After leaving the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in late 2006, having seen how prevalent the persecution of women and children was in the world, I issued a call to end the persecution of women by 2020.
Why so late? Because time was needed to educate, organize people, apply pressure, enact supportive laws, train judges and police, etc. Little did I know at the time that that dream might come true and it might come true well ahead of the 2020 deadline.
When I put out this call on Jan. 1, 2007, I sent 1,000 letters to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), activists, women’s rights groups, everyone I thought would listen. I received one response and finally felt there was nothing more I could do. But decidedly now there is. At last the notion is an idea whose time has come.
I’m debating whether I’ll discuss the matter with other lightworkers and create a new deadline. Deadlines organize social action and increase the likelihood of success so I look upon deadlines as a good thing. In publishing this, I’m simply publishing the original and no longer advocating a date so far into the future.
A Call to End Gender Persecution Globally by Jan. 1, 2020
Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive of human-rights abuses. It covers a range of injustices – from gender abuse to systematic rape and from pre-birth sex selection to female genital mutilation – that affect as many as one in three women. [UNFPA.] (1)
In 2005, Human Rights Watch described “violence and discrimination against women [as] global social epidemics.” (2) Aware of the widespread trend of gender-based violence in the world today, I ask you to join me in calling and organizing for a complete end to gender persecution globally by (or before) January 1, 2020.
I consider an egalitarian world to be one in which one’s rights do not depend on one’s gender. An egalitarian world is one in which both genders enjoy equal rights and dignities. They are “gender-equal” even though biology makes different demands on them. I consider none of these demands to be grounds for the violation of basic human rights. If anything, the world community has agreed that motherhood and childhood call for special consideration. (3)
I also don’t consider a culture or a religion to be grounds for the violation of basic human rights. Where these conflict, in my view, basic human rights must prevail.
Gender persecution is not a fact of life
I think we need to remind ourselves that gender persecution is not a principle of life, but a condition. It’s not a fact of life, but an artifact (an artifact is a human creation). There’s nothing in the laws of nature that I’m aware of that says that gender persecution must exist.
Gender persecution arises because men force on women a worldview that works to women’s detriment. That worldview (it’s not a “philosophy”) has been called male dominance, male chauvinism, patriarchy, machismo, and sexism. It condemns women to a life of abuse. It turns its gaze aside from rape and murder. It has written for us a sordid and sorrowful chapter in world history.
This worldview has neither support from genuine spiritual sources nor grounding in human rights. The wisest and most compassionate among us contradict it.
What they declare is that no man can claim an innate right to rule a woman. We all submit to rule as citizens, but all other matters are governed by human rights and law.
Life is not a struggle for existence in which only the strongest survive. The words of men do not carry more weight than the words of women. Men cannot do whatever they want to women.
In some parts of the world, gender persecution has disappeared from women’s lives, though crime and lesser discrimination persist. But the widespread, serious harm that the word “persecution” conveys has ceased as a daily feature of the lives of enough people on this planet that it’s becoming commonly discussed that it need not be a feature of the lives of any.
Male dominance exists solely because we as a world allow it to exist. It has no innate strength in the face of our strong and determined unwillingness to allow it to prevail on this planet any longer.
Male dominance forever challenged
Male dominance was globally and forever challenged sixty years ago, on December 10, 1948. On that day the world, represented by the United Nations General Assembly, acknowledged that basic human rights exist, equally shared by all human beings.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the world adopted through its representatives, lays down that all human beings, male or female, are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Everyone on Earth, it says, has the inalienable right to life, liberty and security of person. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. All human beings are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection from it.
After the acceptance of the UDHR, the world agreed that no religious interpretation, cultural tradition, or political circumstance should prevail in a court of law over basic human rights.
Out from the trunk of the UDHR have sprung branches in every direction – covenants, treaties, charters, declarations, statutes, codes of behaviour. The UDHR holds the place over us as global citizens that the Bible holds over Christians, the Koran over Muslims, and so on. Gradually a web of laws is arising that will change our behaviour as a planet. The new commandments, the new commitments are human rights.
The ending of the story of male dominance was written on that day in 1948. Male dominance is not inevitable; equality is.
Noticeable by its absence in many parts of our world is the political will of men to stop harming women, to speak out against harm, and to act to stop it where another commits it.
In my opinion, if men awoke from their selfishness, they would apologize to women.
I apologize to all the women of this world for the harm that men have visited upon you. I am aware that this harm has included restriction of your social and personal life, marriage to a person not of your choosing, sexual harm, involuntary impregnation, forced abortion, mutilation of your body, the denial of education and employment, beatings, sexual enslavement, and murder.
Why a deadline?
Why a deadline? Only a global deadline will allow the vertical and horizontal realignment of forces needed to cause momentum to build. Only a deadline will make possible the orchestrated, synchronized effort required to turn back the wave of gender abuse drowning the world today.
Will we wait until chaos descends on this world before we act?
Written: January 1, 2007
(1) UNFPA, http://www.unfpa.org/16days/, downloaded 7 Feb. 2005.
(2) “Women’s Rights,” Human Rights Watch 2005.
(3) Article 25.2, UDHR.