Monday, October 06, 2008

On the Upcoming Elections in the US and Canada: A Gentle Reminder to Women Voters

Some of my younger friends don't believe me when I point out that women in Canada were only granted the right to vote less than a century ago. It was in 1918. Women in Québec were only allowed to join in 22 years later, in 1940. Women in the US were only guaranteed the right to vote in all US states by 1920. In fact, in the West, most women have only been guaranteed the right to vote within the past 30-90 years (in Switzerland, for instance, women were only granted the right to vote in federal elections within my own lifetime -- in 1973). Yet as recently as 2004, only 65% of American women voted in federal elections (with the percentage lower for lower age groups). In 2006, 4 million Canadian women eligible to vote did not do so.

According to the International Women's Democracy Centre, out of 189 governments in this world today, only 13 are led by women. In this world today, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to vote. Women in Brunei have been denied the right to vote or run for elections since 1962. In Lebanon, women are only allowed to vote if they can prove they've received elementary education -- something which is not required of Lebanese men.

So? So the luxury of voting ain't so much a luxury in other parts of the world. Take a few minutes out of your day and exercise your right on October 14 (in Canada) and November 4 (in the United States). There are women in the world today who sure as hell wish they shared a fraction of the freedom possessed by the women in North America right now:
A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia is now calling for one-eyed veils for women, since showing both eyes supposedly encourages women to wear eye makeup to look seductive. In Saudi Arabia, adult women still need to get permission from a guardian (i.e. father, brother or husband) to study, work, travel, marry or even obtain basic health care).

In countries like Libya, girls and women are locked up in "social rehabilitation centres" after having been deemed "vulnerable to engaging in moral misconduct". In some cases, all these women have "done" is that they've been raped and then rejected by their families for having been "tainted". These women have no access to lawyers or the legal system, and are only released from these jail-like institutions if a male family member comes forward to get them (which happens almost never), or if a stranger comes looking for a wife (i.e. shopping for a wife-slave).

For five years, women and girls in Darfur have remained under the constant threat of violent rape from the government's own soldiers and allied militias. Neither the government nor international peace-keepers have done anything about this and the women and girls in question have no means for legal redress.

These women could be you or me. Please, just vote.

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