It’s really hard to watch and listen to the news coverage of the recent kidnappings of over 250 young school girls in Nigeria. These girls are gone, at least for now, and beyond the help of their distraught mothers and fathers. As a parent, I can imagine the dreadful anguish that their families must be feeling; I can also imagine the terrible treatment that these girls are being subjected to under the berserk control of the Boko Haram.
Sadly, the Nigerian government has proven incapable of swift and effective action against those who perpetrated this atrocious act. This is an egregious example of male subjugation and enslavement of female children, but sadly, the news cycle is riddled with horrific stories of the abuse and murder of women and girls around the globe. Under the umbrella of religious extremism and societal strictures, girls and women are subjected to “honour killings”, genital mutilation, undesired arranged marriages, intimidation, denial of education, forced domesticity, sexual control, physical abuse and on and on. It’s appalling.
Each case that reaches beyond village or national boundaries, such as the reprehensible gang rape and killing of a young woman on a bus in Delhi, and the shooting of the young school girl, Malala, in Pakistan, underscores the terrible reality that for millions of women around the globe, their lives are lived as secondary persons, regulated and controlled under restrictions, often religious, that deny their personal liberty and equal status. Women in many cultures are property, to be bartered, sold, punished, restricted, dictated to, physically and mentally abused, and sometimes murdered at the whim of male “guardians”.
In the Western world, decades of agitation and pressure led to women having citizenship and the promise, though not yet fully realized, of equal status. In Canada, our constitutional democracy has safeguarded gender equality in principle, but here too, outrages abound. The mysterious and disturbing disappearance and murder of hundreds and hundreds of native women comes to mind. Where are these women? Why has the government failed to establish an official inquiry into these missing persons? To what extent has discrimination and gender rendered these women inconsequential?
Canada needs a sweeping investigation into this issue, which will likely reveal much that is dark and disturbing, and politically dangerous, but nonetheless imperative, if we are to believe or pretend that we live in a just and equal society.