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Diane Mufson: Women's Day highlights progress, problems

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

It's hard to believe, but in this second decade of the 21st Century, when scientific discoveries and new knowledge abound, a large segment of the world's population are treated as second- or even third-class citizens.

March 8 is International Women's Day, with the theme this year to end violence against women. If women throughout the world had the same rights and privileges as men, such a day wouldn't be needed. In many nations, women have made great progress in their rights and activities, but there is more of a road to travel.

Not quite 100 years ago American women obtained the right to vote; now our nation finally appears ready to accept a female presidential candidate. After all, if Britain, India, Israel, Germany and others can select women heads of state, there is no reason that our nation cannot do the same.

Pay scales for females and males in our nation are still not equal, but improving. This is vital, as the traditional belief that the man is the "primary family wage earner" is no longer realistic.

In the U.S. Senate 20 of the 100 senators are women and 75 of 435 of those in the House of Representatives are females. Women are transforming the nation and the world, not simply because of their sex, but because they are competent, educated and unwilling to wait for men with long-established powers to make needed changes.

Recently, news about international women's issues has played a prominent role. In India, where women often are viewed as less valued than males, young educated females are beginning to find and use their voices.

Last month in India, a young woman riding on a bus with her boyfriend was gang-raped and injured so badly that, despite medical attention, she died. Millions of Indian women have taken to the streets demanding legal action against these attackers and recognition that women are not someone's property.

Speaking of property, Shawn Pogatchnik writing for the Associated Press recently reported on Ireland's "women of laundries." He stated that, "Ireland ignored the mistreatment of thousands of women who were incarcerated within Catholic nun-operated laundries and must pay the survivors compensation." Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny publicly apologized for the long-standing treatment of these women.

It is hard to imagine that in Afghanistan, where we have spent huge human and fiscal resources for a decade, the Taliban and others believe it is right to shoot a teenage girl in the head because she advocates educating girls.

This month a young Cuban woman, Yoani Sánchez, well known among Cuban exiles and political circles in the Americas, may have the star role among females. For the first time in many years Yoani, an enthusiastic blogger from Cuba, has been permitted to leave the communist island nation and visit many countries.

In the Miami Herald, she explained her motivation to blog as "After remaining silent for a long time, after living in a society where not speaking up was the option of the majority of my countrymen, after so much silence, one fine day I couldn't take it anymore and I started a blog." No man took the risk that Yoani has taken to speak out from Cuba's vocal prison.

In countries such as ours, women have made much progress in rights, privileges, status and pay. Yet, there is still more to be done, as women throughout the world deserve the same human rights and civil liberties given to men.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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