No society can thrive if women and girls are victimized due to their sex

IF I try to join the dots, it says “it’s still happening” or perhaps more accurately: “it’s not getting, better, is it?”.

We’ve heard from the two journalists, Eilidh Barbour and Gabriella Bennet, who both walked out of the Scottish Football Writers Awards event over remarks “masquerading as banter”. A Radio Scotland program on Tuesday morning heard from another woman who got up and left her table. Yes, I do note that the Scottish Football Writers’ Association issued “apologies to anyone offended or upset”. On the same day, the Faculty of Advocates made a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct against a QC who made sexist and demeaning comments about a member of Rape Crisis Scotland staff.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have ordered women to fully cover up (face and body) in public places. The family men will be held responsible for compliance, with any failure resulting in the men being imprisoned. The majority of women can no longer work outside the home, but are told to stay at home. They can only go out in public with a male family member, and are “allowed” to go to public parks on specific days. Women and girls are regulated in all aspects of their lives.

READ MORE: Scottish Football Writers Association sorry after female writers walk out of event

Women don’t own themselves. Imagine being “owned”. No, neither unusual nor a thing of the past. But how will women without that male family survive? How many widows are there in Afghanistan? How many of what we would call lone-parent families are there? How, where, will they be able to earn to feed, clothe themselves, their dependents, their children?

Move continents and women, families and society are beginning to experience the outcomes of the court ruling in the USA ensuring the return to backstreet, illegal abortions brought about with the removal of the right to legal abortions performed in regulated, safe, medical settings. In Europe, Poland is the only country where access to abortion is highly restricted. In December, Poland announced it is planning to introduce a centralized register of (all) pregnancies. This will oblige doctors and hospitals to report pregnancies and miscarriages. This is state control of the female body and reproduction. A 2019 survey found only 25% of hospitals in Romania offered to carry out abortions. Women there are finding it increasingly difficult to access their legal right to abortion, with doctors refusing to provide the legalized service.

READ MORE: Sports journalism is going to change – and women will play massive part

No matter the continent, no matter the century, no matter the war, it has long been recognized – but mostly unreported – that rape is weaponised during wars. And reports say that war in Ukraine is no different. But outside any war arena, sexual violence, the threat of it, is used to terrorise, dominate, humiliate and control women and young girls.

From long back there has been, and there continues to exist, a power imbalance across the globe: economic, legal and social, structurally biased based on its origins in the patriarchy.

And that power imbalance threatens us all. No society will thrive or flourish when women and young girls are victims just because of who we are. The spectrum covering that power imbalance may fine distinctions, but, it’s not “banter”. It’s not a case of “grow up, it’s just a joke” or “just an exchange on social media between friends or colleagues”. Met Police come to mind?

READ MORE: Pro-choice campaigners slate John Mason for saying abortion is ‘not difficult’

Without “rights” identified, set down and defended, without challenging failures, then regressions will occur and societies will implode. The adage “see it, challenge it, call it out” is more important than ever. But for that to be effective, no one should feel alone, no-one should be too afraid to speak out. When support and solidarity is shared, and not confined to self-supporting victims and the systems they create for themselves, then change will both ensue and withstand assault.

Selma Rahman
Edinburgh

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