In 1966, Romania’s Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu issued a series of policy changes, known as Decree 770, aimed at creating a large population by restricting abortion and contraception. They were pro-natalist policies used to realize the national socio-economic plan of development.
To enforce the decree, contraceptives were made unavailable, sex education was non-existent, and abortion was severely restricted. Women were periodically monitored by gynaecologists and the secret police kept their eye on every aspect of a woman’s life.
Long story short, this resulted in a mass amount of women dying from botched abortion operations done in back alleys. The number of orphans increased considerably, with those born becoming malnourished or physically handicapped.
“Ceausescu’s Children” came to be known as the Decreteii – children of the decree. They were unwanted and disabled, with many suffering from HIV/AIDS due to transfusions of untested blood. That was 40 years ago.
In the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia, war rape occurred as a part of ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian wars. Without getting into the details of the conflict itself, rape as a tool of war was a prominent tactic which involved “rape camps”. Rape, perpetrated by Serbian forces, was disproportionately directed at women in order to impregnate them in the hopes of forcing Bosnian women to carry Serbian children. As you can imagine, this has had far reaching effects.
These two topics, though mentioned in brief, are the topics of research I exposed myself to in highschool. Yes, they are heavy topics to deal with, especially since I was around 15 or 16 years of age when I first started exploring human rights violations.
At the same time, on a level closer to home, I was also becoming more aware of the abuses towards women in my own culture; in homes of families that I knew, and with people that I care about.
My early foray into research, coupled with my own personal experiences of injustice against women opened my eyes to the limitless expanse of suffering that women face not only world-wide, but in my community.
I began to perceive the existence of the overwhelming vastness of hatred and misunderstanding, not just in my cultural community, but in general. This awareness fuelled in me a feeling, or a state of being, comprised partly of anger, of frustration, of sadness, and sheer disgust.
Both at home and abroad, governments and societies, to varying degrees, are contributing to the ills associated with women: sexual abuse, violence, mental and emotional abuse, illiteracy, forced prostitution and human trafficking, higher mortality rates, unfair wages, and generally the lack of agency to control their own lives.
I have learned that there are different levels of oppression permeating throughout the many layers of society; some that I see, some that I don’t. But I know they exist.
I’m so grateful and lucky to have been born in Canada, in a place where the legal rights of women are no less than those of a man. In a place where a woman can access power and privilege that others across the ocean cannot, simply determined by place of birth. I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would be like if I was born in India, where the status of women intersects with class, caste, and religion.
However, though it’s easy to point to the many abuses committed abroad, more light needs to be shed on what’s happening in our own backyards. What I’m going to describe as a certain “cultural mindset” is not limited to the arbitrary borders of nation states.
To this day, in this country, we still talk about achieving equal pay for women, about the right to choose, about female infanticide, about missing women, and honor killings. We still argue over whether it was a woman’s fault for being raped, since she was wearing something indicative of her “slutty” nature.
Even the less heinous of issues, such as female representation in politics, remain on the table. How, and when, are women going to break through that “glass ceiling”? I’m not just talking about provincial or national politics here, for even at the University of Alberta, the level of female student politicians over the years in our Students’ Union is dismal.
It’s almost 2013, and still there are the Malala’s of the world – girls who long for education only to be left in near-death conditions.
In the name of religion, dogma, ideology and ignorance, our rights are trampled on.
I’ve been told to stop whining, bitching, and complaining numerous times – by members of my family, my friends, coworkers and strangers. People ask me, isn’t feminism irrelevant? Don’t we already have legal equality?
My answer to the first question is no, and to the latter, yes. Legal rights have been achieved, especially in western countries like Canada but what we are lacking, world-wide, is the social fabric necessary to achieve progress. It is at the community level where injustice happens – in the everyday customs of various cultures and religions. It is the community that fails to recognize and change.
It’s really a two-way street. Decline or stagnancy on one side keeps the other side (the legal institution) from having its full effect.
So no, I won’t stop “bitching and complaining” because the things I’m complaining about need to be heard.
As a woman of Indian heritage, I’ve come into contact with a wide variety of people with varying views, but I’ve definitely come into contact with people who wish to control women and perpetuate their own views of what is right and wrong onto what is a large portion of the population – roughly 52 percent of the population actually.
Over the years, I’ve pushed myself to be independent and critical of others’ opinions and world views, which puts me at odds with a lot of the people I grew up with.
Because of my struggles, and of those around me, I am able to some extent grasp the harshness of life out there for other girls and I always wonder when it will end. Probably not in my lifetime, but I am hopeful and confident that one day all women can live and prosper without limitations.
People always ask me why I got interested in politics at such a young age and I never really had an adequate answer. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it was the feminist in me that brought me here. It’s what drove me to study women’s rights, human rights, and eventually to pursue this academic path.
Feminism, for me, is the insatiable desire to overcome oppressive forces that women face every day.
Those forces can materialize as domestic violence in my community, wage issues in the workplace here in Edmonton, or across the ocean in Pakistan, where girls like Malala are denied the opportunities I have been given.
So, who needs feminism?
Aboriginal women in Canada need feminism.
Young girls destined to live out their lives in the brothels of India need feminism.
I need feminism.
Image taken from here
From October 22-26, The Wanderer Online is participating in the “Who Needs Feminism?” Call to Action Week, which you can read more about here. Throughout the week, we’ll be posting 2-4 articles per day where writers answer the question “I need feminism because…” If you’re interested in writing something, please send us your piece at firstname.lastname@example.org.