On Friday, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls’ education rights in Pakistan, became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala’s story of perseverance and overcoming unbelievable odds as she continues to fight for children’s and girls’ rights to an education is inspirational and humbling. It is also a reminder of the reality of the truly horrific, real war on women that exists around the world today.
You have probably heard the worn-out rhetoric about the so called “war on women” here in the United States—but not in the context of girls like Malala, women sold into slavery, or women stoned to death. In the United States, that term is used by self-proclaimed women’s rights activists or from politicians looking to cash in on the female vote by portraying their opponents as threatening to take away women’s reproductive control.
This overused scare tactic isn’t only false, but grossly disrespectful of women around the world who face true oppression and cruelty on a daily basis.
Let’s Review Some Real Oppression
Right now, Christian and Yazidi women and children are being sold and traded on the black market in Iraq and Syria by the brutal terrorist organization ISIS (see, for example, this story from Jillian Melchior in Cosmopolitan, of Iraqi’ high schooler Hengi Abdullah’s best friend). These women and children have faced ungodly abuse, including torture and sexual assault. Children are separated from their mothers, women are gang-raped by terrorists, and then often sold for around $10. These women are kidnapped after being displaced because of the Iraq war or separated from their families.
Remember #BringBackOurGirls? It was the popular social media campaign celebrities and concerned people used after hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in April. The media interest in the story died down, but that doesn’t mean the problem went away or that all the well-intentioned tweeting actually brought back anyone. In fact, the status of the kidnapped girls remains a mystery. A few dozen of those originally kidnapped managed to escape, but whereabouts of most of these girls (let alone their health condition and treatment) remain unknown.
In Iran, women still face death sentences by “stoning.” It is a form of capital punishment where a woman is buried up to her chest, then people who have gathered to watch the event throw stones at her—not enough to kill her with the initial blow, but to make it a long, agonizing, and painful death. The initial stone throw is often by the woman’s husband, and followed by her children.
There’s No Comparison to First-World Problems
These stories come in and out of the fickle, U.S. news cycle, but they remain a constant presence and threat to too many women throughout the world every day. This is what the real war on women looks like: It is a day-to-day struggle for survival and to withstand kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, abuse, and oppression.
There is no comparison between what those women face and the “war on women” mantra used here in America. Women in America have equal opportunity and the freedom to pursue anything they choose. All Americans are granted the luxury of freedom and equality; a luxury that most women around the world wish they could experience. Of course, we should continue to work to improve the circumstance of women and girls here at home—make sure they have access to real economic opportunity and quality education. But it’s time we put an end to the ridiculous, over-the-top “war on women” rhetoric.
The war on women is all too real in large portions of the world. Girls like Malala and women who are raped or used as slaves to ISIS are the real victims of this war. It’s time for the Left to stop mocking their sufferings and daily struggle for survival by pretending there is a “war on women” in America.