The humanity of women, equal rights for women, women’s roles and experiences within patriarchy, impact of religious norms on women’s lives, economic opportunities for women, sexual and reproductive rights and freedoms, women’s safety at home and in public, political empowerment of women — all these and many more are issues of critical importance to feminism. Although many consider today’s world to be progressive, the equality between women and men has not yet been realized.
It is even difficult to say whether women’s rights and situations globally have improved over the past two to three decades. Part of the difficulty assessing women’s situations is that social norms and laws regarding women vary considerably from nation to nation. At the present moment, there is an ongoing struggle for the protection of women’s rights in many parts of the world. It is also a brutal time of violence against women in many communities.
Not only are women’s situations different globally, even within any one nation, where laws appear uniform, women do not experience the same freedoms and opportunities. Their identity as women intersects with other roles and positions, such as class, race, ethnicity, marital status, and education. Even within one country, women and their experiences are not homogenous.
Despite progress of women’s rights in some areas, there are also many setbacks. In fact, improving women’s status seems more difficult than improving other inequities. Why is that? In fact, why is “feminism” viewed so negatively among many people? Feminism and women’s rights do not mean that women have special rights; it means providing equal rights to women that are given to men. In other words, it means socially and legally recognizing that women are human just like men.
Policies and laws that protect women and girls and that give them equal opportunities are essential. But policies and laws do not change people’s mindsets — especially not in the most intimate of spaces: family, relationships, and sex. It is in these spaces where patriarchal norms govern interactions between men and women. Who works for the household, and what work is valued? Who does the child care? Who cleans? Who has a voice in decision making in the household? Who decides to have sex or refuse sex?
We believe that to improve the status of women globally, we need to change not only policies and laws but also families and relationships. We need to look at ourselves.
Shuddhashar wants a world in which women and girls feel safe walking home at night. A world in which reproductive rights are protected and maternal and elderly care are guaranteed. A world in which women and men have equal opportunities for education, employment, and political office. A world where childcare and home care are assumed to be joint responsibilities.
Shuddhashar envisions a world where power and opportunities are not limited by gender, race, sexual orientation, identity, economic status, disability, or age. We firmly believe that a true democracy is one in which the worth and dignity of every person is valued. Women’s rights are essential to any effective democracy.
For this issue, we look at this contemporary moment from different feminist points of view, and look at feminism from different angles, in order to convey various challenges and experiences. The writers reflect on different contexts – Bangladesh, India, Norway, U.S. – as well as broadly, globally, and theoretically. They tackle definitions of feminism including limitations and expansions of “feminism,” women’s legal rights, societal challenges to improving women’s status and rights, the impact of #MeToo, and the role of women in arenas as diverse as literature and terrorist organizations. In this issue, we have provided English summaries of articles written in Bangla.
Although the number of people struggling with pens or keyboards is higher than any other time, it is not always clear how people can make solid impact on improving the situation of women globally. Nevertheless, it is our hope that this issue will encourage others to examine the challenges from different perspectives and to implement positive change in their communities and homes.