.
W

hat if you lost the right to be called by your name? It is incomprehensible that under another system of government and societal framework, women could be nameless, known only as “daughter of [fill in the blank]” or “wife of [fill in the blank].” However, that was the reality in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan prior to democratization after 9/11, as the society was and is today dominated by male figures who manipulate a legal framework to deny a woman’s identity.

In a recent conversation with Naheed A. Farid, a member of the Afghan parliament-in-exile, Naheed told me about her 2002 campaign for public office, which centered around the theme: “Where Is My Name?”  In Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women could be denied the right to be called by their name or have their name listed on their child’s birth certificate. In many cases, a woman’s name would not be listed on their own wedding invitations or even at their graves as it is considered disrespectful to men. 

Naheed stepped forward to run for office with a goal of opening commercial and educational opportunities for women. She realized though that she needed to first address a basic human right of simply allowing women and girls to claim their identity. Thanks to her tenacious work and that of her colleagues, the inclusion of a mother's name in national identity decree passed in 2019. However, the legal frameworks, census law, and family law continued to be used by men to support name denial even after the Taliban was overthrown in 2001. Today, the situation is worse.

History shows the treatment of women in authoritarian countries is the worst form of bullying. From verbal abuse and demeaning societal rules to sexual advances and abuse, it is ultimately a power play enacted to diminish women, strip them of their power, and reduce the value of their work. Whether in a situation of domestic violence or within the realm of a dictatorial regime, violence against women is aimed at lessening their value, their right to be acknowledged, and their right to be heard. Yet, brave women like Naheed continue to speak out, and we must support them in doing so.

The fall of Kabul last August was heart wrenching as U.S. leaders received pleading texts from women asking for help as they and their families tried to flee. Mothers knew that men would once again treat women and girls as commodities, not human beings. For example, a great fear was that young daughters would be forced into marriage at a young age. In November, UNICEF drew attention to the rising trend: “We have received credible reports of families offering daughters as young as 20 days old up for future marriage in return for a dowry.”

As democracy is on the decline, the use of sexual assault to dominate is on the rise. In Belarus, human rights organizations estimate that there are between 70 and possibly 100 women dissidents who have been jailed for daring to speak out against the Russian backed regime. Eurozine writes of a “sisterhood behind bars” which includes businesswomen, elected officials, and bloggers. The BBC has noted these dissidents are subjected to extreme forms of torture, including rape

With Xi Jinping’s rise in China, we are also hearing more reports of aggression against women. The use of degradation to control minority populations horrify the West as  systematic rape of Uyghur women in re-education camps has been covered extensively by the BBC.

Sports figures watched in stunned amazement when Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, “disappeared” after accusing the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. She emerged later with controlled interviews prior to and during the Olympics. I question whether Eileen Gu understands she has made a Faustian bargain as she renounced her American citizenship for financial gain and fame.

Today, women fight bravely in Ukraine to protect their children and their freedom. They sacrifice everything for their values.

Organizations like the International Republican Institute’s Women’s Democracy Network, the National Democratic Institute, and others have maintained a global network of women who make things happen on behalf of other women. When our freedom is at risk, we lay aside our political differences to give our daughters and their children the opportunity to live in free societies, and we pray for the women of Ukraine who show incredible resolve as they fight for their freedom. As Nobel Prize Winner Pearl Buck said: “For no country is a true democracy whose women have not an equal share in life with men, and until we realize this, we shall never achieve a real democracy on earth.”

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is a Diplomatic Courier Advisory Board member and WSJ and USA Today best-selling author of "Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South" (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

When Democracy Is Not an Option, Women Suffer the Most

Photo by Hasan Almasi via Unsplash.

March 8, 2022

Former Amb. Lisa Gable explores the severe implications for women when a country slides into autocratic forms of government - a topic which is especially poignant at a time when democracy is seemingly on the decline in many parts of the world.

W

hat if you lost the right to be called by your name? It is incomprehensible that under another system of government and societal framework, women could be nameless, known only as “daughter of [fill in the blank]” or “wife of [fill in the blank].” However, that was the reality in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan prior to democratization after 9/11, as the society was and is today dominated by male figures who manipulate a legal framework to deny a woman’s identity.

In a recent conversation with Naheed A. Farid, a member of the Afghan parliament-in-exile, Naheed told me about her 2002 campaign for public office, which centered around the theme: “Where Is My Name?”  In Taliban ruled Afghanistan, women could be denied the right to be called by their name or have their name listed on their child’s birth certificate. In many cases, a woman’s name would not be listed on their own wedding invitations or even at their graves as it is considered disrespectful to men. 

Naheed stepped forward to run for office with a goal of opening commercial and educational opportunities for women. She realized though that she needed to first address a basic human right of simply allowing women and girls to claim their identity. Thanks to her tenacious work and that of her colleagues, the inclusion of a mother's name in national identity decree passed in 2019. However, the legal frameworks, census law, and family law continued to be used by men to support name denial even after the Taliban was overthrown in 2001. Today, the situation is worse.

History shows the treatment of women in authoritarian countries is the worst form of bullying. From verbal abuse and demeaning societal rules to sexual advances and abuse, it is ultimately a power play enacted to diminish women, strip them of their power, and reduce the value of their work. Whether in a situation of domestic violence or within the realm of a dictatorial regime, violence against women is aimed at lessening their value, their right to be acknowledged, and their right to be heard. Yet, brave women like Naheed continue to speak out, and we must support them in doing so.

The fall of Kabul last August was heart wrenching as U.S. leaders received pleading texts from women asking for help as they and their families tried to flee. Mothers knew that men would once again treat women and girls as commodities, not human beings. For example, a great fear was that young daughters would be forced into marriage at a young age. In November, UNICEF drew attention to the rising trend: “We have received credible reports of families offering daughters as young as 20 days old up for future marriage in return for a dowry.”

As democracy is on the decline, the use of sexual assault to dominate is on the rise. In Belarus, human rights organizations estimate that there are between 70 and possibly 100 women dissidents who have been jailed for daring to speak out against the Russian backed regime. Eurozine writes of a “sisterhood behind bars” which includes businesswomen, elected officials, and bloggers. The BBC has noted these dissidents are subjected to extreme forms of torture, including rape

With Xi Jinping’s rise in China, we are also hearing more reports of aggression against women. The use of degradation to control minority populations horrify the West as  systematic rape of Uyghur women in re-education camps has been covered extensively by the BBC.

Sports figures watched in stunned amazement when Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, “disappeared” after accusing the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. She emerged later with controlled interviews prior to and during the Olympics. I question whether Eileen Gu understands she has made a Faustian bargain as she renounced her American citizenship for financial gain and fame.

Today, women fight bravely in Ukraine to protect their children and their freedom. They sacrifice everything for their values.

Organizations like the International Republican Institute’s Women’s Democracy Network, the National Democratic Institute, and others have maintained a global network of women who make things happen on behalf of other women. When our freedom is at risk, we lay aside our political differences to give our daughters and their children the opportunity to live in free societies, and we pray for the women of Ukraine who show incredible resolve as they fight for their freedom. As Nobel Prize Winner Pearl Buck said: “For no country is a true democracy whose women have not an equal share in life with men, and until we realize this, we shall never achieve a real democracy on earth.”

About
Lisa Gable
:
Lisa Gable is a Diplomatic Courier Advisory Board member and WSJ and USA Today best-selling author of "Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South" (IdeaPress Publishing, October 5, 2021).
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.