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In US and abroad, new focus on anti-violence


Nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria. A pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by her family for marrying the man she loved. Widespread rape in many war zones. And in California, a murderous rampage by a disturbed young man who had depicted sorority members as a prime target.

From across the world, startling reports of violence against women surface week after week. The World Health Organization has declared the problem an epidemic, calculating that one in three women worldwide will experience sexual or physical violence - most often from their husband or male partner.

Yet even as they decry the violence and the abundance of misogynistic rhetoric, women's rights activists see reasons for hope.

"The violence has been happening forever - it's not anything new," said Serra Sippel, president of the Washington-based Center for Health and Gender Equity. "What's new is that people in the United States and globally are coming around to say 'enough is enough,' and starting to hold governments and institutional leaders accountable."

Even in India - where just this past week, two teenage cousins were raped and killed by attackers who hung their bodies from a mango tree - there are signs of change. Public outrage over the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student led the government to expedite legislation increasing prison terms for rapists. In April, a court sentenced three men to death for raping a photojournalist in Mumbai.

In the United States, the military says it's stepping up efforts to combat sexual assault in the ranks and President Barack Obama's administration is campaigning against sexual violence at colleges and universities. A month ago, for the first time, the Department of Education revealed its list of schools under investigation for how they have responded to the problem.

On May 8, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and several of her colleagues introduced the International Violence Against Women Act, a bill intended to make anti-women violence a higher diplomatic priority for the United States. And from June 10-13 in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie will co-chair the first-ever Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

"It's absolutely essential that we shed a light on how pervasive this problem is," said Julia Drost, policy advocate for Amnesty International USA's women's human rights program. "From the top on down - world leaders to family members - people need to take responsibility."

In some important respects, the May 23 rampage in California was different from the systemic violence against women that abounds in much of the world. The assailant, Elliot Rodger, had been plagued by mental health problems for years, and four men were among the six University of California, Santa Barbara students that he killed.

Nonetheless, accounts of Rodger's hostility to women, and his bitterness over sexual rejection, led to an outpouring of commentary and online debate over the extent of misogyny and male entitlement. On Twitter, using hashtags such as YesAllWomen, many women worldwide shared their experiences with everyday harassment and sexism.

"People are beginning to make the connection between the violence and how women are treated on a day-to-day basis," said Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

She welcomed the ever-expanding ability of women around the world - and their male allies - to show solidarity and voice anger via social media.

"It's an issue that's being taken seriously in a way that it wasn't before," she said. "Governments are acknowledging there's a responsibility of the state to prevent violence against women - even in the home - and bring perpetrators to justice."

The next crucial step, according to Gerntholtz and other activists, is to engage more men and boys in efforts to break down gender stereotypes and condemn anti-women violence.

Yet even as Rodger's rampage prompted an outcry against misogyny, it also sparked a backlash from men and women who said it was wrong to suggest the California killings reflected a broader problem of sexism in the U.S.

"Sure, this guy hated women, but this is a hatred we should be able to recognize as insanity," said Charlotte Hays, director of cultural programs for the Independent Women's Forum. "This has nothing to do with violence against women."

Rodger "hated everyone, he was a misanthrope," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who often writes skeptically about contemporary feminism.

"Is there misogyny in American culture? Yes," she said. "But we also have a problem with male-bashing and hatred of men."

Sommers questioned the efforts to link developments in the United States to the violence and discrimination faced by women abroad.

"We're a society where women are equal before the law ... though certain activists don't like to hear that," she said. "Creating this idea that women in America are an oppressed class, that we are held back by patriarchy similar to our sisters living under Sharia law - that's just ridiculous."

In contrast, Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said it was appropriate to draw international parallels. She contended that government neglect of anti-women practices has been widespread, whether in developing nations where girls are blocked from attending school or in the United States, with its problems of sexual assault on campus and in the military.

"The specific expression takes different forms in different countries," she said. "But the underlying attitude is the devaluing of women as human beings."

Join the discussion

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cary June 01 2014 at 10:19 AM

Even though Democrats would have you believe that Republicans are waging a war on women, the majority of the violence against women occurs in Arab nations. It is not a political problem, it is cultural.

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26 replies
stengernc June 01 2014 at 9:58 AM

Religion was created by men to control others and women where denied a role. Many religions take away the rights of women, especially Islam. So if you want to correct an injustice start with correcting the discrimination that men created thousands of years ago thru the writing of religious books. Just another proof that God did not write this stuff.

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15 replies
lklex May 31 2014 at 3:26 PM

The Nigerian Boko Haram group "targeted secondary school students as they slept in a dormitory" and brutally KILLED SCORES OF THEM. ALL of those targeted for DEATH and KILLED were BOYS -- because of their gender. Due in no small part to deeply entrenched sexism, the expression -- by governments (including the Obama administration), the news media and "Human Rights" organizations (including Amnesty International) -- of outrage to that horrific crime against humanity was, at best, faint and short-lived. In the last half-century, alone, many hundreds of thousands of lives of men and boys have been squandered in horrific wars, many thousands of those victims having been subjected to the flagrant sexism of male-only military conscription, all the while the UN and "Human Rights" organizations (Amnesty International, in particular) remaining mute about such flagrant sexism. To its eternal discredit and shame, the UN, through its “peacekeepers,” stood by and did nothing (indeed substantial allegations of UN complicity have been raised) while some EIGHT THOUSAND (8,000) MEN AND BOYS were rounded up and brutally slaughtered in Srebrenica in 1995, in perhaps the worst instance of targeted gender-based killing in the history of Western civilization. IN REALITY (but not likely to ever be recognized by HuffPost) male civilians have been the primary victims of kidnapping, torture and murder in Mexico, the Congo, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and globally of targeted gender-based violence, mass execution and military conscription. Sexism reeks just as much when its victims are male

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14 replies
d1anaw May 31 2014 at 3:36 PM

And people in the US arrogantly put their noses in the air believing it doesn't happen here. It happens every day here. They just don't see it as a big deal unless it's done elsewhere or they know the person. "Christians" especially like to behave in a holier than thou manner, when they are some of the worst offenders.

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14 replies
lklex May 31 2014 at 3:51 PM

Per the article:"Is there misogyny in American culture? Yes," she said. "But we also have a problem with male-bashing and hatred of men." Yes, as aptly observed by Christina Hoff Sommers, we, as society, here in the U.S., unquestionably do have a serious problem with "male-bashing and hatred of men" (misandry). Moreover, today, in 2014, in can be said without fear of contradiction that ALL sex discrimination under law -- i.e., all de jure sex discrimination -- at the federal level of government operates in favor of women and against men. Such discrimination includes, but is by no means limited to: the federal Selective Service Act, still requiring only male Americans to register their bodies for a potential military draft or face five years imprisonment and loss of federal funding for college tuition for noncompliance; not a single federal office on men's health, despite federal offices on women's health at NIH, the CDC, the FDA and HHS and despite the fact male Americans have a five-year shorter life expectancy; and, the absence of a Men's Bureau at the U.S. DOL, despite a Women's Bureau that helps ensure safe working conditions for women and despite the fact that men account for 92% of America's workplace fatalities. Furthermore, gross sex discrimination pervades America's justice system, with men being 100 times more likely to be executed under the death penalty and being far less likely to be awarded custody of their children. Such state-sanctioned sex discrimination is, of course, repugnant to any notion of gender equality -- and it should be recognized and emphatically condemned for what it is. Enough with the selfishness and hypocrisy of contemporary American feminism.

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9 replies
silkroadg June 01 2014 at 10:46 AM

Gotta LOVE that wonderful RELIGION OF PEACE.............Mr. Obama surely does. And isn't it telling how we never new there was even ONE MALE student in that school until NOW? You see, in the LIBERAL MIND SET, "women" are MORE EQUAL, and we shouldn't be bothered with the BRUTALLY MURDERED MALE students, only concerned about the kidnapped female students. Also, just think, if the HuffPost actually reported the singling out and brutal murder of the MALE students, why we might think those PEACEFUL MUSLIMS were not nice guys. Further, if the truth were told, then the "kidnapping" would actually NOT FIT into their template as the females being treate WORSE THAN THE MALES!!! Gotta LOVE that RELIGION OF PEACE and Mr. Obama's MEDIAMACHINE to spin truth into knots!!!

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5 replies
Rick June 01 2014 at 9:26 AM


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3 replies
fernandezarthr June 01 2014 at 10:06 AM

.......the Backward Religions of Hinduism, and The Muslim,......Oh,......how Peaceful and Harmonious they are!!,......You People out there Better get your Heads out of the Hole and see the Light of Day,.....and Finally see things For What they Really ARE!!!,.......Don't kidded, or lie to your self!!!......be honest and accept the reality of Life!!!.....

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3 replies
FRED May 31 2014 at 3:32 PM

We can't expect 'slums to stop all the killing and terror, it is their way. Those morons in Nigera are allowed to attack children because they are being raised Christian. There is no way they would ever consider picking on someone their own size, that is not the cowardly way.

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3 replies
floatgod June 01 2014 at 11:19 AM

I have never read so many "loser" posts in my life. You would believe from reading this that nothing like this ever occurred before the year 2000 and is done only in the name of religion. After reading some of the comments on here I think I would rather listen to a Jehoavh's Witness on my doorstep for one hour than listen to two minutes of the dribble most of your are posting!

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2 replies
gmgpjandon floatgod June 01 2014 at 3:38 PM

I'm eighty one, been around the world twice and except for an attempted mugging in NYC, I've never had anything bad happen to me. When the attempted mugger got out of the hospital, he wouldn't walk down the same side of the street I was on. Your gov. taught me some very useful moves when I was young and foolishly fighting one of your useless wars. Thank you unca Snake.

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twalsh4440 floatgod June 01 2014 at 5:34 PM

Good because you SUCK

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