Over the past few months I have spent a lot of time talking with women about the conditions they face, how they are treated by men, and how these factors shape their worldview. What I have learned has been nothing short of shocking. I have always been aware on a peripheral level of the abuse and harassment which women suffer, but never have I understood the full extent so viscerally.
From sexual violence at the hands of husbands, boyfriends, family members, and strangers, to the incessant pestering and sometimes assault by employers and passersby, to their outright subjugation to men in all corners of the globe, women too often live in a world of distrust, fear, and constant intimidation. This occurs not only in the backwaters of Pakistan and Sudan, but far too often in developed countries such as our own.
There are women who walk the streets of America who rarely go a day without encountering some form of strongly inappropriate behavior. It is no exaggeration that for many women, men are predators whom they must constantly be on guard against.
In addition, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women are trafficked each year, either to serve as some form of sex slave or as indentured servants. Often these women are very young and live in the shadows, with no recourse for the abuses they suffer.
There are many causes of these ongoing injustices, but the root cause is the despicable conduct of men, plain and simple. I have written previously that male insecurity and sexual repression are central to most forms of religious fundamentalism, but the problem goes far beyond that.
A civil society requires that people subject their primordial instincts to the tenets of reason, forcing the former to take a back seat in order to foster social interactions in which all members, women as well as men, are allowed to flourish.
There are no more powerful instincts than sexual instincts. It is clear that men still have a long way to go to tame this aspect of their nature, to truly become partners with women and truly treat them as equals.
Only then will we be able to claim that we live in a civilized world.