Monday, August 22, 2011

Global Male War Against Women

Scandinavia and Global Perspective
Being appalled by the high rates of domestic violence in the United States, I looked around the world to see if I could find any countries with comparatively low rates of domestic violence.   I had seen that Sweden and Finland were serving successfully as global role models in the struggle against child abuse.  Having been the first two countries in the world to outlaw all forms of parental hitting against children, in 1979 and 1983, Sweden and Finland are helping other countries now to learn how to teach parents to stop hitting their children.  I found the vast majority of my data for this research from the Religion and Violence Project at  In addition the World Health Organization’s global study on domestic violence, which can be accessed here, is the source of much of the information on the Religion and Violence Project.
I was shocked and depressed when I discovered that the level of domestic violence in Sweden and Finland was in fact obscenely high.  In Finland, some 40% of women are either hit by their partners or threatened with violence.  A staggering 50% of women who ended their relationships with their partners were hit.  At least 1/3 of all Finnish people believe that domestic violence is a private family affair in which the community should not intercede.  This news was very upsetting to me because it made me question one of my bedrock assumptions: that the key to reducing domestic violence is to reduce violent child abuse in the home.  Unfortunately, there appears to be no connection between the low levels of violent child abuse in the home and the high proportion of domestic violence in either Sweden or Finland. 
In Sweden, domestic violence levels are also extremely high.  A 2001 Report contains the depressing title of “The Captured Queen: Men’s Violence Against Women in ‘Equal’ Sweden.”  The study depicts the proportion of women over age 15 who were abused by a man on page 9.  In 2001, some 46% of women over 15 were physically or sexually assaulted by a man in Sweden at some point in their lives, and some 12% were attacked by a man in the past year alone.  25% of women over 15 were hit by a man at some point in their lives, including 5% who were hit in the past year alone.   34% of women were sexually assaulted by a man, including 7% who were sexually attacked in the past year.  An additional 18% of women were threatened with violence, including 4% who were threatened in the past year. 
 Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any countries around the world where men do not systematically hit, rape, and emotionally abuse women.  And so it seems the global reign of patriarchy is literally everywhere.   The male contempt for the sanctity of women appears to be universal across cultures. No viable role models for substantially reducing domestic violence appear to be available anywhere in the world.  In Norway, some 25% of women and 20% of men say they have been physically assaulted or threatened with violence by their partner at some point in their lives.  What is interesting is that in Norway the violence appears to be more equal.  Instead of men perpetrating the overwhelming proportion of violence against women, men and women are both hitting one another.  However, the solution to men hitting women is clearly not for women to begin hitting men.  So Norway doesn’t offer a positive role model for ending abuse either. 
  In addition, there also appears to be no correlation between the levels of political freedom in a country and the levels of male violence against women.  Women in democratic Switzerland are slightly more likely to be hit by their partners than Chinese women.  A staggering 40% of Swiss women were hit or sexually assaulted by a partner at some point in their lives, compared to 30-35% of Chinese women.  This data undermines another one of my bedrock assumptions: that women will fare better in a democratic country than under a totalitarian regime.  But it is truly sickening for me to discover that actually women fare slightly better in totalitarian China than in democratic Switzerland.  This discovery does not change my overwhelming moral revulsion against the Chinese totalitarian regime for committing genocide in Tibet, North Korea, Burma, and Darfur in Sudan, for sponsoring the brutal totalitarian regimes in Iran and Syria, and for systematically repressing women and dissidents inside China.  And these figures don’t include the millions of Chinese women who are subjected to barbaric forced abortions under the ‘one child policy.’  This discovery does not change the fact that I am boycotting the Chinese regime and its products because of its atrocious human rights record, and that I support the peaceful democratic forces in China which are seeking political change for their homeland.
But I am profoundly sad to see such staggeringly high proportions of women being abused in democratic countries. It makes me realize that perhaps I need to add another condition to my definition of democracy.  Democracy clearly includes rights that are primarily beneficial to men, like freedom of speech, religion, press, elections, and assembly.  But democracy also needs to be measured by the level of freedom accorded to women.  We can measure the level of freedom accorded to women by the proportion of women who are hit or sexually assaulted or emotionally abused by their male partners every year.  This proportion shows us that even the Western democracies are not places of genuine freedom for women. 
Unfortunately, the Latin American and Eastern European countries that have recently made the transition from political repression or Communism to democracy have not shown similar gains for women.  Chile regained its democracy in 1990 after a brutal right-wing military dictatorship sponsored by the U.S. which killed some 3,000 peaceful leftist activists.  Chile even elected the first female President in South America recently, Michelle Bachelet.  Yet even in Chile in 2004, men abused a shocking 50% of married women, inflicting physical violence on 34% and psychological abuse on an additional 16%.  Another study found that 85% of Chilean women are physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by their partners.  So the restoration of Chilean democracy has done little or nothing to improve the lives or status of Chilean women.

Similarly, even the more democratic countries in the former Soviet Union also continue to exhibit very high levels of domestic violence.  Lithuania, one of the three Baltic states which has joined NATO and the EU and liberated itself from Russian occupation and attempted genocide,  is also a hostile place for women.  Men have physically or sexually assaulted a staggering 63% of Lithuanian women at some point in their lives.  In addition, men have also abused some 41% of Moldovan women.  The examples of Chile and Lithuania illustrate the tragic fact that a transition to democracy fails to change the underlying pattern of systematic male violence against women.
In addition, the examples of Botswana and Costa Rica illustrate that even the absence of a national military and a long-standing historical tradition of peace and democracy do not necessarily translate into gains for women.  Costa Rica and Botswana are both distinguished by virtue of being the only countries in their respective regions, Latin America and Africa, which have abolished their militaries.  Costa Rica and Botswana also have much longer traditions of peace and democracy than other countries in their regions.  Yet almost identically high proportions of women are being hit by their male partners in both Costa Rica and Botswana: 58% in Costa Rica and 60% for Botswana.    

This research project does not focus on Western societies because Western societies exhibit a uniform pattern of domestic violence in the range of 20 to 33% roughly speaking.  In addition, despite decades of efforts by feminists and increasingly law enforcement to combat domestic violence in the West, the level of domestic violence in the West remains stubbornly high.  Therefore unfortunately I do not see the Western models for combating domestic violence as being particularly effective.  This research will show that the levels of domestic violence against women are much higher in Latin America, Africa, India, the Islamic world, the Pacific Islands, Asia, and possibly Russia than in the West.  But this research will also try to put the extremely high levels of domestic violence in these countries and regions into a broader historical and cultural context. 

Latin America

The story across Latin America is particularly depressing. Men systematically rape and hit their female partners throughout the region.  In many countries, men abuse over half of their female partners.  Some 52% to 60% of Nicaraguan women in the capital of Managua say they have been hit by their male partners, including 11% of pregnant women.  In Peru the rates of domestic violence are even higher than in Nicaragua.  Some 49% of women in the capital Lima and 61% of women in the Peru’s second city of Cuzco were hit by their male partners.  In addition, some 23% of women in Lima and 47% of women in Cuzco were sexually assaulted by their male partners.  Think for a  moment about the fact that men are battering roughly six in ten women in Costa Rica, Botswana, and Cuzco, Peru.   

Peru is known for being a highly stratified society driven by discrimination based on race against indigenous peoples and by income against poor people.  Peru was the site of the Inca Empire, which was built on racial oppression of non-Inca people and of human sacrifice.  The Spanish conquest of Peru was even more devastating to the indigenous people in Peru, millions of whom died from war and disease.  In recent years Peru has moved toward greater political democracy and capitalism.  However, the democratization of Peru is not likely to improve the condition of its women. 

Nicaragua has had a tumultuous history in the second half of the 20th century.  Prior to 1979, Nicaragua suffered under the Somoza regime, which was characterized by a small land-owning elite using the military to repress the poor majority.  Following the Communist Sandinista revolution, Nicaragua suffered a civil war.  The Sandinistas were defeated in the late 1980’s by the U.S-backed Contras, and democracy was established in Nicaragua with a free election in 1991 which brought Violetta Chamoro to power.  Eventually the Sandanistas won free elections in Nicaragua and have begun re-imposing Communism in Nicaragua in alliance with the Chavez regime in Venezuela.  The women of Nicaragua have suffered high levels of male violence in their homes throughout the political turmoil in their country.  

Men are abusing nearly half of Mexican women and over six in ten women in Colombia as well. Men are hitting a staggering 65% of women in Colombia and 47% of women in Mexico.  Some 40% of women in Durango City, Mexico, say they have been hit by their partners at some point in their lives.  One study of nearly 100 women in Quito, Ecuador, found that 25% were being regularly beaten by their partners, and another 41% were threatened with violence.  Thus, 2/3 of women in Quito, Ecuador, are living under the shadow of male violence from their partners.   

The high rates of domestic violence in Colombia may be related to the longstanding drug and civil war which has plagued Colombia for decades.  But given the high levels of ongoing domestic violence in Chile, but it seems unlikely that the defeat of the drug lords and the restoration of relative social peace in Colombia will make any difference for Colombian women.  Mexico has a long history of authoritarian military repression against indigenous peoples and poor people particularly, and it seems possible that the transfer of the Latin American drug war from Colombia to Mexico in recent years could increase already sky-high levels of domestic violence in Mexico.  Ecuador is also known for its high levels of economic inequality and increasingly for its authoritarian Communist regime allied to Chavez in Venezuela, neither of which bode well for the women of Ecuador.


Russia exhibits a high level of domestic violence, as befits its  authoritarian history and political culture.  1 out of 4 women at a minimum in Russia are victims of domestic violence.  But an alarming survey by Moscow State University in 2002 and 2003 found much higher levels of domestic violence.  Some 70% of Russian women in this survey said they were being abused by their husbands.  And even more shockingly, 90% of Russian women said they had witnessed or experienced psychological violence in their parents’ homes.

These appallingly high rate of domestic violence need to be considered within the broader context of Russian history and culture.  Russia since 1500 has been characterized by increasing levels of imperial conquest and internal political repression.  The horrific violence of Ivan the Terrible in the mid-1500’s was followed by the imposition of serfdom in the early 1600s.  The partial Westernization of Peter the Great was imposed by force.  The first attempted democratic revolution by the Decemberists in 1825 was brutally repressed by Tsar Nicholas I.  The only humane czar, Alexander II, who liberated the serfs in 1861 and tried to bring political liberalization to Russia, was assassinated in 1881.  The last two czars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, were distinguished by their anti-Semitism, weak political leadership, and incompetence. 

The Soviet Communist regime only increased the level of suffering for the Russian people and their subjugated non-Russian populations.  Stalin deliberately starved 5 to 6 million Ukrainians to death in the Great Famine of 1932-1933.  Stalin also deported and systematically exterminated the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus.  The conquest of the Baltic states in 1940 was marked by the mass deportations of their native populations and their  replacement by ethnic Russians.  Stalin slaughtered hundreds of thousands of high-ranking Communist officials of all nationalities, including Russians.   Religious groups such as Jews, Christians, and Muslims were persecuted with the murder of their clergy and believers.  Stalin also repressed Soviet women by banning them from having abortions.    In total, Stalin killed 20 million people in the Soviet Union.  The later Communist leaders were marked by less overt but severe political oppression.

The fall of Communism in Russia in 1991 did nothing to bring democracy any closer.  Instead it was marked by total economic collapse and by the resumption of Russia’s long-standing genocidal war against the Chechens.  Russia invaded Chechnya in 1994 to 1996 to crush its bid for independence, slaughtering 100,000 Chechens.  Russia resumed its war on the Chechen people in 1999 and has since expanded its war on the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus.  Since 1998, the Putin regime has been marked with the full-scale resumption of KGB control over all sectors of Russian society.  Male and female political dissidents have been systematically assassinated, including my beloved late teacher Galina Starovoitova, a leading democratic politician who was shot in cold blood by Putin’s thugs in her apartment building in November, 1998.

In Russia, the state has been the main purveyor of violence and genocide against the people for centuries.  All attempts to pursue a democratic course of development have been ruthlessly suppressed through a combination of force and shrewd political manipulation.  In such an environment, as long as totalitarian political regimes such as the Putin / Medvedev regime remain in power, there is no prospect for challenging domestic violence in the home.


The levels of male violence in many African countries are comparable to or even higher than the levels of male violence in Latin America. Some 71% of Ethiopian women have been beaten or sexually abused by their partners, and 35% of Ethiopian women have faced severe violent attacks by their partners.  Seven in ten women in Ethiopia, compared to 65% of women in Colombia and roughly six in ten women in Botswana and Costa Rica, are facing male violence in the home. 

Domestic violence is a tragically regular occurrence for women in Ethiopia.  Nearly half of Ethiopian women, or 49%, were hit by their partners, including 29% in the past year.  Nearly 6 in ten women, or 59%, were sexually abused by their partners, including 44% in the past year.  Not surprisingly, 85% of Ethiopian women polled believe that men have the right to hit their wives.  The tragic example of Ethiopia demonstrates that systematic domestic violence is not occurring due to lack of awareness.  Rather, the problem is Ethiopian women know they are being beaten but they have been brainwashed into believing that they deserve to be beaten by their husbands. 

Women are also beaten regularly in other African countries as well.  For instance, 42% of women in one district in Kenya reported being beaten by their partners.  And a 2004 national survey in Kenya revealed that over half of women are being beaten by their partners.   In addition, the horrifying practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is frighteningly common In Kenya.  Only four of Kenya’s 42 main ethnic groups comprising 25% of the country’s population, the Luhya, Luo, Teso, and Turkana, did not traditionally practice FGM.  Female circumcision was tragically a central female rite of passage for girls in Kenya’s largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu who make up 20% of Kenya’s population or 6.5 million people today.  80 to 90% of girls are still being subjected to FGM in some districts of the Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Nyanza provinces of Kenya.  

Kenya suffered horrific repression and mass murder of its African population under British colonialism and then incompetent governance under its independent socialist regime.  The attempt to establish a democratic government in Kenya in 2002 slid backward with a fraudulent election in 2007 in which the parties used massive levels of ethnic pogroms to enforce their wills upon each other.  Historical conflicts between the major ethnic group of the Kikuyus and smaller ethnic groups such as the Luo over land and power remain unresolved in Kenya and are like a powder keg ready to explode at any moment.  This political turmoil and instability is partly reflected in the high levels of domestic violence in Kenya.
Domestic violence is an epidemic in many parts of East and Central Africa.  The East African nations of Tanzania and Uganda have very high rates of domestic violence.  41% of women in the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam had been physically or sexually assaulted by their partners, compared to 56% in the rural area of Mbeya. Thus, 4 in ten women in the capital and over half of women in the rural parts of Tanzania are being hit by their partners.  17% of women in Dar es Salaam and 25% of women in Mbeya faced severe physical violence from their partners.  Dar es Salaam means ‘house of peace’ in Arabic.  However, the capital of Tanzania is not a peaceful place for its women. 
Rural Uganda is also a terrible place to be a woman.  55% of women in rural Uganda were injured by physical assaults by their male partners, and an additional 33% were threatened with violence.   Thus, 88%, or nearly 9 out of 10 women in rural Uganda are living in the shadow or the reality of male violence.  Women in rural Uganda and other parts of Africa also are in danger of being deliberately infected with HIV / AIDS by their male partners as well.
Sadly, Ethiopia and Uganda have something else in common: a very high proportion of women who believe men have the right to hit them.  85% of women in Ethiopia and 90% of women in Rakai, Uganda, believe that men have the right to hit them.  Perhaps even more depressing, significantly higher proportions of women than men in Rakai, Ethopia, think men have the right to hit women.  90% of women in Rakai, Uganda, compared to 70% of men in this area, think men have the right to hit women. 

Rwanda, site of the infamous 1994 genocide against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus which killed at least 800,000 to 1 million people using machetes in just 100 days, also experiences high rates of domestic violence and rape.  39% of women reported that they were raped during the genocide.  31% of women are being hit by their partners, including 19% in the past year alone.  Divorced women are most likely to be hit.  67% of divorced women said they were hit three or more times in the past year.  41% of women in their twenties are hit 3 times a year or more, compared with 34% of women in their 40s.  Also as in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, women in rural areas in Rwanda are more likely to be hit than in urban areas of Rwanda.  50% of women in rural Rwanda are hit at least 3 times a year by their partners, compared with 36% in urban areas.

The high rate of domestic violence in Rwanda may be partly related to the authoritarian political culture in Rwanda which made the genocide possible.  Rwanda is known across Africa and the world for its authoritarian political culture, where secrecy is considered a virtue and ethnic hatred has been used as a source of currency for political power.  In addition, Rwanda has been forced by its inability to militarily defeat the perpetrators of the genocide into an extremely costly war in neighboring Zaire which has killed at least four million people from 1998 to 2002.  The war in Congo has led to horrific levels of sexual violence against women and men alike.  For instance, some 26% of men in the Eastern provinces of the Congo have suffered sexual violence.  However, the subject of the Congo war could be the source of many dissertations and is beyond the scope of this article.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is also pervasive in both Nigeria and South Africa as well.  Domestic violence is not a crime in Nigeria, where men are explicitly allowed to hit their wives.  1/3 of women in the southern Nigerian provinces of Ondo and Enugu were abused by their partners.  In addition, up to 2/3 of women in some communities in the capital area of Lagos State are being hit by their partners.  Not surprisingly, 61.3% of men and 64.5% of women think its okay for a man to hit a woman in Nigeria.  The difficult, costly and contradictory struggle to restore democracy in Nigeria, led by heroic men such as the Nobel Prize winning author Wole Soyinka, has not made a difference for Nigerian women.  Democracy appears to apply only to men and not to women in Nigeria. 
Part of the reason why Nigerian law allows men to hit women is that northern Nigeria is dominated by two very large historically Muslim ethnic groups, the Hausa and Fulani, who are known across the Islamic world for their embrace of radical Islam.  The Muslims of northern Nigeria are imposing harsh interpretations of Sharia law, or Muslim law, in their provinces.  These distorted interpretations of Sharia law allow men to murder for women for “crimes” such as having sex outside marriage.  In a northern Nigerian cultural context dominated by radical Islam, it is hard to imagine women even experiencing fundamental human rights.
In South Africa, the end of racial aparthield in 1994 and the first free elections in South African history have not liberated the women of South Africa from long traditions of male abuse.  A staggering 80% of women in the rural areas of the Southern Cape in South Africa are being abused, even higher than the 71% of women in Ethiopia and the 2/3 of women in some communities of Lagos, Nigeria, who are suffering male abuse.  A shocking 44% of male employees of three cities in the Cape Town area admitted to hitting their partners.   A survey of women in three South African provinces also found frighteningly high levels of domestic violence.  Some 27 to 28% of women in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga were hit by their partners, and 50 to 51% of the women in these two areas are being financially and emotionally abused.  Thus, some 80% of women in these two communities are being financially, emotionally, and /or sexually abused by their male partners.  Slightly lower proportions of women in the Northern Cape are being abused, with 19% being hit and 40% being financially and emotionally abused.  I find it profoundly sad that the wonderfully heroic multi-racial struggle against aparthield has done virtually nothing to improve conditions for women in South Africa. 

The Islamic World

I should preface this section by indicating that I stand in firm solidarity with democratic forces throughout the Islamic world against the political repression which is the lot of too many Muslim countries.  I support the forces of political democracy which are endangered even in the historical moderate Balkan regions such as Bosnia, Kosova, Macedonia, and Albania.  I also support the incredibly brave struggles being waged by the Libyan, Iranian, and Syrian peoples for their freedom and dignity in the face of cruel totalitarian regimes.  I am watching the Syrian freedom struggle with particular attention and interest and hope one day soon we will all be celebrating the end of the Assad regime in Syria, as now we are rejoicing in the end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. This section is not about Muslim-bashing but rather about examining the problems of domestic violence in Muslim countries with a view toward reducing the extremely high rates of domestic violence in these societies. 

Bangladesh, like neighboring India and many countries in Africa and Latin America, has experienced very high rates of domestic violence.  The formation of West Bengal, or Bangladesh, as a country in the 1970’s was marked by Pakistani genocide against the Bengali people.  As in many other places, domestic violence rates are higher in rural than  urban areas.  53% of married women in the capital of Dhaka were physically or sexually assaulted in the home, compared to 62% of women in rural Matlab.  So more than half of urban women and over six in ten rural women are being assaulted by their male partners in Bangladesh.  Interestingly, the rates of physical abuse for both rural and urban Bangladesh was roughly the same at 40 to 42%.  However, the rate of sexual abuse was much higher in rural Matlab at 50% than in urban Dhaka at 37%.   In the past year, similar levels of both physical and sexual abuse occurred in both rural and urban Bangladesh.  19% of urban women and 16% of urban women were hit in the past year, compared to 20% of urban women and 24% of rural women who were sexually abused in the past year.  Interestingly, rates of physical abuse are slightly higher in urban than rural areas in the past year, whereas rates of sexual abuse are slightly higher in rural than urban areas in the past year.

In 2001, the U.S. liberated Afghanistan from the horrors of the Taliban radical Islamist regime, which had banned women from working or studying and encouraged men to kill their female relatives in ‘honor killings.’  However, the liberation of Afghanistan has failed to free the Afghan women from generations of male social bondage which is rigidly enforced by tribal custom.  Pictures of women in liberated Afghanistan show the women continuing to wear the Burqa, or the full-body covering.  A staggering 87% of Afghan women are illiterate, and 70% of Afghan girls have no access to education.  In addition, the maternal mortality rate is appalling, and nearly 50 women a day die in childbirth in Afghanistan.

The levels of domestic violence against Afghan women are high, not surprisingly.  At least 1/3 of all Afghan women suffer physical or sexual abuse in the home.  In addition, most Afghan women are subjected to the inherent violence of forced marriage and child marriage.  Some 70 to 80% of Afghan women suffered forced marriage, and an appalling 57% of Afghan women were married before age 16 in 2004.  The end of the Taliban regime has brought very limited gains to the women of Afghanistan, and the abuse of women is a deeply rooted tradition in Afghanistan which defies easy solution.
Conditions in Iran are possibly even more horrific for women than in Afghanistan.  Under the Islamist regime in Iran, girls can be forcibly married as young as 13 years old.  Women are routinely beaten, imprisoned, and raped if they do not wear “Islamically appropriate” clothing that covers their hair and virtually their whole bodies.  Women lost virtually all their legal rights under the Islamist regime, including the right to child custody in case of divorce.  Women require the approval of their husband or father to attend school or work and cannot choose their own husbands or decide how many children they would like to have.  In addition, a staggering 81% of Iranian women are beaten by their husbands in their first year of marriage.  90% of women in Iran suffer from severe depression due to the ideological restrictions of the regime and the brutal repression they are forced to endure in their own homes.
I strongly support regime change and secular democracy as the only answer to the agony of Iranian women and to the brutal political oppression which is being inflicted upon both women and men in Iran.  It is no accident that this regime which promotes genocide against my people the Jews is also waging an ideological war upon women and suppressing both liberal Islamist and secular democratic dissent in Iran.  The end of the Islamist regime will likely improve conditions for Iranian women but will be unlikely to dismantle the underlying source of repression for women in Iran and worldwide: the global system of patriarchy. 

My dear friend Dr. Roya Araghi has suffered brutal torture and imprisonment under this regime because she supports the humane vision of Ayatollah Boroujerdi.  Ayatollah Boroujerdi is an unusual Shi’ite cleric who supports gender equality, peace, and a total separation of religion and state and opposes the clerical control of the Islamist regime in Iran.  For his pains, Ayatollah Boroujerdi has been imprisoned since 2006 while serving an 11 year sentence, brutally tortured, and forced to watch his wife raped in front of him.  In addition, Dr. Araghi is a physical chemist who lost her position as a university professor because she demonstrated outside his house in an attempt to stop his arrest in 2006.  She was imprisoned for one week in 2006 and for several months in 2010 to 2011 after her arrest in November, 2010.  She was badly tortured during her second arrest in 2010 to 2011, and she took advantage of medical leave to flee Iran rather than face inevitable prison, torture, and possible death.  She fled to Malaysia and is stranded as a political refugee who is in desperate need of urgent political asylum in the USA.  She is also a strong supporter of secular democracy and of Israel and the Jews.  She is one of the thousands of political refugees, both men and women, who have fled for their lives from Iran to all corners of the globe in a desperate search for dignity and freedom.  Tragically many Iranian political refugees have been deported from Europe back to certain death in Iran, including some gay people.  Gay and lesbian people are also fleeing for their lives from Iran because they face certain death if publicly caught inside Iran, and some 4,000 homosexuals have been murdered by the Islamist regime since 1979. If you wish to help Roya, please contact me by email at

The level of violence against Malaysian women is also high.  In 1989, some 39% of Malaysian women were abused by their partners.  The abuse of women in Malaysia needs to be seen in the broader context of political conflicts and lack of democratic freedoms in the country.  The conflict between the historically economically powerful Chinese non-Muslim minority and the large Muslim Malay majority has shaped Malaysian society for decades.  The economic, ethnic, and religious competitions between these two groups is the underlying source of many of the country’s problems.  In addition, in recent years the Malay regime was notorious for its promotion of anti-Semitism to the global Islamic world.  Under these conditions, although Muslim feminists are more organized and outspoken than in the past in Malaysia, it is difficult to see significant improvement in the treatment of women in the near future.

Finally, this report discusses Egypt as an example of the atrocious treatment of women in the core Arab areas of the Muslim world.  The exact levels of domestic violence will likely differ from country to country in the Arab world, and differences are also likely even between Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries as well.    A staggering 67% of urban women and 30% of rural women faced domestic violence in Egypt in 2002 and 2003 alone.  In addition, some 80% of rural Egyptian women in another survey said that their husbands beat them frequently and that a man has the right to beat a woman.  Interestingly and tragically, similar proportions of women in rural Egypt and Uganda and nationally in Ethiopia overall think men have the right to hit women.  80% of women in rural Egypt, compared to 90% of women in the rural Nakai part of Uganda and 85% of all women in Ethiopia, think it is okay for a man to hit a woman.  And in addition, the 80% of rural Egyptian women who think its okay for a man to hit a woman is roughly equal to the 70 to 80% of Afghan women who are subjected to forced marriages and the 81% of Iranian women who are supposedly hit by their husbands in the first year of their marriage.  In rural Uganda and Egypt, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Iran, an appalling 70% to 90% of women think men have a right to hit women and are themselves subjected to domestic violence and forced marriage.    

Egypt also suffers from high levels of FGM.  94% of Egyptian women aged 18 to 49 were subjected to FGM, along with nearly 96% of married women.  At least 50% of girls aged 10 to 18 were subjected to FGM, and a staggering 60% of girls aged 10 to 13 were considered at risk for FGM.  The high levels of FGM in Egyptian society reflect the custom’s prevalence in both Muslim and Coptic Christian culture.  Usually women carry out FGM on their daughters in a misguided and cruel attempt to ensure that their daughters can find a husband.  FGM needs to be recognized as a horrific human rights violation which shatters the dignity and sexual freedom of a woman.  100 million women worldwide in selected African and Muslim countries have been subjected to this appalling practice in accordance with tribal customs, and now FGM is spreading to African and Muslim immigrant populations in the West. 

Unfortunately, the democratic revolution in Egypt which removed the brutal Mubarak regime is only likely to make conditions even worse for women.   The political Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood are coming to the fore in electoral politics in Egypt, while the most radical and violent Islamists are murdering Christians in order to stir religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. Already radical Islamists in Egypt are talking about imposing harsh versions of Shariah law which would automatically give child custody to fathers in the event of divorce.    


The treatment of women in India is genuinely atrocious.  Surveys of two rural areas in India indicate staggeringly high rates of domestic violence.  42 to 48% of women in Uttar Pradesh and 36 to 41% of women in Tamil Nadu are being beaten by their husbands. Two in five women in some rural parts of India are regularly hit by their husbands.  An additional 38% of women in Tamil Nadu are afraid their husbands will hit them.  Thus, 74-79% of women in Tamil Nadu are living in the shadow of violence.  Some 3 out of 4 women and possibly 4 out of 5 women are either experiencing or fearing violence from their husbands in Tamil Nadu. In addition, 75% of women in one study in Jullander district of Punjab were regularly beaten by their husbands.  Wife beating is a commonly accepted cultural practice which is not seen as grounds for divorce in India.  Just 6% of respondents in one survey in India said that women should leave excessively violent husbands. India has a terrible history of degrading practices toward its female population such as bride burning, and this history is reflected in the terrible treatment toward Indian women today.  Gandhi’s vision of non-violence for India has yet to be reflected in its policies toward women. Http://

Asia and Pacific Islands

Men are also waging war on Asian women as well.  In Thailand, some 41% of women in the capital of Bangkok and 47% in the rural area of Nakhonsawan are physically or sexually assaulted by their male  partners.  29 to 30% of women in both areas have been sexually assaulted, while 23% of women in Bangkok and 34% of women in Nakhonsawan were hit by their male partners.  The high rates of domestic violence in Thailand reflect a culture in which women are systematically devalued as human beings and in which the global sex industry is thriving.  Vast numbers of women from neighboring countries such as Burma are trafficked into Thailand and brutally exploited in the sex trade through systematic rape and horrific beatings.  Women in Thailand have been turned into sexual objects for male pleasure and deprived of their humanity. It is no accident that Western and Japanese men who are seeking to exploit Thai girls for their sexual pleasure travel to Thailand in order to serve as customers in the local sex trade.

In addition, sadly the rates of male violence against women in China and Japan are similar.  A 2006 survey found that 29% of Japanese women were hit by their partners, and 18% of Japanese women were emotionally abused by their partners.  30-35% of Chinese women and 29% of Japanese women were physically abused in marriage.  This fact demonstrates that the American imposition of democracy on Japan in the aftermath of World War II has not changed the male culture of violence against women in Japan. 
The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands exhibit some of the world’s highest rates of domestic violence.  A staggering 67% of women in rural Papua New Guinea have been hit by their partners, compared with 56% of poor women in the urban area of Port Moresby.  Residents of Papua New Guinea commonly refer to the male practice of hitting women as “wife bashing”, thus indicating their approval of this custom.  Also 55% of women in Papua New Guinea have been raped, primarily by their male partners.

Conditions for women are only slightly better in Samoa, where 41% of women have been hit by their partners and 20% had been sexually assaulted by their partners.  In Samoa, a higher level of education did correlate with a lower level of domestic violence against women.  54% of women with a primary education were physically or sexually assaulted by their partners in Samoa, compared with 45% of high school graduates and 35% of college graduates.

The Source of Hope: Young Male Feminists in the Middle East and Africa 
Reading such a horrific tale of global and systematic male cruelty against women which transcends so many cultures, both democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian, is frankly depressing.  When I began reading these numbers, I was so distraught by them that I became physically ill.  I searched the globe in a frantic and unsuccessful attempt to find even a single modern industrialized society that does not practice systematic male domestic violence against women. I am an American Jewish survivor of severe emotional abuse and occasional hitting from both my parents and grandmother who left my abusers on June 30, 2011.  I am now staying in the transition house run by Heaven on Earth Foundation in an undisclosed location of Miami-Dade County, and I am grateful to the residents, staff, and management of this organization every day: my fellow residents C, R, and R’s daughters, residential staff mother and daughter  team of Beverly and Kristin, the management of Julia, Gisel, and Marie, and board member Ibis.

 But I cannot forget that I have received incredible support from a number of brave Arab and African men who have been by my side throughout my ordeal.  My friend the blogger Kareem Amer, a former political prisoner in Egypt for 4 years and survivor of horrific child abuse from a radical Islamist father, was one of two people who insisted that I had to immediately leave my abusers behind.  He challenged me to leave my abusers by saying to me in essence: my 19 year old girl friend here in Egypt has left her abusive parents, so why haven’t you left already?  When I finally made the decision to leave and implemented it, he celebrated with me.  You can learn more about Kareem here

My dear friend Mohammed al Nidawi, the Iraqi blogger and Sunni Muslim advocate of Iraqi democracy and freedom, has called me every week since I left my abusers to offer me his emotional support.  He also has told me that your house is my house and so I could stay with him and his wife in Washington, D.C., anytime.  He also has offered to help me look for a job as well when I am ready of course.  I think of Kareem and Mohammed as symbols of hope for the wider Arab world: as young, free-thinking Arab men who believe in democracy and gender equality and are leading the way to freedom in their countries.  Mohammed and his brother Omar run a blog here

My Muslim friend Stephen Schwartz, founder of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, writer and advocate of Muslim democracy in both the Middle East and the Balkans, has also been a great source of support to me.  And I wish to publicly thank him as well.  His web site is He and his international director Dr. Irfan al Alawi, who has a PhD in Islamic theology from Al Azhar University in Egypt, work together to defend the cause of freedom in the Islamic world.  Dr. Al Alawi just published this strong denunciation of FGM from an Islamic scholar’s perspective.

Last but not least I got wonderful support from my Haitian-American graduate school classmate Michael Isma and from two African male friends on Facebook, one from Rwanda and one from Nigeria.  Mike was appalled when I told him about the emotional abuse I was facing at home and was very happy and supportive of my decision to leave my abusers.  Ifeanyichukwu Ikwecheghe of Nigeria sent me a wonderful text message asking me how I am doing soon after I moved to the transition house and has been a constant source of emotional support for me.  In addition, my friend JClaude Udahemuka of Rwanda has been a constant source of friendship and emotional support for me.  JClaude is a poor university student in Rwanda with a kind heart who has taught me a few words of his native language, Kiryarwanda.  He is also in desperate need of medical care for a serious medical condition which would cost roughly $2,000 USD.  Anyone who could contribute financially toward JClaude’s medical treatment is invited to contact me via email at

So on the basis of the wonderful support that I have received from several amazing African, Muslim, and Arab men, I believe that progressive and humane African, Muslim, and Arab men can be critical allies for women in the struggle against domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women. Arab, Muslim, and African male feminists are key partners in the global struggle for female dignity and equality.  Unfortunately, when looking at the sky-high rates of male physical, sexual, and emotional abuse against women in the developing world, I feel profoundly pessimistic about the prospects for substantially improving the conditions facing these women. But I believe that women working together with progressive men can make a difference in challenging some of the cultural attitudes that encourage the horrific levels of male violence against women throughout the developing world.       

1 comment:

  1. thank you Rebecca
    i published some thing from ur post about iraqi blogger here