Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The treatment of women and children in any country is one of the best indicators of the degree of justice to be found in that country.


Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice.
More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner.

Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry. The AIDS pandemic continues to rage, and the oppression of trafficking victims in the global sex trade contributes to the disease's spread.

In many countries around the world, pedophiles find that they can abuse children with impunity. And though police should be protectors, in many nations, their presence is a source of insecurity for the poor. Suspects can be held interminably before trials, imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

The land rights of women are violated on a massive scale worldwide, but with particular ferocity in Africa, leaving widows and other women in vulnerable positions unable to care for themselves or their children. Around the world, women suffer the double trauma of rape - and seeing their perpetrators face no consequences.

Often lacking access to their own justice systems and unable to protect themselves or their families from those more powerful, it is overwhelmingly the poor who are the victims of these brutal forms of abuse. 



Women make up half of the world's population and yet represent a staggering 70% of the world's poor. For the millions of women living in poverty, their lives are a litany of injustice, discrimination and obstacles that get in the way of achieving their basic needs of good health, safe childbirth, education and employment. Overcoming these inequalities and ensuring that women benefit from development requires that the needs and desires of women are not only taken into account, but be put front and centre.

We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination that a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common. What does this look like throughout a woman's life?

As a baby born into poverty, she might be abandoned and left to die, through the practice of female infanticide. Worldwide, there are 32 million 'missing women'. During her childhood, her proper feeding and nutrition may be neglected out of family favouring of male children.

As a girl or woman she may be a victim of female genital mutilation and cutting. 100 to 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone genital mutilation, including 6.5 million in Western countries. Embedded in cultural norms, this act is often carried out with the consent of mothers, in conditions that lead to lifelong pain, infection and premature death. As an adolescent she may be required to have an early marriage.. and young pregnancy puts girls at risk of maternal deaths.

"a mother dies every minute"

At child-bearing age, she could die from haemorrhaging during childbirth, one of the most common causes of maternal mortality for anaemic or undernourished pregnant women. Of the 500,000 women who die in childbirth every year, 99% live in developing countries. In other words, in developing countries, a girl or a woman dies every minute in giving birth.

At working age, she does not have the same job opportunities and receives less pay for the same work.

Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, but earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than one percent of the world's property. On average, women earn half of what men earn.

Informal employment is a greater source of employment for women than for men. The reality of the informal economy for women is more stark. While it can offer life-changing opportunities to earn money, the low pay and lack of social protection makes women vulnerable and open to exploitation.

Over her lifetime, she may suffer unimaginable violence and neglect, often in silence. Three million women die each year because of gender-based violence, and four million girls and women a year are sold into prostitution. One woman in five is a victim of rape or attempted rape during her lifetime. Gender-based violence takes more of a toll on women's health than that of traffic accidents and malaria combined.

As a woman living in poverty, she represents the majority of the world's poor. Women make up 70% of the world's one billion poorest people.

These stark inequalities happen everyday, everywhere around the world, yet despite the clear message that figures send, progress towards gender equity in development is deplorably slow and the obstacles of political indifference are nearly overwhelming. In the 2005 Massey Lectures, speaking on his role as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis argued that,

"The atmosphere of benign neglect, compounded by the rooted gender inequality, all adds up to a death sentence for countless millions of women in the developing world. For whatever reason, we can't break the monolith of indifference and paralysis."

In many societies, women struggle with exercising their human rights, fulfilling their basic needs and participating in decision-making. Such disadvantage is both ubiquitous and historical amongst the world's poor. Modern societies have developed on unequal foundations of legal frameworks and economic structures that undervalue women, label them as 'caregivers' and fail to recognize them as fundamental participants of a healthy society. The efforts in recent decades to address these inequities have been met by astonishing lack of support, to the point at which Lewis has also argued that,

"There is no greater emblem of international hypocrisy than the promise of women's rights."

The education of girls has been shown enhance maternal and child nutrition and lower mortality rates, inhibit the spread of fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS, and reduce birth rates. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, girls do not attend school because of reasons as simple as lack of decent sanitation facilities or the need to spend hours each day collecting water.


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