Since prehistoric times, all human cultures have been male-dominated. The larger, stronger gender simply took command. Anthropologist Margaret Mead once mistakenly thought she found a female-led group in New Guinea, but she later corrected herself and wrote:
"All the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed.... Men everywhere have been in charge of running the show."
In ancient Athens, females were little more than property, totally controlled by fathers or husbands. In China in the past, girls were subjected to foot-binding that left them virtually crippled, with four-inch feet. In parts of Africa today, girls are genitally mutilated to make them "pure" for husbands. Even in well-developed Switzerland, women couldn't vote in all provinces until 1991.
In contrast, modern America seems a pinnacle of equality. But a dark side remains, both here and globally. An Amnesty International report said:
"In the United States, a woman is raped every six minutes; a woman is battered every 15 seconds. In North Africa, 6,000 women are genitally mutilated each day. This year, more than 15,000 women will be sold into sexual slavery in China. Two hundred women in Bangladesh will be horribly disfigured when their spurned husbands or suitors burn them with acid. More than 7,000 women in India will be murdered by their families and in-laws in disputes over dowries. Violence against women is rooted in a global culture of discrimination that denies women equal rights with men and legitimizes the appropriation of women's bodies for individual gratification or political ends. Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of women."
Now, a new report by the World Health Organization reiterates that more than one-third of all women around the planet are victims of physical or sexual violence. Director-General Margaret Chan called it "a global health problem of epidemic proportions." Wife-bashing, forced sex and other brutality -- even killing of girlfriends and estranged wives by enraged men -- are a deep stain on the human species.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has championed total equality for women as a way to break the age-old pattern of abuse. "Women's rights are human rights," she declared.The world keeps marching toward full democracy and humane values, which offer the best hope of defeating this curse. In the meantime, prosecution of all abusers should be a top priority.