The Fragile Peace of Women’s Rights

“Your generous part in my liberation is taken by the world for the revelation of the fact, that the United States are resolved not to allow the despots of the world to trample on oppressed humanity” – Lajos Kossuth

A few months back I watched The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale of a man who has discovered a rare treasure in the world that exists after the bombs fall – a Bible. (Seems they were all destroyed after the big war; folks blamed religion for the conflagration … this is an interesting topic, but not the point for today.)

What struck me about the movie was the depiction of human rights, and particularly women’s rights in a world where the basic fabric of society has broken down. Essentially, those rights were gone and we were removed back to a pre-historic survival-of-the-fittest, take-what-you’re-strong-enough-to way of life. To say the least women were subjugated and used as merely a means to satisfy base urges.

This movie was not the only one to show the world in that light. Quite often I’ve seen on TV or in film instances where the general norms of society evaporate, and one of the first casualties is any expectation of safety on the part of women.

I suspect that the movie makers actually have it right.

First, the general treatment of women is not all that rosy. Most studies and sources indicate that between 15% and 20% of a US women have been raped. Those are staggering numbers. This is with the current general mode of civility and restrained behavior on the part of the populace. It is not at all difficult to imagine the numbers spiking dramatically when social and martial restraints are removed or lessened.

Earlier this week, CBS news reporter Lara Logan, in Egypt to cover the protests against Hosni Mubarak, became a victim. According to a CBS news statement: “in the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew … was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.”

It is an ugly world out there – full of beautiful but ugly people. We are broken, fallen, fundamentally flawed. We are ever only a moment removed from a break with the fragile peace, to be cast back into a world of darkness and oppression. This is not an American problem, or an Egyptian problem – this is a human problem.

We have hard-fought, well-earned improvements in the rights of women, the right to not be violated, the right to be free in one’s own body … snuffed out in an instant when the world goes dark.

I personally hold that this is why both prongs of the attack are needed. We very much need the moral structures of the society (I’m thinking primarily of the church here) to teach clearly on issues of human rights, human value, human dignity, and our responsibilities toward one another. (Not all churches do that … also the point of another post.) In addition, we cannot ease back on legal structures necessary to protect individual rights – like the right to not be raped. Please, no “romanticizing” about the root causes of these behaviors. The root cause is sin, which the law will not eradicate; but the law can remove people with a propensity for or history of this violation.

As for Lara Logan, she was rescued by a crowd of women and some 20 Egyptian soldiers. She is apparently out of the hospital now. We wish her all the best.

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