Psychology / Health Culture

Health Culture

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Autor:  anton  08 October 2010
Tags:  Health,  Culture
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Four important challenges confronted women in the 1990s: increasing practical literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women’s roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside political process.

There have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving women’s lives during the twentieth century. Indeed there may be contradictions inherent in the gender agenda of some nationalist projects, yet more and more steps are being taken so women can participate actively in programs especially in the area of the physical sciences. This is an area where women are now becoming more and more recognized. In the nineteenth century there was a struggle to introduce female education, to ease some of the restrictions on women’s activities. Yet more and more, women began to be active participants and many of the earliest proponents of education improved social status for women. They advocated cooking and sewing classes conducted in a religious framework to advance women’s knowledge and skills. Feminists campaigned for increased breast cancer research, more convenient and cheaper contraceptive methods. Research on the physiology of menopause and elimination of unnecessary surgical interventions such as hysterectomies, Cesarean sections and radical mastectomies. These campaigns were supported by several advocacy groups. In 1990 the U.S. National Institute of Health established the Office of Research on Women’s Health and launched the Women’s Health Initiative to redress gender inequities in medical research. (Creager & Schiebinger).

For the women in developing countries, for example, promoting the education of women was a first step in moving beyond the constraints. The nationalist struggle helped fray the threads in socially imposed curtains. Simultaneously, women’s roles were questioned, and their empowerment was linked to the larger issues of nationalism and independence (ibid).

A review of Muslim history and culture brings to light many areas in which Qur’anic teaching notwithstanding, women continued to be subjected to diverse forms of oppression and injustice, often in the name of Islam, while the Qur’an because of its protective attitude toward all downtrodden and oppressed classes of people, appears to be weighted in many ways in favor of women. Many of its women-related teachings have been used in patriarchal Muslim societies against, rather than for, women. Muslim societies, in general, appear to be far more concerned with trying to control women’s bodies and sexuality than with their human rights. They either do not speak of women’s rights at all, or are mainly concerned with how women’s chastity may be protected (Abdullah, 1988).

Women are the targets of the most serious violations of human rights, which occur in Muslim societies in general. Muslims say with great pride that Islam abolished female infanticide; true but it must also be mentioned that one of the most common crimes in a number of Muslim countries is the murder of women by their husbands. These so-called “honor-killings” are, in fact, extremely dishonorable and are frequently used to camouflage other kinds of crimes (ibid).

Female children are discriminated against from the moment of birth, for it is customary in Muslim societies to regard a son as a gift, and a daughter as a trial from God. Therefore, the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration while the birth of a daughter calls for commiseration if not lamentation. Many girls are married when they are still minors, even though marriage in Islam is a contract and presupposes that the contracting parties are both consenting adults. Even though so much Qur’anic legislation is aimed at protecting the rights of women in the context of marriage, women cannot claim equality with their husbands. The husband, in fact, is regarded as his wife’s gateway to heaven or hell and the arbiter of her final destiny. That such an idea can exist within the framework of Islam – which, in theory, rejects the idea of there being any intermediary between a believer and God – represents both a profound irony and great tragedy (ibid).

At any rate, the Women’s Action Forum was formed to respond to the implementation of the penal code and to strengthen women’s position in society in general. Usually, only the poorest women engage in work – often as midwives, sweepers or nannies – for compensation outside the home. More often, poor urban women remain at home and sell manufactured goods to a middleman for compensation. More and more urban women have engaged in such activities during the 1990s, although to avoid being shamed, few families willingly admit that women contribute to the family economically. Hence, there is little information about the work women do in these developing countries. Because of the fiction that most women do no work other than their domestic chores, some governments have been hesitant to adopt overt policies to increase women’s employment options and to provide legal support for women’s labor force participation (ibid).

A melding of the traditional social welfare activities of the women’s movement and its newly revised political activism appears to have occurred. Diverse groups are supporting small-scale projects that focus on empowering women. They have been involved in such activities as instituting legal aid for indigent women, opposing the gendered segregation of universities, and publicizing and condemning the growing incidents of violence against women.

For the past years, there have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving Muslim women’s lives in the subcontinent during the twentieth century. These attempts generally have been related to two broader, intertwined movements: the social reform movement in British India and the growing Muslim nationalist movement. Since partition, the changing status of women has been largely linked with discourse about the role of Islam in a modern state. This debate concerns the extent to which civil rights common in most Western democracies are appropriate in an Islamic society and the way these rights should be reconciled with Islamic family law (Abdullah, 1988).

For example, although the Qur’an presents the idea of what we today call a “no-fault’ divorce and does not make any adverse judgments about divorce, Muslim societies have made divorce extremely difficult for women, both legally and through social penalties. Although the Qur’an states clearly that the divorced parents of a minor child must decide by mutual consultation how the child is to be raised and that they must not use the child to hurt or exploit each other, in most Muslim societies, women are deprived both of their sons (generally at age 7) and their daughters (generally at age 12). It is difficult to imagine an act of greater cruelty than depriving a mother of her children simply because she is divorced. Although polygamy was intended by the Qur’an to be for the protection of orphans and widows, in practice, Muslims have made it the Sword of Damocles, which keeps women under constant threat. Although the Qur’an gave women the right to receive an inheritance not only on the death of a close relative, but also to receive other bequests or gifts during the lifetime of a benevolent caretaker, Muslim societies have disapproved greatly of the idea of giving wealth to a woman in preference to a man, even when her need or circumstances warrant it. Although the purpose of the Qur’anic legislation dealing with women’s dress and conduct, was to make it safe for women to go about their daily business (since they have the right to engage in gainful activity as witnessed by Surah4; An-Nisa’ without fear of sexual harassment or molestation. Muslim societies have put many of them behind veils and shrouds and locked doors on the pretext of protecting their chastity, forgetting that according to the Qur’an, confinement to their homes was not a normal way of life for chaste women but a punishment for ‘unchastity” (Abdullah, 1988).

Woman and man created equal by God and standing equal in the sight of God, have become very unequal in Muslim societies. The Qur’anic description of man and woman in marriage: “They are your garments/ and you are their garments” implies closeness, mutuality, and equality. However, Muslim culture has reduced many, if not most, women to the position of puppets on a string, to slave-like creatures whose only purpose in life is to cater to the needs and pleasures of men. It is one of Islam’s cardinal beliefs that each person, man or woman, is responsible and accountable for his or her individual actions.

If some women corresponded to the popular stereotype of themselves, women advocates argued it was because sex discrimination was so deeply ingrained in our culture that women were trained to accept an inferior position and a subordinate role in life. Society assumed, they said, that women’s primary purpose was marriage and motherhood. Thus, it trained them to please and build up the egos of men. It taught them to conceal their intelligence to avoid frightening men away.

In the area of medicine, women were excluded as subjects of medical research. It is only recently that journals have recognized feminist approaches. Several journals feature special issues by feminist scholars spanning a cluster of topics including AIDS, reconfiguration of the principle of autonomy and gender issues in psychiatry.

Indeed, for many generations, it has been believed that woman’s place is within the walls of her own home. For a long time, many believe that it was impossible to imagine the time when her duty there shall end or to forecast any social change, which shall release her from that paramount obligation.

It seems women have constituted the most discriminated-against majority in every civilization, culture, race, nation, and religion. They have been relegated to a second-class status and treated as a subhuman species. They have been denied citizenship, education, civil or legal rights, and a voice or vote in any public assembly. For instance, women did not gain the right to vote in England until 1919 and in the United States until 1920. They have been treated as property to be bought, sold, or cast aside when they no longer served men’s purposes. “Woman has been treated as man’s inferior so long,” protests Patricia Gundry, “that this practice has become accepted as truth.” (Candib, 1996).

There have been rare and isolated exceptions to this devaluation of women. In Egypt, Greece and later Roman Empire, there were periods of time in which some women attained a high degree of emancipation. Some Greek women in Sparta attained an education and took part in public life. Many Roman women achieved a high degree of wealth and influence, although none ever became Caesar or were elected to the senate. But even in these relatively brief periods of history, it was generally only the well-born and highly positioned women who were able to break the bonds of inferiority and subordination. Even as water seeks its own level, these brief episodes of women asserting themselves faded back into the servility of social patriarchalism.

Even in Africa, which has been heavily influenced by Western culture, traditional attitudes toward women persist among most tribes. Women are virtual slaves. They not only carry the full responsibility for domestic duties but also do all the work toward maintaining their home and family. They plow, plant, till and harvest the crops. Then missionaries, as recently as the turn of the 20th century, suggested that farmers could increase the yield of their fields by utilizing oxen to pull their plows, the tribesmen protested that cattle should not be used to do women’s work. Women draw and carry the water. They gather, cut, and haul firewood with no help from their husbands. A traveler to Africa is immediately struck by the anomaly of women carrying immense loads on their heads or on their backs supported by a strap over their foreheads, while men are rarely seen carrying anything. Furthermore, men and women never hold hands in public, or otherwise display any sign of affection. Rarely does one see a man carrying on a conversation with a woman, least of all his wife (International Network for Life Studies).

Husbands are the undisputed monarchs of their households, a man can have as many wives as he can afford while the woman has no choice in the matter. Among some tribes husbands do not sleep with their wives except for purposes of procreation. They do not eat with their wives and children. When the wife brings him his food, she places it on the ground before him so that he will not be contaminated by her touch. He then pulls it toward himself with his foot (Abdullah. 1988).

There is hope though for women in this area. More and more women are realizing that they can rectify systemic injustices. They look toward a future when feminist theorizing has a more profound influence on society including medicine and health. This, in a way, is where they are most capable because of their motherly instincts. They look toward a future when the voices of the socially marginalized are fully recognized, and the needs of all social groups are incorporated into a system of healthcare justice that is responsive to the diverse needs of all across the globe.

In sum, the overall purpose of feminist issues such as these is the development of a human community that values the health and well being of all, regardless of any impediments to gender and race.

Four important challenges confronted women in the 1990s: increasing practical literacy, gaining access to employment opportunities at all levels in the economy, promoting change in the perception of women’s roles and status, and gaining a public voice both within and outside political process.

There have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving women’s lives during the twentieth century. Indeed there may be contradictions inherent in the gender agenda of some nationalist projects, yet more and more steps are being taken so women can participate actively in programs especially in the area of the physical sciences. This is an area where women are now becoming more and more recognized. In the nineteenth century there was a struggle to introduce female education, to ease some of the restrictions on women’s activities. Yet more and more, women began to be active participants and many of the earliest proponents of education improved social status for women. They advocated cooking and sewing classes conducted in a religious framework to advance women’s knowledge and skills. Feminists campaigned for increased breast cancer research, more convenient and cheaper contraceptive methods. Research on the physiology of menopause and elimination of unnecessary surgical interventions such as hysterectomies, Cesarean sections and radical mastectomies. These campaigns were supported by several advocacy groups. In 1990 the U.S. National Institute of Health established the Office of Research on Women’s Health and launched the Women’s Health Initiative to redress gender inequities in medical research. (Creager & Schiebinger).

For the women in developing countries, for example, promoting the education of women was a first step in moving beyond the constraints. The nationalist struggle helped fray the threads in socially imposed curtains. Simultaneously, women’s roles were questioned, and their empowerment was linked to the larger issues of nationalism and independence (ibid).

A review of Muslim history and culture brings to light many areas in which Qur’anic teaching notwithstanding, women continued to be subjected to diverse forms of oppression and injustice, often in the name of Islam, while the Qur’an because of its protective attitude toward all downtrodden and oppressed classes of people, appears to be weighted in many ways in favor of women. Many of its women-related teachings have been used in patriarchal Muslim societies against, rather than for, women. Muslim societies, in general, appear to be far more concerned with trying to control women’s bodies and sexuality than with their human rights. They either do not speak of women’s rights at all, or are mainly concerned with how women’s chastity may be protected (Abdullah, 1988).

Women are the targets of the most serious violations of human rights, which occur in Muslim societies in general. Muslims say with great pride that Islam abolished female infanticide; true but it must also be mentioned that one of the most common crimes in a number of Muslim countries is the murder of women by their husbands. These so-called “honor-killings” are, in fact, extremely dishonorable and are frequently used to camouflage other kinds of crimes (ibid).

Female children are discriminated against from the moment of birth, for it is customary in Muslim societies to regard a son as a gift, and a daughter as a trial from God. Therefore, the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration while the birth of a daughter calls for commiseration if not lamentation. Many girls are married when they are still minors, even though marriage in Islam is a contract and presupposes that the contracting parties are both consenting adults. Even though so much Qur’anic legislation is aimed at protecting the rights of women in the context of marriage, women cannot claim equality with their husbands. The husband, in fact, is regarded as his wife’s gateway to heaven or hell and the arbiter of her final destiny. That such an idea can exist within the framework of Islam – which, in theory, rejects the idea of there being any intermediary between a believer and God – represents both a profound irony and great tragedy (ibid).

At any rate, the Women’s Action Forum was formed to respond to the implementation of the penal code and to strengthen women’s position in society in general. Usually, only the poorest women engage in work – often as midwives, sweepers or nannies – for compensation outside the home. More often, poor urban women remain at home and sell manufactured goods to a middleman for compensation. More and more urban women have engaged in such activities during the 1990s, although to avoid being shamed, few families willingly admit that women contribute to the family economically. Hence, there is little information about the work women do in these developing countries. Because of the fiction that most women do no work other than their domestic chores, some governments have been hesitant to adopt overt policies to increase women’s employment options and to provide legal support for women’s labor force participation (ibid).

A melding of the traditional social welfare activities of the women’s movement and its newly revised political activism appears to have occurred. Diverse groups are supporting small-scale projects that focus on empowering women. They have been involved in such activities as instituting legal aid for indigent women, opposing the gendered segregation of universities, and publicizing and condemning the growing incidents of violence against women.

For the past years, there have been various attempts at social and legal reform aimed at improving Muslim women’s lives in the subcontinent during the twentieth century. These attempts generally have been related to two broader, intertwined movements: the social reform movement in British India and the growing Muslim nationalist movement. Since partition, the changing status of women has been largely linked with discourse about the role of Islam in a modern state. This debate concerns the extent to which civil rights common in most Western democracies are appropriate in an Islamic society and the way these rights should be reconciled with Islamic family law (Abdullah, 1988).

For example, although the Qur’an presents the idea of what we today call a “no-fault’ divorce and does not make any adverse judgments about divorce, Muslim societies have made divorce extremely difficult for women, both legally and through social penalties. Although the Qur’an states clearly that the divorced parents of a minor child must decide by mutual consultation how the child is to be raised and that they must not use the child to hurt or exploit each other, in most Muslim societies, women are deprived both of their sons (generally at age 7) and their daughters (generally at age 12). It is difficult to imagine an act of greater cruelty than depriving a mother of her children simply because she is divorced. Although polygamy was intended by the Qur’an to be for the protection of orphans and widows, in practice, Muslims have made it the Sword of Damocles, which keeps women under constant threat. Although the Qur’an gave women the right to receive an inheritance not only on the death of a close relative, but also to receive other bequests or gifts during the lifetime of a benevolent caretaker, Muslim societies have disapproved greatly of the idea of giving wealth to a woman in preference to a man, even when her need or circumstances warrant it. Although the purpose of the Qur’anic legislation dealing with women’s dress and conduct, was to make it safe for women to go about their daily business (since they have the right to engage in gainful activity as witnessed by Surah4; An-Nisa’ without fear of sexual harassment or molestation. Muslim societies have put many of them behind veils and shrouds and locked doors on the pretext of protecting their chastity, forgetting that according to the Qur’an, confinement to their homes was not a normal way of life for chaste women but a punishment for ‘unchastity” (Abdullah, 1988).

Woman and man created equal by God and standing equal in the sight of God, have become very unequal in Muslim societies. The Qur’anic description of man and woman in marriage: “They are your garments/ and you are their garments” implies closeness, mutuality, and equality. However, Muslim culture has reduced many, if not most, women to the position of puppets on a string, to slave-like creatures whose only purpose in life is to cater to the needs and pleasures of men. It is one of Islam’s cardinal beliefs that each person, man or woman, is responsible and accountable for his or her individual actions.

If some women corresponded to the popular stereotype of themselves, women advocates argued it was because sex discrimination was so deeply ingrained in our culture that women were trained to accept an inferior position and a subordinate role in life. Society assumed, they said, that women’s primary purpose was marriage and motherhood. Thus, it trained them to please and build up the egos of men. It taught them to conceal their intelligence to avoid frightening men away.

In the area of medicine, women were excluded as subjects of medical research. It is only recently that journals have recognized feminist approaches. Several journals feature special issues by feminist scholars spanning a cluster of topics including AIDS, reconfiguration of the principle of autonomy and gender issues in psychiatry.

Indeed, for many generations, it has been believed that woman’s place is within the walls of her own home. For a long time, many believe that it was impossible to imagine the time when her duty there shall end or to forecast any social change, which shall release her from that paramount obligation.

It seems women have constituted the most discriminated-against majority in every civilization, culture, race, nation, and religion. They have been relegated to a second-class status and treated as a subhuman species. They have been denied citizenship, education, civil or legal rights, and a voice or vote in any public assembly. For instance, women did not gain the right to vote in England until 1919 and in the United States until 1920. They have been treated as property to be bought, sold, or cast aside when they no longer served men’s purposes. “Woman has been treated as man’s inferior so long,” protests Patricia Gundry, “that this practice has become accepted as truth.” (Candib, 1996).

There have been rare and isolated exceptions to this devaluation of women. In Egypt, Greece and later Roman Empire, there were periods of time in which some women attained a high degree of emancipation. Some Greek women in Sparta attained an education and took part in public life. Many Roman women achieved a high degree of wealth and influence, although none ever became Caesar or were elected to the senate. But even in these relatively brief periods of history, it was generally only the well-born and highly positioned women who were able to break the bonds of inferiority and subordination. Even as water seeks its own level, these brief episodes of women asserting themselves faded back into the servility of social patriarchalism.

Even in Africa, which has been heavily influenced by Western culture, traditional attitudes toward women persist among most tribes. Women are virtual slaves. They not only carry the full responsibility for domestic duties but also do all the work toward maintaining their home and family. They plow, plant, till and harvest the crops. Then missionaries, as recently as the turn of the 20th century, suggested that farmers could increase the yield of their fields by utilizing oxen to pull their plows, the tribesmen protested that cattle should not be used to do women’s work. Women draw and carry the water. They gather, cut, and haul firewood with no help from their husbands. A traveler to Africa is immediately struck by the anomaly of women carrying immense loads on their heads or on their backs supported by a strap over their foreheads, while men are rarely seen carrying anything. Furthermore, men and women never hold hands in public, or otherwise display any sign of affection. Rarely does one see a man carrying on a conversation with a woman, least of all his wife (International Network for Life Studies).

Husbands are the undisputed monarchs of their households, a man can have as many wives as he can afford while the woman has no choice in the matter. Among some tribes husbands do not sleep with their wives except for purposes of procreation. They do not eat with their wives and children. When the wife brings him his food, she places it on the ground before him so that he will not be contaminated by her touch. He then pulls it toward himself with his foot (Abdullah. 1988).

There is hope though for women in this area. More and more women are realizing that they can rectify systemic injustices. They look toward a future when feminist theorizing has a more profound influence on society including medicine and health. This, in a way, is where they are most capable because of their motherly instincts. They look toward a future when the voices of the socially marginalized are fully recognized, and the needs of all social groups are incorporated into a system of healthcare justice that is responsive to the diverse needs of all across the globe.

In sum, the overall purpose of feminist issues such as these is the development of a human community that values the health and well being of all, regardless of any impediments to gender and race.



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