Full equality of men and women has not been achieved anywhere in the world. What has been achieved has taken a century and a half.
In some parts of the world, women’s rights are so comprehensively denied that comparisons with apartheid are inadequate to capture the depth of deprivation.
Why does the violation of the rights of these women and girls (women and girls beyond the border) not evoke prominents campaigns for emancipation: particularly from the parts of the world where women are free?
The failure of states to adequately respond is a flagrant disregard of human rights standards. In North-west Pakistan, the abandonment of girls to Taliban violence and ideologies that imprisons them in their homes and deny them their education is an international disgrace. It has occurred with a muted murmur of disquiet. 80,000 girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley have had their rights to education denied. This does not only impact on the lives of the girls themselves: denial of education of women is a recognised factor increasing poverty and deprivation for the entire community. Attainment of equal access to education for women is one of the goals adopted by the United Nations for the eradication of poverty through the Millennium Development Goals.
Rafia Zakaria argues that the West is complicit in the violation of women’s rights in Afghanistan, where new laws have recently subjected Afghan women to the requirement to obtain the permission of their husbands for routine daily activities such as work, health care and education, and subjecting them to a requirement of having their husbands permission to leave the home. Other reports state that western governments are placing pressure on Afghanistan to repeal the laws.
In Iran women enjoy a substantial measure of human rights and terms such as gender apartheid are misleading. Most Iranian women enjoy access to education, the professions and political office. Nonetheless Iranian women face discrimination in matters of personal status and Iranian feminists have been subjected to sentences, fines and in one case imprisonment for their work for human rights. A strong women’s rights movement in Iran recalls the spirit and work of previous generations of women who fought to end similar legal discrimination in nineteenth century America. Human rights activist and nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi speaks of the situation of women’s rights in Iran: