The recent weeks have seen media outcry at allegations against various ‘powerful’ male figures for rape and sexual assault, since over 70 accusations have been made against Harvey Weinstein. With so many notable celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Gwenyth Paltrow speaking out about their own personal experience with harassment and abuse, there are more and more women coming forward with their stories.
The problem is, sexual assault has always been a pervasive problem – the world just hasn’t been listening. Nearly 1 out of 2 women report experiencing sexual violence in their life time; 1 in 5 women report experiencing attempting or completed rape (Rape Response Services, 2011). Women often don’t come forward for many reasons, whether it’s fear of not being believed, fear of nothing being done, fear of being blamed for their own assault. Victim-blaming is a serious issue that doesn’t seem to be decreasing. It has become the norm for women of sexual assault to be asked what clothes they were wearing at the time of the attack, as though their state of dress has contributed to their assault.
An art installation at University of Kansas fittingly callled ‘What Were You Wearing’ displayed 18 outfits of rape survivors with their stories beside them, in the attempts of dismantling the concept that a person’s clothing choices cause their rape (Stevens, 2017).
We live in a society where rape culture runs rampant. Male sexual violence is normalised, and women are shamed and blamed for experiencing it. Even now, parents and school teach girls how to ‘prevent being raped’ instead of teaching boys not to rape – is this not, in essence, problematic? Why do we teach victims of violence how not to be attacked, as opposed to teaching potential perpretrators not to attack?
Schools in Nairobi have begun rolling out ‘consent classes’ to teach boys the importance of consent; namely due to the high percentage of schoolboys thinking sexual assault and rape ‘were justifiable if girls and women wore miniskirts, were out alone at night, or taken out on expensive dates’ (Scroll Staff, 2017).
No Means No Worldwide report a 51% decrease in rape in the areas where consent classes are taught. The percentage of boys who intervened in incidents of harassment or rape has surged from 26% to 74% (Singh, 2017).
In contrast, in India statistics see 277% increase in rapes reported from 2011 to 2016. Between January and May, over 800 cases of rape were reported to the police (Mallapur, 2017). In September, two Indian uncles were arrested for the rape and impregnation of their 10 year-old niece. The girl was denied the right to an abortion by the Supreme Court (Kumar & Gettleman, 2017). She recently gave birth to a baby girl via C-section. She was told the surgery was to remove kidney stones (Suri & Wu, 2017).
India’s abortion laws make it extremely difficult for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, but frankly, the USA isn’t looking any more progressive. The state of Arkansas recently passed a law allowing rapists to sue victims who want an abortion (England, 2017). The US Congress is currently attempting to pass a bill banning women from terminating a pregnancy after 6 weeks calling it a ‘Heartbeat Protection Act’ (Klasing, 2017).
By denying women the right to terminate their own pregnancies, we deny them the right to safely make decisions about their own bodies. Demonising abortion doesn’t stop abortions – it stops safe abortions. Women deserve the right to decide to do what they think is best for their bodies. They deserve bodily autonomy.
SheDecides is an international movement focused on giving girls and women the right to do what they choose with their own bodies. This includes the right to access education and information, so they can make an educated decision. It promotes giving women the right to decide when they have sex, who they have sex with, whether they want to have sex at all – and whether they have children.
It’s her body. She should get to decide.
Sign the Manifesto today: https://www.shedecides.com/