As 2014 comes to a close, we look back with pride at the many success stories for women’s rights. These success stories – like the enshrinement of women’s rights in Tunisia’s new constitution, or Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or India seeing the highest turnout of female voters in its General Election – are critically important to our work. They help put our work into perspective so that we can recognize and remember the progress that we are making for women’s rights. These stories also give us an opportunity to celebrate the hard work that women and women’s organizations have been undertaking for decades to give their daughters and sons a better, more equal future. You can read more about some of the success stories we saw for women’s rights in 2014 here and here.
But we are writing today for a different reason. Because it was not all good news in 2014. Looking back, certain days stand out vividly in our minds. These were the days we spent glued to our computer screens, searching for information and trying to comprehend. When conflict erupted again in the Central African Republic, we sifted through press releases, news articles, and interviews in an attempt to grasp just how grave the epidemic of sexual violence had become. When more than 300 school girls were abducted in Northern Nigeria, we closely followed #BringBackOurGirls, hoping against hope we would succeed.
We didn’t succeed in Nigeria. Not in CAR either. Not yet. And while we join many others in celebrating the successes for women’s rights in 2014, we cannot help but wonder why we are not seeing more.
So we wanted to do something a little different as we reflect back on this past year. We brought together some of the more troubling and, in most cases, downright tragic news stories we saw for women’s rights in 2014. It is a tough read, to be sure. But maybe it is what we need to inspire even more action next year.
14 Troubling News Headlines in 2014
- United Arab Emirates: An Austrian woman who reported being raped to authorities in Dubai was subsequently arrested for drinking alcohol and having sex outside of marriage.
- Burma: Eight Burmese women were arrested for participating in peaceful protests against the attempted rape of a woman by a Burmese soldier.
- Kenya: A woman was attacked for wearing a mini skirt by a mob of angry men at a bus stop in Nairobi.
- Iran: A young woman was sentenced to one year in prison for attending a volleyball game.
- India: A village council sentenced a 14-year-old girl to be raped as reparation for her brother’s crime of sexual assault against a married woman.
- Senegal: Harsh laws against abortion resulted in a 10-year-old girl who had been raped being forced to give birth to twins.
- Egypt: In a landmark trial, a doctor who performed Female Genital Mutilation was found not guilty.
- Honduras: A human rights lawyer was arrested for her work supporting communities affected by displacement.
- Saudi Arabia: Two women were arrested for driving and for their work campaigning for the right of women to get behind the wheel.
- Malaysia: A young woman’s wedding celebration was abruptly cut short when police detained her for marrying outside her religion.
- Nigeria: Following the kidnapping of over 300 school girls in Northern Nigeria, a woman was arrested for leading protests against the government’s apparent inaction.
- Pakistan: A pregnant woman was attacked and stoned to death by her family for marrying against their wishes.
- El Salvador: Seventeen women remain in jail for obtaining an abortion or having a miscarriage, despite renewed efforts to free them.
- Somalia: An astonishing 100 women were arrested for not complying with strict Islamic dress code.
It’s a heartbreaking list – and not at all comprehensive. For these headlines are not the only ones that troubled us in 2014. Nor are they isolated incidents. They are not focused on one part of the world, or one religion, or one ethnicity. These headlines, unfortunately, represent the state of women’s rights around the world.
But there is hope.
Women’s rights organizations are working tirelessly to support women affected by injustices like these. It is often because of their work that we even hear of these crimes. It is because of their support that people are protesting against these crimes in the streets and online with #BringBackOurGirls and #MyDressMyChoice. It is because of their commitment that we are finally seeing justice. The village council that ordered the rape of a young girl in India? The head councilman and her attacker were arrested by police.
Visit our Grantee Profiles page to learn more about some of the incredible work women’s rights organizations are doing to create a more equal world. Together we can create a brighter 2015.