safety: IRI’s authorities have been harassing, detaining and intimidating them in the last three decades.
In the 21st century, the international community should not accept that women’s rights be crippled by shari’a, a 14-century-old legal code. It is time to outlaw shari’a internationally, because it reduces women to second-class citizens in a male-dominated society. It is time for the global community to condemn the archaic belief system that reduces women to a subhuman entity.
Promotion of gender equality is not only a responsibility of women, but of all humanity. Not only is it an important for their participation in social and economic development and growth, but also a necessity for a healthy development of the society as a whole. Gender discrimination creates frustrations, perversities and aggressiveness with blind obedience, typical of oppressed societies.
Born in Iran, Jahanshah Rashidian studied psychology in France and is currently a German national. He is a freelancer and writes on democracy, secularism, and human rights issues in several languages. He maintains a blog at Jahanshah Rashidian.