Culture must not restrict rights of women
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THE story of Malala Yosafzai is well known. It was one that shocked the world for the sheer savagery of the attack on a very young Pakistani teenaged girl who dared defy the Taliban’s medieval orders that girls do not need an education, and should remain at home. She defied such a negative, and almost paid with her life for such bravery beyond her young years.

Her subsequent battle for survival from life threatening injuries, and eventual triumph over the ordeal, won her world-wide acclaim, marveling at the stand that she took against a terrorist group whose dark, archaic rule in Afghanistan had left a country denuded of many of its historical heritage.

She has since become an activist of iconic status, being a co-winner—the youngest–of the Nobel Peace Prize; authoring her biography; and is a student at the University of Oxford, England. The horrific attack on Malala highlights the grave plight of women in general, but illustrates how some religious cultures are employed in the suppression of women’s rights in some regions of the world.

It is undeniable that cultures and customs, of which religion is the pervasive influence, are a guide as to how most humans do live, as it governs their inter–familial relations, and even those with their own kinsmen, and with others unrelated to their way of life. Its various edicts outline the daily conduct of those who are its products. Importantly, it defines the specific roles for male and female.

Of course, we subscribe to the right of every people to live in accordance with their particular culture, as it is their inalienable right. However, we also submit that it would seem to be an anachronism that in a world that has undergone so many groundbreaking changes over the past 100 years or more, that there are cultures which rulers continue to use to subjugate the basic freedoms of their people, particularly women.

How can one explain the contradiction in a society that embraces modern technologies as a way for improved daily living, but which culture gives the man the right anytime to a divorce, once he does a verbal ritual, and his wife cannot respond? Or stipulates that she must avoid turning around, but must always look down? Or that she should not speak in a loud voice?

These are some rules that are simply archaic, having no time or place in a world where all humans, inclusive of women, ought to be able to have the same rights to legal representation as men; as well as being entitled to make any physical movement of the body in any direction, as males do; and where the manner or tone of verbal expression is unrestricted.

It is even more contradictory that a woman who suffers sexual abuse in some societies, are often prosecuted as being responsible for such a violation to their person. In these societies, the right to vote for the elected leader of choice is not restricted to women, yet women have no say in pivotal issues that affect their womanhood and general wellbeing.

Any culture that is premised by any such restrictions, under the guise of religion is clearly repressive, and cannot contribute to the moral and spiritual growth over those that it is intended as a guide, particularly women. Moreover, its many rules/laws continue to inflict the worst kind of mental and physical abuse, often resulting in a self- distorted view of womanhood, and the world at large.

This is a denial, and destruction, of human rights for any woman who is entitled to the same rights for living as her male counterpart. Any abrogation of this cardinal principle cannot be progress in the new millennium. It is for these reasons that Malala Yosafzai, as a woman, decided to persevere for an education, no doubt to escape the mental and physical imprisonment of such a culture. The price that she almost paid underlines the tragic circumstance in which tens of millions of women in some regions of the world still exist.

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