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International Women’s Day?

by Rajani Kanth

March 8 is , of course, International Women’s Day.

I find myself bemused:  should  we be impressed by its largesse, or is it ,  simply,  another, the by now standard,  UN-style,  hype and hypocrisyday?

For grim paradox and  rank hypocrisy are , more brazenly than ever, become  the ruling geist of our times.

After all, Saudi Arabia was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Panel; and  President  Obama was awarded the Nobel PeacePrize.

Nice going:  affirming, neatly,   all the values of Western Civ.,  we are  so  very pleased  to admire.

But, no , even  the UN did not ‘invent’ the Day: it merely  adopted it.

It’s provenance was, in fact, more substantive: after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday, and remained a commemorative day in the  world socialist movement.

The UN  simply appropriated it,  in 1975.

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At any rate, in point of fact, only 6 nations – yes, 6 –  legally speaking, guarantee, equal rights for women: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden , in the 21st century, despite  decades of  UN declarations  and commitments.

And this data comes  from a World Bank Report –  Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform ,- International Bank for Reconstruction and Development , 2019 – by the way: not  from a Code Pink dossier.

The US score, in this Report,   is   83.75 – as against a perfect score of 100 , scored by all the European nations named above – placing it  behind Mexico, Colombia, and Zimbabwe.

Now we want to build  a wall against the first, named above,  one must note: is it, perhaps,  lest it  ‘contaminate’ us by its example?

In fact,  the US doesn’t even count among the first 60 countries on the list of 187 countries.

Maybe that should give us pause, before we flaunt the high banner of leading the ‘free’ world: certainly,  we don’t cut it anywhere close  to it –  in Women’s rights.

Au contraire , the US – the only Western nation to make the grade –  is amongst the Top Ten nations where women are at highest risk ( Survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation)  for violence, with India leading the pack.

The US also  ranked  #3 in  world Rape Crimes stats, with  1 in 3 women experiencing  assault in their lives, with  68% of cases  going unreported,  and 98% of rapists never spending even a day in jail, . South Africa leads this pack, with   Sweden – yes, Sweden –  a close second.

So,  claiming  the high ground  of  ‘democracy’ means little  as regards women’s rights ( and various other social rights).

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Not that the rest of the world  is worthy of  any high(er) commendation.

No: far from it.

With an average score of 74.71, the typical country gives women only 3/4ths the rights given to men: on paper.

You’d think, on paper,  it could give it all away!

But, the World  Bank – with a woman CEO –  will  yet remind us of the catechism of ‘progress’ (lest we forget): the average score, ten years ago,  was 70.06.

So, as far as they are concerned, it’s ‘getting better all the time’: i.e., we’re on track.

Oh, well:  maybe it’s all part of an   incremental march to the promised land.

Yet is it a path marked with  pitfalls: as we should know,  by now,  there is no guaranteed uni-directional linearity to such matters.

Democracies revert to dictatorships, reformist societies to reactionary regimes, and so on.

We, in the US,  should know that: after all, we  ourselves were something akin to a ‘democracy’, but  a short while ago(before devolving into an oligarchy as we are, currently).

Ditto,  with  Women’s rights.

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Fact is, the price of any  such ‘right’ still remains eternal vigilance, and an ever-readiness to struggle.

No one  ‘gives’ it away (women, of all  human groupings, know this fact intimately).

Unless we’re talking of  due ceremonials  like International Women’s Day, which are most liberally  dispensed, and with much fanfare.

It’s part of the  essential bromide of the system.

The UN panders  utopian  rhetoric, the World Bank purveys socio-economic amelioration, and the IMF provisions  financial relief.

All for  sheer goodness’ sake.

What a benign troika – the Three Marketeers –  of  global welfare !

Dr Pangloss would have approved.

Still, International Women’s  Day is  yet worthy – despite its dubious, multilateral,  sponsors – if only  as a day for due, even dire,  reflection.

On one of the most  gross iniquities of our time.

Against which women continue to struggle, as indeed they have – for millenia.

If the day be dedicated to honoring their struggle, then it’s worth the name.

With 253000 women (age 12 and above)  still suffering assaults, every year, right here in the US – that’s one every 107 seconds, 40% below 18yrs.  of age –  there is little to celebrate.

Sorry, World Bank: that touted  ‘Decade of Reform’  needs to read  a  whole lot better –  to be worthy of any real jubilation.

[©R.Kanth, 2019]  

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Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

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