By Becky Mezzanotte
It was not until I returned from living abroad in the Middle East that I realized just how much I actually cared about women’s rights. Prior to that point in my life, I lived in blissful ignorance of the fact that slowly, but surely, my rights as a woman in the United States were being attacked.
But, those days of living in ignorance came to an end pretty fast when I returned from Egypt, a country where being a woman means men feel that they can harass you on the street. Experiences like this are what wake you up when you come to a country, like the United States, that is supposed to be “civilized” and “modern”. You expect to see progress and change, and yet everywhere I look I see the rights that women have worked so hard for in this country being thrown away like they are rubbish.
A perfect example of this has to be the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) enacted in 1994 by Congress. The act itself was the first to acknowledge that violence against women occurred and needed to be addressed. However, if VAWA expires at the end of 2011, as it is supposed to, what precautions are there to protect women from harassment, stalking and sexual assault?
I wish that I could say that VAWA expiring would be no big deal because we as a society had moved past the point of violence occurring against women (and anyone else for that matter), but this isn’t the case. According to a report from the UN’s Unite to End Violence Against Women campaign in 2006, “[i]n Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners”. Even though the numbers of these murders, sexual assaults and other violent acts are decreasing, the fact that they still exist is why something needs to be done to keep VAWA active.
Gone are the days where I can sit back and let someone else fight for my rights. And that would be the exact reason that I am sitting here typing out this blog entry. This blog entry is apart of a much larger movement, HERvotes, which serves to create awareness of the attacks against women including elimination of VAWA, attacks on Social Security and many other rights that women have earned over the years and hopes to mobilize women voters in 2012 to preserve women’s Health and Economic Rights. Because as I sit here, someone out there is working to pass several pieces of legislation that will take my rights away and send me back a hundred years. As much fun as period clothes are to wear for a short period of time, I would not want to live in them for ever.
Becky Mezzanotte is a graduate of American University and the current social media specialist at the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO).