One of my big pet peeves is when someone, especially a woman, says that they don’t need feminism, feminism isn’t needed any more, or some variety of that message. Some people say that women are equal with men now and that there is no point in going on and on about feminism any more. I respectfully disagree because while women might be equally valued in one situation, there are so many more across the world where they are not.
Take, for example, Iran. (Before anyone says anything, yes, I do think it is important to discuss women’s issues across the world and not just focus on feminism and women’s rights in our own backyards.) Two bills were recently introduced, both of which will damage women if they become law, and both are aimed at increasing the birthrate.
The first bill limits contraceptives and information on contraceptives, outlaws voluntary sterilizations for all, and ends the state-funded family planning organizations. What stands out the most to me is that this addresses information. It isn’t enough to limit contraceptives; oh no, it has to also impact citizens’ knowledge and their understanding of contraception. And I’m also interested in its effect on state-funded family planning. Those programs were originally started for population control and to stabilize the economy, but the Iranian lawmakers recently realized that eventually there will be a problem with an aging population. How will the older population be supported if there are not as many younger citizens?
I understand that concern. But is this really the best way to go about it? Sure, there will be more people, but what about children born into poverty or into families that can’t support them? Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution, but this doesn’t seem like the right way to go about it.
Also, while this bill certainly affects all citizens, it reduces women down to their ability to bear children. Oh, you’re a woman? You want a job and to work and to save up money before you have children? Too bad because you’re not getting contraceptives or even information about them. (Maybe this just seems a little out there, but I feel like environments like this leads to urban legends about certain ways to avoid getting pregnant that aren’t true.) And don’t say that you’re interested in having children. That’s not an option.
I’m even more troubled by the second bill. Its goal is to encourage women to get married and have children, but it also allows discrimination against single, childless job applicants; makes it difficult for anyone to file for divorce regardless of the reason; and limits police intervention in family disputes. That includes violence. In the best case, a couple grows apart and don’t want to be married to each other any more and they struggle to get divorced because of the law. In the worst case, a women has to stay with an abusive husband and the police can’t get involved if he is beating her. Ignoring the entire problem with a law that tries to make women get married and have kids if they don’t want to, this bill could be deadly for women.
Luckily, there isn’t a ton of support for this legislation. So maybe it won’t come to be and everything will be fine. But if the lawmakers don’t hear international anger over it, let alone domestic anger, they might go ahead and make it a law in order to increase the population. And this goes for other countries and other laws that are problematic or flat out dangerous for women. Staying silent doesn’t help anyone, and it can in fact hurt some, so just because you think that something like this isn’t a big deal or doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak up against it.
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