Today, I want to honor women around the world who have been treated wrongfully. On this St. Valentine’s Day, there’s a world-wide call to join in a Dance to call attention to the violence against women. The movement is “One Billion Rising.”
The abuse of women came to my attention this past year. First, in the Vatican’s insistence on investigating the inner lives of our beloved, hard-working American sisters. They have literally built the Church in this country. And secondly, Congressman Tod Akin who spoke of “legitimate rape.” I was outraged. But most of all saddened that such stupidity infects the halls of Congress. He said that a woman’s body could shut down and somehow make pregnancy impossible.
Here I quote Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. from her column From Where I Stand in the National Catholic Reporter who alerted me to the upcoming celebration in support of women.
“We know now that half the population of the planet — women — are routinely sneered at, demeaned, beaten, sexually abused, bought, sold, trafficked for sex, underpaid or enslaved. We know, too, that this is not simply a byproduct of poverty that we’re talking about; this is simply what it means to be a woman. Still. Yet. Even in so-called developed countries of the world.
We know that the airwaves are a cloud of dirty stories about women raped and thrown out of buses; used as weapons of war; sexually mutilated. So many stories, in fact, so many numbers of women, so many hundreds of thousands of them that the shoulders sag and the soul begins to shrivel under the weight of it all.
And worst of all, we know, too, that all the while the men of the world go on talking about “rationality” and “equality” and “justice.” And the churches talk about “the will of God” and say little or nothing from any public pulpits about what all of this has to do with crimes against women or the moral obligations of men.
And yet, at the same time, there is also a new list developing that may well change the world.
This is the growing body of young men who are becoming “fathers” as well as “bread winners.”
These are men who parent small children as well as either spoil or discipline them and so themselves become more feeling, more sensitive.
These are the men who are marching in India in great numbers, demanding reform in the rape laws.
These are the men who are hiring women so the agendas, approaches and quality of their services become gender-free.
And now, these are the young women — and men — who are calling us to be one of the One Billion Rising. You’ll like it. It’s a dance for the world to do together Feb. 14, on St. Valentine’s Day, the day on which much of the world celebrates the kind of love between women and men that makes both more human, more whole.
One out of every three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is 1 billion women treated as things, beaten and bruised, used and exploited sexually without their consent, humiliated and mutilated invisible victims of war. Some of them are as young as 3 years old. Many of them are targeted and attacked in their 70s. All of them are changed for life.
Thank you, Sister Joan; I always look forward to your columns and in particular to this one.
Now, I focus on a girl of 15, who has shown courage and wisdom, leadership and strength well beyond her years. She is Malala Yousafzai from a remote village in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.
On a ride home from school on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012, gunmen halted the van. They demanded that other girls in the vehicle identify her. Malala had faced frequent death threats in the past. Some of the girls pointed her out. At least one gunman opened fire, wounding three girls. Two suffered non-life-threatening injuries, but bullets struck Malala in the head and neck. The bus driver hit the gas. The assailants got away. Malala was left in critical condition. An uncle described her as having excruciating pain and being unable to stop moving her arms and legs.
PAKISTAN’S MALALA: GLOBAL SYMBOL, BUT STILL JUST A KID.
She has penned her online diary in cooperation with the BBC in the past, and has spoken to other media, including CNN. At home, her writings led to her being awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize in late 2011. Her attack let to international outrage, but also called attention to violence toward women and contributed toward her efforts to secure the right of education for girls in Pakistan and elsewhere.
From her hospital room in the UK, Malala, asked early on for her school books, so she could study for exams she wants to take when she arrives back home in Pakistan. She is all about education.
The teen blogger simply sought to get an education. But she became a symbol of defiance against militants, empowering young women worldwide.