What do the development of democratic governments have to do with women’s rights? It has everything to do with that since democracies require the full participation of its citizenry in order to survive, and if a large part of that citizenry, such as women, are left out in the cold, it becomes nearly impossible for democracies to be successful. Let me introduce to you to one of the earliest suffragist voices from the past, Mrs. Anna G. Spencer, who wrote an article called “The Logical Basis of Woman Suffrage” in 1910, which was submitted to the Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science.

She writes of the need for the participation of women in democratic governments:

“The significance of the woman suffrage movement is twofold; it is a response to the general movement of democracy toward the individuation of all members of all previously subjected or submerged classes of society; and it is also a social response to the new demands of citizenship which have followed inevitably the new and varied increase in the functions of government.”

When one looks at the political development of countries worldwide, you can tell how democratic the government of a particular country is by their treatment of women, and the amount of attention they pay to women’s issues. Here are why women’s rights need to be treated as human rights because whenever a woman does not have access to education, reproductive rights, and rights in the workplace, that country suffers a result in terms of its infrastructure and economy.

There are huge numbers of the world’s population being subjected to torture, rape, humiliation, mutilation, and murder just because they had the misfortune to be born as the wrong gender. Their suffering is thought to be inconsequential because their rights to be seen as human beings are not taken seriously by the more powerful countries. Very few countries are the exception to the norm where they base their dealings with other countries on women’s equality as a basic human right.

Charlotte Bunch, in her article, “Women’s Rights As Human Rights: Towards a Revision of Human Rights,” covers the refusal of governments to take women’s rights seriously as human rights. She writes of the excuses offered by governments in dealing with women’s rights as a priority:

“When it is suggested that governments and human rights organizations should respond to women’s rights as concerns that deserve such attention, a number of excuses are offered for why this cannot be done. The responses tend to follow one or more of these lines:

(1) Sex discrimination is too trivial, or not “the important stuff,” or will come after larger issues of survival that require more serious attention.
(2) Abuse of women , while regrettable, is a cultural, private, or individual issue and not a political matter requiring state action.
(3) While appropriate for other action, women’s rights are not human rights per se.
(4) When the abuse of women is recognized, it is considered inevitable or so pervasive that any recognition of it is futile and will overwhelm other human rights questions.”

When I look at those responses, they sound extremely familiar to me. Let me know if they sound familiar to you also. It’s the responses we always hear whenever we bring up the issue of women’s rights to our own party, to the party leaders, or members of that party. It’s that same dismissal that our issues are not considered to be important because they’re not a part of human rights issues that every country faces in its own political development. Also, it is the exact same responses that our own government gives when it comes to the mass rapes of African women in Sudan, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afganistan with its violent attacks against women, and when women are being sold as sex slaves all over the world.

Our government is simply satisfied with the establishment of a “democratic government” in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, so it gives no credence to women’s issues as human rights to be taken seriously. Which is why they take no notice of the Taliban throwing gasoline on little girls walking to school, and setting them on fire. That is why they take no notice of women being suffered through mass rapes in the Sudan, and having their breasts and genitals being brutally mutilated during their rapes. That is why they do not pay attention to female genital mutilation in Africa because it is a “cultural” issue. It looks like abuse of women is a “cultural” issue to the current occupants of the White House.

Here is a list of what’s happening to women in this country that members of a certain site would like to dismiss as trivial issues because the Iraq war is more important, etcetera, etcetera:

(1) Every two and a half minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted somewhere in America by her boyfriend, friend, father, uncle, brother, or a complete stranger. That’s twenty-six rapes per hour, and that turns into six hundred and twenty-four rapes every twenty-four hours. That’s an astonishing number of rapes that are being committed against women, and even more astonishing when you consider that only 40% of rapes were reported to law enforcement in 2003. That is somebody’s wife, your daughter, your sister, your friend, or your co-worker that you work with, and who knows how many other women in your life that you know?
(2) 77% of completed rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim. 4 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 6 out of 10 rape/sexual assault incidents are reported by victims to have occurred in their own home or at the home of a friend, relative, or neighbor. 5 (5) According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 89% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female and 11 % are male. Nearly 99% of the offenders they described in single-victim incidents are male. 6
(3) Rape or sexual assault was the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement (28%). 13 Only 16% of rapes are ever reported to the police. In a survey of victims who did not report rape or attempted rape to the police, the following was found as to why no report was made: 43% thought nothing could be done, 27% felt it was a private matter, 12% were afraid of police response, and 12% felt it was not important enough. 14
(4) Between 11 and 42 million women experience serious assault by an intimate partner each year.47% of men who beat their wives do so at least 3 times per year.3
(5) Nearly 1 in 3 adult women experience at least 1 physical assault by a partner during adulthood.4
(6) Only about one-seventh of all domestic assaults come to the attention of the police.5

That’s just a small fraction of statistics I have included. And those who said “the sanctimonious women’s studies set” issues are not important actually have the gall to say that? Women’s rights should be considered as important issues for the Democratic Party to champion. With the continuing attacks on our reproductive choices to be thrown away for short-term gains that end up harming us all in the long-term, with the continuing attacks on our right to serve in the military without being restricted to certain areas of it, with the continuing attacks on our rights to work in the workplace with equal pay, equal benefits, and health insurance, and they say that our rights aren’t important to pay attention to?


The success of democratic governments depends on the full participation of its citizenry, and the rights they give their citizenry, will not be maintained if those in our party would like to exchange our rights for something arbitrary such as short-term gains. Once you compromise a large part of your party, how can you ever really stand up for everyone else if you won’t stand up for a large percentage of those in your party?

Women in this country came a long way because they had the right to vote, the right to represent us in Congress, the right to have access to education, the right to jobs once deemed “men’s jobs,” the right to stay home and look after sick children without the penalty of being fired, the right to have access to birth control, the right to have access to abortion. And we’re going to take a step back because those issues are no longer important to discuss or because those issues would isolate the pro-life voters that the Democratic party are seeking to recruit? That’s why it’s not just about the pie ad. It’s about what those defending it said, and subsequently marginalized a large portion of its community.

As a feminist, I say, “To hell with that!”

Statistics taken from http://www.now.org and http://www.rainn.org/

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