Women in East still long way from equality

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 1994, 12:00am

THE wonderful article on American feminist Gloria Steinem by London Times writer Lisa Jardine (South China Morning Post, June 14), comes as a great irony today as the oppression of women escalates in Muslim countries.

In the West, women can talk to the media and write books pointing out how males have dismissed and degraded females through the ages, but in the East women who dare to oppose injustice are hounded and threatened with imprisonment and death.

The plight of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who has gone into hiding (one hopes she has been able to flee to a country where women can speak their minds), is one which should arouse dismay and disgust among civilised people.

Ms Nasreen had the audacity to state, among other sensible things, that marriage in her country is slavery for women and that the Koran contains many unjust injunctions against women.

The collective wrath of the male population of her country then went into a frenzy, calling for her death.

One could say that, knowing what has happened to Salman Rushdie, Ms Nasreen would have been more cautious. But here, apparently, is a wonderfully strong woman.

Recent advertisements in the media have been touting Bangladesh as a progressive nation with a modern capital, new industries, a national airline, etc, and recently a news photo showed mobs of schoolteachers (all male) going on strike.

Females, who in other countries work as nurturing teachers, apparently do not count for much in that ''modern'' country.

While inequity rules our planet, with politicians using religion so as to continue wielding power, women in the East still have a long way to go before they can gain respect and true equality.

We, their sisters who enjoy the basic freedoms - like being able to write to the newspapers - can only hope that a Gloria Steinem (Taslima Nasreen perhaps?) can emerge from the oppressed nations to give us hope and courage.

REBECCA SANTOS New Territories