“When the lives of the women are a symbol of cultural depravity, any oppression they ( are believed to) face becomes a justification for degenerating their culture, restricting their rights, and justifying transnational agreement” by Lisa Wade.
The relationship between the woman and man have always been unequal throughout history. It’s one of the most common hurdles faced by every woman from all over the world. Dismantling gender issues will target the various problems of our society. In this article, we are going to talk about the oppression of women, the history behind it and 10 bizarre laws and customs around the world which are still oppressing the women around the world. Let’s start.
10 Bizarre Laws & Customs Around the World That Still Oppress Women
History of Women Oppression
Being female is very real but being a gendered woman is not a privilege. It turns out to be a form of oppression since the existence of the patriarchy. French’s History of Women and Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy are incredible texts on the historic processes by which men created the patriarchy that forms the basis of Western society. This happened over about 2.5 thousand years, from around 3100 B.C, during the agricultural revolution. According to Lerner, the transition from subsistence living to agriculture meant that children became an economic asset, a labour supply – and women became the first form of private property.
With this came the control over children, the institution of marriage became increasingly commodified, disempowered women and, isolated women from their own family and, communities. To put this in perspective rape within marriage was not made illegal until 1985 in New Zealand.
With the institution of marriage came dowry, and the main value of having daughters became their potential as brides; “bride stealing” and “ritual defloration” was commonplace, as it still is today, for instance in Kyrgyzstan. Today an average of 15 million girls each year are forced into marriage. In 2013, an eight-year-old Yemeni girl died of internal bleeding the night she was married to a man five times her age.
One of the practices that best demonstrate commodification through marriage was the Indian suttee, only legally banned in 1829. This practice involved the burning of female widows, including girls kidnapped as child brides, alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. A myth that girls and women lost husbands as a result of their bad karma underpinned the practice. As this was supposed to be a “cleansing” ritual, men typically avoided burning women while they were menstruating and waited two months after the birth of a child if she was pregnant. Countless women could be burned after the death of a single, royal male.
Marion Sims, “the Father of Modern Gynecology,” used African-American women in slavery to conduct his surgical experiments. Sims medically experimented on black women for research into illnesses like cancer – without providing anaesthetics or other pain-numbing medicines. If a woman died from complications or excessive bleeding, Sims simply replaced her with another slave, and his practice was completely legal.
The compounding of oppressions on black women is the topic of Angela Davis’ Women, Race, and Class. In it, Davis discusses the experience of black women during the slave trade; including Harriet Tubman, who rescued over three hundred people through the Underground Railroad and was the only woman in the U.S. ever to lead troops into battle.
The above-given instances are an eye-opener of women issue that they went through the hundred years. The problems don’t end here. Despite living in the 21st-century women are still oppressed not only by society but also through legal mechanisms. Let’s take a look at 10 such laws and customs around the world which are still oppressing women.
10 Bizarre Laws for Women Around The World
- The 1971 Tanzania Law of Marriage Act sets the legal marriage age for boys at 18, while girls can be married as young as 15 with their parents’ consent.
- In Jordan and Lebanon, a child needs a Jordanian or Lebanese father to gain the countries citizenship. Their mother’s nationality is not necessary. If a Jordanian woman is married to a foreign husband, her children do not have the right to become Jordanian citizens, therefore they are often denied access to vital public services like healthcare and education.
- In Nigeria, it is within a husband’s legal right to beat his wife “to correct” her, as long as it does not cause grievous bodily harm.
- In Tunisia, a 1956 law explicitly states that “where there are any sons, the male inherits twice as much as the female,” as though a male life is twice as valuable as a female life.
- Cameroon is one of the 18 countries where a husband can prevent his wife from taking a job if they believe it is not in the best interests of the family, leaving women at risk of remaining trapped in poverty with no independent income.
- A fatwa imposed in 1990 makes Saudi Arabia the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive. While this is not an official law, a fatwa is a religious declaration that carries the authority of law, imposing strict modes of behaviour. Despite repeated campaigns by women taking the radical step of sitting behind a steering wheel (and sometimes driving short distances), the ruling has still not been overturned.
- The punishment for the murder of a woman perceived to have brought “dishonour” on a family in both Egypt and Syria is less severe than the penalty for other forms of murder. According to Syrian law, “He who catches his wife, sister, mother or daughter by surprise, engaging in an illegitimate sexual act and kills or injures them unintentionally must serve a minimum of two years in prison,” while the punishment for murder is 20 years hard labour.
- In China, women are forbidden from working in mines, and more broadly are prohibited from performing physical labour or work that female workers “should avoid.” In Russia, a similar law stops women from partaking in hard, dangerous, or unhealthy trades. This sweeping law includes many different types of jobs, from frontline firefighting to sailing—456 types of work in total.
- In Israel, divorce depends solely on the will of the husband. Half a world away in Mali, a 2011 law upheld the man’s status as head of the household and mandates a wife’s obedience to him. It also declared that women must wait three months to get remarried after a divorce or death; men have no such restriction.
- Healthcare Discrimination: A 2014 medical code of ethics prepared by a state institution declares that a woman’s consent should be sufficient to receive health care. In reality, however, the requirement for guardian permission is dependent on a particular hospital’s internal regulations, and the government does not penalize institutions that require consent. Human Rights Watch spoke with medical professionals at private hospitals that do not require guardian permission and others at public hospitals that require guardian permission for a woman to be operated on or admitted. Human Rights Watch has documented how requiring guardian approval for medical procedures has exposed women to prolonged pain or, in extreme cases, to life-threatening danger.
Gender and sexuality is not an inborn talent of a person. It is obtained through socialization. We talk about human values, human rights, equality. We only talk about it. We live in a sexist world. There are laws and provisions provided by the State but is it really working out for us? We need to burst our bubble and think is this the society we want our child to grow up in? Equality is an inborn right. No one has the right to decide for women of how we talk, how we walk, what we wear, most importantly no one has the right to take away our life and dignity.
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