Women’s rights are only an issue in countries like Afghanistan, right? Wrong. According to the Bureau of Justice, an average of over three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. Additionally, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) statistics say that 44 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are minors.
In recent news, a polygamous Mormon sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) has allegedly been abusing, sexually assaulting and raping girls as young as 13. These girls are forced into a “spiritual marriage” with a much older man as soon as they reach childbearing age. Then they proceed to the marriage bed in the middle of the temple, where the man can have sex with his new, underage wife.
Texas police officers raided an FLDS compound called the Yearning for Zion Ranch after a young girl named Sarah made a series of phone calls to a family violence hotline. According to the state affidavit, the young girl was brought to the compound and married to a 49-year-old man who beat her (he even broke her ribs once) and forced himself sexually on her. Church members told her that if she tried to leave, “outsiders [would] hurt her, force her to cut her hair, to wear makeup and clothes and to have sex with lots of men.”
This fundamentalist Mormon sect is an example of the extremities of fundamentalist concepts that limit women’s rights. In the case of FLDS, the women were not allowed to make decisions for themselves. Sarah’s “spiritual husband,” Dale Barlow, was allowed to leave the compound when he wished. However, Sarah was not permitted to leave unless she was ill, in which case she would be taken to the hospital. The young girls were forced into marriages, forced to have sex and forced to have children.
This case may be extreme, but there are many less apparent examples of fundamentalist religions influencing anti-women’s rights policies. According to “The Economist,” President George W. Bush allied with the Vatican to promote abstinence-only education in America. He cut funding from USAID and other groups that provide family planning, education, birth control and contraceptives to women in poor countries around the world.
Major anti-abortion organizations like the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which have an enormous amount influence in the government and contact with senators, also advocate against organizations that stress family planning, women’s rights, reproductive rights, birth control and women’s education, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights and the United Nations. The United Nations has created an effort to educate women and provide them with contraceptives and family-planning techniques. According to “The Economist,” C-FAM deliberately denounces the United Nations as an abortion advocate, saying, “U.N. committees … argue that sovereign nations must legalize abortion as part of their international legal obligations.” According to the United Nations, these allegations, along with many others made by C-FAM, are completely false.
C-FAM’s hidden agenda may be to undermine women’s rights along with advocating against abortion by denouncing the groups that support women’s rights, such as the United Nations. Around the world, one-third of women are being abused emotionally, physically or sexually. Women are not given the rights over their bodies that they should be given. This may be extremely obvious in countries such as fundamentalist Afghanistan, but it is important to understand that here in the United States, the same type of anti-women’s rights actions are going on through the efforts of other fundamentalist groups. The worst part is that these groups have influence over our own government.
Resham Parikh is a third-year international studies major. He can be reached