In Their Own Words

Jul 21, 2009

“This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread… This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries… At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities. The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives…. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for everyone in society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family. It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population.”
--Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, “The Words of God Do Not Justify Cruelty to Women,” The London (U.K.) Guardian, July 12, 2009

“Afghanistan is a country where women have made significant progress – but only compared with a comprehensively oppressive past… Afghanistan is also a nation where girls have had acid thrown in their faces while walking to school and female police officers and public officials have been targeted for assassination. Taliban and foreign extremists seem to take a particular interest…in the intimidation, repression and humiliation of women… Afghanistan remains one of the most difficult places on Earth to be a woman. A reaction of anger and militancy would be understandable. But the Afghan women I met take a different approach… Rather than asserting an individualistic conception of rights, these women are arguing for respect and legal protection from within their religious tradition… [and] offer a practical rebuttal. They point out that the reconstruction of Afghanistan will not take place without the knowledge and skills of 52 percent of its population… Why should America, in the midst of a costly war, care about the rights of Afghan women? Because Afghanistan, without the participation of women, will remain a failed and dangerous state.”
--Michael Gerson, “An Afghan Feminism,” Washington Post, July 10, 2009