To those of you who chafe at "women's rights" as political
correctness run amok, think again.
As "women's empowerment" has become a buzz phrase in the last few
years, some people are pushing back. They resent this as the latest
fad in political correctness, a liberal mission to troll for support
from woolly-minded female voters.
But a few recent incidents have underscored why a push on gender
equity isn't just a mindless fad and why it's not primarily about
Consider Marte Dalelv, the 24-year-old Norwegian woman who
reported a rape in Dubai -- and then was sentenced to 16 months in
prison on charges that included extramarital sex. That was, she
said, three months longer than the alleged rapist's prison sentence.
After an outcry, the authorities "pardoned" Dalelv (and also,
according to news media reports, her alleged rapist). That's the
first reason "empowerment" isn't just a feel-good slogan: Profound
gender injustices persist --not just in Dubai but also, albeit to a
lesser extent, in the United States.
The U.S. military has a deplorable record of sexual violence
within its ranks, with an estimated 26,000 service members
experiencing unwanted sexual contact annually. Yet President Obama
has so far declined to back the sensible, bipartisan and broadly
supported proposal of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to improve
investigations of rape in the military and reduce conflicts of
Add to the toxic brew of sexual violence the Steubenville rape
case, widespread sex trafficking and laws in many states that give
rapists custody rights to children they father. Ariel Castro, the
Cleveland man who held three women in his house for about a decade,
has already requested visitation with a child he fathered by rape --
although a judge declined the request.
The political backdrop is frustration that women aren't fully
represented in decisions that affect them, and that's a second
reason this issue reverberates. That's why State Senator Wendy Davis
of Texas electrified the social media when she filibustered
restrictive abortion legislation. It's not that men favor tougher
abortion laws than women (that's an issue with a negligible gender
gap) but that plenty of women feel bullied by out-of-touch male
Anyone thinking that women's empowerment is a side issue also
wasn't paying attention when Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by
the Pakistani Taliban for advocating girls' education, spoke to the
United Nations in July on her 16th birthday. Malala highlighted the
third reason to focus on empowering women and girls. …