Libi Michelson

The Oppressed Women of Israel

Last week, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Women in Beijing, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) issued a resolution concerning women’s rights and gender inequality across the globe. The 150-page document was split into nine sections, all dealing with ways to work against inequality and discrimination against women. One entire section, though, was dedicated to the plight of Palestinian women at the hand of Israel. That made Israel the only nation, of nearly 200, to be mentioned by name in the entire resolution. This infuriated me.

For years, the UN bias against Israel has been disguised; we are at a point where it can no longer be ignored. The hypocrisy of singling out Israel in its report– when the Commission’s 45 member states include countries like Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India– is lost on the UNCSW.  One of the 59th Session vice-chairs is Mr. Mohamed Elbahi of Sudan, one of the worst violators of human rights in the world.

I decided to do some research about discrimination against women in the world. I started by looking into reports and press releases published by the United Nations itself. After all, if they reported on it, shouldn’t it mean that they are aware of it? Somehow, the UN conveniently forgot about these following incidents and facts:

  • On March 19th, 2015, an angry crowd in Kabul, Afghanistan, beat a 27-year old woman to death before burning her body. She was accused of burning a copy of the Quran. There were reports that the woman had suffered from mental illness for many years and her father claims that she was a religious teacher who would never burn a Quran. He suggested that a local mullah was threatened by her and instigated the crowd against her. In a press statement on March 20th, the UN declared, “The continued increase in the number of cases of violence against women and girls in Afghanistan has become a source of major concern.”
  • Lavina, from Bangladesh, was attacked with acid by a relative in August of 2000, for declining a marriage proposal. The left side of her face and her left hand were badly burnt. For many, similar attacks result in years of surgery, with a loss of eyesight, a loss of smell, and almost always, major bodily disfigurement. Bangladesh has the highest reported incidence of acid violence in the world. According to the Gatestone Institute, in early October 2014 alone, there were as many as 14 acid attacks on young women in Iran. Ansar-e Hezbollah (Supporters of the Party of God), a group of followers of Ayatollah Khamenei, is known for its assaults on women riding bicycles while wearing “improper” clothes and who are “badly veiled.” The motives for these acid attacks are religious, a prevalent practice in Iran but also found in Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.
  • Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia (mainly India, Nepal and Pakistan) according to a 2014 study conducted by the Centre for Social Research and UN Women. “The study, ‘Violence against Women in Politics’ revealed that the insufficient implementation of laws, lack of support from police and judiciary, the socio-economic divide and current power structures are the major reasons for violence.” Sixty percent of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence and 45% of female candidates in India faced physical violence and threats.
  • A 2013 UN study of 10,000 men found that half of those interviewed reported using physical and/or sexual violence against a female partner, ranging from 26% to 80% across nine sites studied in six countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea). Nearly a quarter of the men interviewed reported raping a woman or girl. Seventy-two to ninety-seven percent of those admitting to raping a woman did not face any legal consequences. Eighty percent of men who admitted to rape in rural Bangladesh and China cited their motivation as sexual entitlement a belief that men have a right to have sex with women regardless of consent.
  • In the statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Security Council Open Debate on Women in October 28, 2014,  Mlambo-Ngcuka writes “In more and more parts of the world – Iraq, Northern Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, and Mali, to name a few – violent extremists are taking control of territory, and directly threatening and targeting women, girls, and their communities…Women and girls are forced to “marry” their abductors and rapists or sold as slaves.”
  • Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher Al Saud, the daughters of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the former Saudi Arabian King, who died in January 2015, described their lives in isolation to the New York Post in 2014. Their father had imprisoned them in his palace after they had spoken out against the mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia and the need for resisting the kingdom’s strict rules on male guardianship over women. They have been on house arrest, with very little food, water, and access to medicine for thirteen years. Even their father’s death has not awarded them their freedom. Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah are known for their oppressive stance on women’s freedom. Women are not allowed to drive, walk outside or even get major medical procedures done without a male relative’s permission.
  • Golda Meir was the first woman to be elected as Prime Minister of Israel. That was 46 years ago. At that time, she was the third woman in the world to hold such an office. Tzipi Livni is the co-head of Israel’s second largest political party and former Minister of Justice (a position she held 3 times). According to data compiled on Women in National Parliaments (updated February 1, 2015) Israel is ranked 58th (22.5%) while the United States was ranked 72nd (19.4%). Israeli women make up 34% of all conscripted soldiers, 57% of all officers and 92% of positions in the IDF are available for female soldiers – numbers unparalleled worldwide. Women in Israel are educated, free to vote as they please, lead their lives as they wish and marry whomever they want, something that cannot be said for many women in the region.

At the close of the 59th session of the UNCSW, the commission reaffirmed their goal to make the year 2030 the “expiration date” for gender inequality across the world. The way I see it, until they acknowledge and work against the mistreatment of women globally, at every meeting, country by country, and not just pick on Israel, nothing will change. We owe it to ourselves to stand up to this overt bias.

About the Author
Libi Michelson is a creative marketer and content writer. Raised by Israeli parents in the US, she made aliyah with her husband and two kids in 2021. Libi likes to write about being a working parent, parenting a child with special needs, and the struggles of being jewish, being a jewish mom and everything in between.
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