When CBS reporter Lara Logan was assaulted by a group of men while reporting on the ground in Egypt, a group of Egyptian women reportedly helped save her from the attackers. Women of the West need to return that favor and help raise awareness of the continuing hardships that women face globally, but especially in the Middle East and Africa.
The sad fact is too many women around the world are regularly subjected to discrimination, abuse, and violence, because they are living in societies that fail to respect women's individual rights.
I don’t mean the kind of discrimination that feminist groups in Western nations like the United States and Europe tend to highlight. Lamentations about the lower proportion of women executives in Fortune 100 companies or the gender “wage gap” pale when compared with the fundamental lack of rights and violence that confront women in the Middle East and Africa.
In fact, employment differences between men and women in America and Europe are largely explained by the different choices and preferences exhibited by the sexes. In contrast, women in many other regions are subject to widespread discrimination because of deep-seated misogyny and traditional perceptions of the role of women in society.
In Iran, women can be stoned for adultery. In Bahrain, women are still not allowed to drive or vote. Women who are raped, resist an arranged marriage, or bring shame upon the family in some other way are often subject to “honor killings” by family members.
“Honor killings” and violence against women motivated by Islamic fundamentalism are not restricted to the Middle East and Africa. As fundamentalist Muslims immigrate to Europe and the United States, they often continue to abuse female family members in their new homes.
Growing up in Germany, I experienced this violence firsthand. When my mother married and had a child with a Turkish Muslim, he attempted to force her to completely subordinate herself to his will. Her resistance led to intense domestic violence, and when she escaped to a women’s shelter, he kidnapped her and nearly stabbed her to death. Her story is just one among many. A United Nations study estimated that there are 5,000 “honor killings” every year.
How to change such a massive, intractable problem? Unfortunately, our efforts to try to reform other nations and to inculcate an environment that will breed greater prosperity and progress (thereby leading to greater respect for women) have not only resulted in wasted resources, but have also frequently back-fired, aggravating the very problems they were meant to address.