News You Should Know About: Women’s Rights and Fights

Fahey, Lucy. Explained: the differences between the burka, niqab, hijab, chador and dupatta. ABC News, 17 Aug. 2017, Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.

Anna Maher

On September 16, 2022, 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the Iranian morality police after being arrested for “improperly” wearing her hijab. This act sparked a rebellion among Iranian people who have had enough of the blatant silencing of women. The protest has featured thousands of women taking off their hijabs and cutting their hair or dancing in public.

This October, the Swiss government proposed a $1,000 fine for violators of the so-called “Burqa Ban” which was passed in March of 2021. The ban criminalized the wearing of face coverings in public for non-medical reasons. This would mean hundreds of Muslim women in Switzerland who wear burqas or niqabs would be forced to take their coverings off. The people of Switzerland are fighting back against the ban, recognizing it as another blatant attack on women.

Fahey, Lucy. Explained: the differences between the burka, niqab, hijab, chador and dupatta. ABC News, 17 Aug. 2017, Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.

As a concerned person living on the other side of the Atlantic, two questions came to mind: how can I possibly make a difference? And how are these two, seemingly polar opposite disturbances occurring all at once?

Let’s look at the second question. Last week I spoke with one of Ipswich High School’s most beloved history teachers, Ms. Fritz. When I asked her how these stories were connected, she did not hesitate to reply “autonomy and freedom of religion… I think it comes down to just liberty.” She went on to explain that in her opinion, in order for a religious freedom limitation such as Switzerland’s ban to be considered full tyranny it must discriminate between religions and be unnecessary. She gave the example of France, who’s policies, at least in name, ban religious symbols in public across any religion. Switzerland’s ban is different. The ban only affects Islamic women. Only an estimated 100 to 300 women wear these coverings. “That’s political grandstanding,” Ms. Fritz explained, “That’s just culture wars, and it’s part of a broader Islamophobia.”

I also spoke to the head of Ipswich High School’s Amnesty International club, senior Beylen Curtis. I asked Beylen to explain if the sort of protest we are seeing in both Iran and Switzerland surprised her, she responded “absolutely not. Men have always tried to dictate what women can do, what we can say, what we can wear.” Then she made the connection I had been looking for; “my body, my choice,” she exclaimed. “Oppression anywhere affects women everywhere.”

The United States has come under fire for denying a women’s right to choose to have an abortion. This is the same fight as the one we are seeing across the globe, the same bodily autonomy is at risk. If even the United States abridges its female citizens’ rights, it makes it easier for other nations to do the same. As Beylen and I conversed, one thing became clear. If one nation is forcing women to give birth, another is forcing women to wear head coverings, and another is forcing them to take that same covering off; maybe women aren’t the problem.

Now for the first question I posed; how can I possibly make a difference? This is where Beylen took off. For those of us who have participated in activism, it’s hard to wrap our minds around people who simply don’t care what goes on in the rest of the world. “Just because it’s not directly affecting you, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem whatsoever.” That was Beylen’s response, and it stuck with me. She went on to explain how women across the globe are being silenced; so as people with access to social media and the ability to speak freely, we have to be their voice. As Beylen so expertly put it, “It’s up to everyone else in the world to not just speak on their behalf, but fight on their behalf as well.”

So much goes on in the world we don’t see. We rely on news to fill in what we don’t know.  As Ms. Fritz points out, “Our media is so irresponsible. They focus on Ukraine consistently; they don’t focus on Nigeria… they don’t focus on the things we don’t want to.”

The one thing I want you to take away from this discussion is that so much is going on in our world. If Ms. Fritz’s mention of Nigeria seemed random to you, go do some research. It can be difficult, but the best thing we can do is talk about these current events; that is how we make a difference. It’s up to each one of us us to read more articles about world news and less about our favorite celebrities. Don’t let these women fight in the shadows; bring their struggles into the light so that the whole world can see them.