Why do we need International Women's Day in Scotland?
Do we really need a day to support women and give special attention to their issues? This is Scotland, after all, not Iran or China or Afghanistan. Has feminism not done the job already? Statistics suggest the answer is "No" and, until there is a balance in government representation, number of female CEOs, pay, respect for labour, and a complete reduction in violence against women statistics, Amnesty Scotland will speak out on International Women’s Day.
While we may be making progress in some areas, we’re still a long way from equality. Numbers of women in positions of power in politics and business are growing but at a slow pace. According to the Equal Opportunities Commission 2008 report, it will take up to 200 years for women to be equally represented in Parliament, for example.
However, this is not just about women in government or female CEOs, and far from an issue solely concerning other countries. We’ve got a serious problem affecting the everyday lives of countless women right here at home:
"Every 10 minutes an incident of domestic violence is recorded in Scotland."
"At least one in five women in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime."
"One in three teenage girls in a relationship suffer an unwanted sexual act."
"In a 2005 study of young people’s attitudes, one in five young men believe that women often 'provoke violence'"
During a recent Amnesty group talk by White Ribbon Scotland, we learned the root of this systemic abuse is an attitude of male entitlement that is nurtured from a very young age. Not all children who witness violence become violent, but the ones who do have learned it.
I was not particularly surprised to hear that in Scotland "a third of young men and a sixth of young women thought that using violence in an intimate relationship was acceptable under certain circumstances;" and
that "26 percent of Scots surveyed in 2007 thought that a woman bore some responsibility for being raped if she wore revealing clothing."
These numbers are distressing, but there are many groups doing marvellous work to empower women and encourage men to cultivate a more positive masculinity: White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, and
Rape Crisis Scotland are just a few. We work closely with White Ribbon.
On International Women’s Day, give a thought to these numbers and to the women in your life, because if the behaviours that cause so much grief and pain are learned and can be questioned, then there is definitely hope for the future.
To close, I would like to share some lines from Steve Connell’s powerful poem What She Was Wearing:
Tell me the store - and I’ll go back
And buy the right clothes this minute -
The outfit that prevents rape if you’re in it.
See I didn’t understand
I didn’t understand that I could buy a shirt that says ‘I deserve to be hurt’
After all I am wearing a tight skirt
Instead of the assault-proof dress
And I notice that you have the fault-proof vest
So it’s my fault I guess
Apparently I didn’t say "No" as loud as my clothes could say "Yes"
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.