Women’s Rights: The Human Rights Issue of the Century


The video depicting the abhorrent flogging of a Pakistani teenage girl by the Taliban in the Swat region has sent shockwaves around the world. Rightly so. The recent controversy over a law that was passed (and is now under review) by the Karzai government in Afghanistan illustrates that, eight years after the fall of the Taliban, there is still a long way to go for women’s rights in the region. We now know that Karzai is far from the patriot the Bush administration would have had us believe. Fortunately, Barack Obama has distinguished between his new Afghan strategy and the issue of women’s rights in that part of the world.

It would be tragic if the progress made to advance women’s rights, minimal as it is, was abandoned as part of a political deal to keep “American allies” in power. When we observe the atrocities that many women still face in many parts of the world—too often in countries where Islam reigns—it is time to state loud and clear that women’s rights is the human rights issue of the 21st century.

It was encouraging to see Obama give his first foreign interview to Al Arabiya and to see his first foreign trip to a European country be in Turkey. It is a sign of the high regard he holds for the Islamic world. Clearly, the current  US government understands it must revert to the role of broker in the Mideast peace process and this requires an extended hand to the Muslim countries of the region. Moreover, security imperatives around the planet dictate that the Obama administration engage the Muslim world in finding solutions to existing problems. In so doing, no one should wish that these American initiatives ignore cultural and political realities in Muslim countries. The only caveat, however, should be that retrograde religious beliefs cannot take precedence over fundamental human rights as recognized by the United Nations Charter.

The mistreatment of women in different parts of the world is not just relegated to Muslim countries or religious precepts. However, so long as public floggings, restrictions on mobility and education, barbaric punishments under Sharia law, and honour killings are tolerated, leaders in countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Somalia should not get a free pass from the international community. That must be a cornerstone of the Obama foreign policy.


Women’s Rights: The Human Rights Issue of the Century

  1. We can hope, anyway.

    But I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

  2. Didn’t you just write that gay-marriage was “the human rights issue of the 21st century”?

    • he distinguishes between human and a new American civil rights struggle . That `s my understanding . I agree with both anyway.

      • I’m for both too. It just seemed a bit Martinesque to have so many issues become the human rights issue of the 21st century at the same time.

  3. I am glad John has gone to this issue . His stance on gay rights was right and principled but this blog will be the test of our humanity in the world.

    • I don’t think the real test will be whether we pile it on as another thing wrong about our enemies, but if we are prepared to take real action nations we consider more friendly.

      And on that front, we’ve already lost.

  4. You, sir, are an ass.

  5. gay rights has to do with marriage ,property and opportunity . In that sense ,it is civil rights. Like blacks getting the right to vote and getting housing where they choose. A human right has to do with the basic basic treatment of a person . Slavery was a violation of a human right while segregation is a violation of a civil right . That is how I read his blogs. I don`t why i am explaining this to you because your other comments were quite unintelligent.
    wotcher is bang on .

  6. I certainly agree that it’s an issue. But I’m a wee uncertain on the century bit. I was kind of hoping it was the last one.

  7. What puzzles me about the treatment of women in certain parts of the world is why these societies would want to cripple themselves in this way. When a society marginalizes women, it deprives itself of the energy , talents, and creativity of 50 per cent of its population. Is it any wonder that such countries are among the most backward places in the world? The Saudis may appear to be an exception but it is an illusion. They appear to be advanced but only because they live well from oil royalities. That wealth, however, is produced by others.

Sign in to comment.