Thursday, July 25, 2013

Being Raped was Just the Beginning

Imagine this:

You’re 24 years old, working in a foreign country. You’re raped by a colleague.

What’s a logical response for a woman who has been raped… to report the assault to the police. But that’s where her troubles began. Caught in the unfamiliar terrain of an Islamic legal system, Marte Dalelv found herself facing 16 months imprisonment for charges of having sex outside of marriage, drinking alcohol, and falsely reporting a rape.

The case received extensive international media attention and incited global activism about women’s rights, especially in conservative countries. Amid the furor, Ms. Dalelv was pardoned (as was her accused rapist) and allowed to leave the country.  

All’s well that ends well?  Far from!  She was incarcerated in a foreign country and faced long-term imprisonment. In seeking justice and freedom, the story of her sexual victimization became the focus of worldwide attention. She was terminated from her employment for improper behavior. And let’s not forget how this all started… she was raped.

Sometimes here in the US, we forget that women worldwide face obstacles and risks unheard of in our country, e.g.,  genital mutilation, honor killings, and widespread trafficking of young girls.  Soroptimist 
International (including our local chapter in Saratoga County) have long addressed the inequalities that affect girls and women locally and globally. Did you know?

·         One in three women have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime.

·         According to a recent report, 80 percent of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked across international borders annually are female.

·         In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls have HIV rates up to five times higher than adolescent boys.

Unlike many of the women whose culture  biases about their gender trap them as targets of poverty and victimization, Marte overcame the crisis and used her voice to rally not just for her own safety, but for that of women everywhere.

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