I like numbers, which is ironic because I was never really good at math growing up. Here are a few numbers for you today: it took at least 70 women, who endured a cocktail of abuse, over 30 years to bring just one man – movie producer Harvey Weinstein – to what we will loosely call “justice.”
In former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s case, it took an alleged 250 victims – at least 10 of which he has admitted to – over 25 years for him to see the inside of a courtroom. If this can happen in America, a country that boasts the right for free speech, gender social equality, and is home to a clear and fair judicial system, then how do the women in the rest of the world even stand a chance?
A quick Twitter search of recent trending topics will reveal the hashtag FreeNoura, which represents an international plea to release a 19-year-old Sudanese woman, who stabbed the man she was forced to marry to death, after he attempted to rape her a second time. Noura was sentenced to be hanged by the Sudanese government. Ironically, the photo that has become synonymous with this case is of a faceless woman in a Hijab.
I will admit that I follow Noura’s story closely. I hope she doesn’t lose her life for defending herself, but I also know that if even if she doesn’t, a happy ending is not something she’s likely to experience.
How can she, when it was her own family that gave her away against her will? When it was her own father that turned her in? When the country she calls home has such a double standard that it overlooks the fact that in Islam it is unacceptable to marry women off against their will, but when it is a man who is a victim, it swiftly uses the very same religion to cast punishment against her.
But let’s not just focus on Noura, because she is far from being alone in this experience. Worldwide, almost 750 million girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriages. Can Twitter even create 750 million hashtags?
In a country far from Sudan, we have Sabiha (not her real name), a 32-year-old woman who was raped at work one night by a relative. Instead of demanding justice for Sabiha, her family and community pressured her to marry her rapist to avoid any tarnish the incident may have on their reputation. By marrying Sabiha, the man who attacked her was in turn protected by an Iraqi law (Article 398) that allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims. Iraq is one of at least nine countries that have similar laws.
UN WOMEN estimates that at least 35 percent of women in the world have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. In some national studies this number rises to 70 percent.
At least 200 million girls and women today have undergone genital mutilation – of which the majority girls under five years old. My brain cannot begin to fathom how it could begin to put a face to every single one of the 200 million girls, and yet they all exist.
Women and girls make up at least 71 percent of human trafficking victims.
In 2016 it was estimated that 106 rapes occurred each day in India, 40 percent of which were committed against minors. It has only increased since then.
The numbers keep going, each horrendous statistic an ugly mark on humankind of its utter failure. If these are the numbers we are dealing with, then how many women and years will it take before we begin to see even the slightest glimmer of justice or equality?
Am I glad that the #MeToo movement forced certain people to be held accountable for their actions – yes – but will I rejoice and celebrate it as a victory? My answer will have to be no.