Last night another excellent evening of poetry from the PUNCH collective, and this afternoon the horrendous news that the US House of Representatives has voted to pass a bill which would ban federal funding for abortions. Dubai is no liberal paradise, and it’s true here (more than ever after the Charlie Hebdo attacks) that one can’t speak one’s mind regarding religion or those things that religion deems sacred – which unfortunately seems to include ownership of women’s bodies by someone other than them. It’s equally true that in Dubai not only abortion but sex outside marriage is illegal. However, no one is holding Dubai up as an example of liberty and democracy. Land of the free and home of the brave it is not – and has never claimed to be.
The United States on the other hand does make this claim, frequently, loudly, and with increasingly little evidence to back it up. The erosion of women’s rights over the last year or so has been horrific. Can we blame this on Christian fundamentalism? Or can we consider it as a knock-on effect of the economic crisis? As unemployment continues to be an issue, is there the implicit idea that not only immigrants but women are taking jobs that should be the preserve of (white, straight) men? I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that women’s rights are once again in danger in the US just as racist anti-immigration policies rear their ugly heads all over Europe. They are the left and right hands of the same fear.
Going back to last night, one of the readers was the slam poet Sarah Saleh. I’m not always a big fan of slam-style poetry. When badly done it can rely too heavily on style over substance, and political pot-stirring merely for the shock factor, without any serious or novel engagement with the matter at hand. I’m happy to say Sarah’s well-constructed piece on violence against women avoided this hubris. One particular line really tore at my heart, and I’ll try and paraphrase it here (apologies but I can’t remember the exact wording): something like “when the War on Women is treated as seriously as the War on Terror”.
There is a war on women, on all women and it’s still going on, in developed countries as much as undeveloped. There are those who claim to wage war against terrorists in the name of freedom who are consistently eroding the freedoms of 50% of their population. Those in power want to stay in power – and whether the threats they perceive are internal or external, as today’s vote is just another example, they will act with the same ruthlessness against both.