Niloufar Moghaddami Khomami, PhD in International Relations and a researcher in the field of women’s studies
For many centuries, the system in Western civilization has viewed women in an inferior, inhuman manner. A review of the works left behind by both ancient and contemporary Western philosophers and theorists shows that the position of women as human beings has always been subject to the false, extreme beliefs of individuals who have shaped the history of Western civilization. Even though the secular discourse on human rights was born in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 20th century that traces of women’s human rights were observed in the Western system of human rights. With the emergence and expansion of the second wave of the feminist movement, literature on women’s rights gradually entered the field of theorizing. At the same time, it was able to establish its position in the international legal system, in particular in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spoke for the first time about equal rights for men and women, and it was supposed that women had attained equal and just rights on par with men! However, the narrative of the 500-year history of human rights indicates something else.
A careful study of the history of the development of the system of Western civilization shows that the apparent acceptance of women’s rights as human beings is precisely tied to the period of industrialization in European societies. As a matter of fact, with the start of the Industrial Revolution and the need to employ a large workforce with low wages, they turned to a strategy of inviting women to participate actively in society and in work environments. In the meantime, a woman’s home and her family, as vital elements of her life, were considered to be a major obstacle to the presence of women in the process of the development of factories. With the widespread attack of feminists on the family institution, women were influenced by the discourse on freedom and rights and were dragged from their homes into factories. Thus, they became cheap slaves for the system of capitalism. For this reason, many intellectuals are of the opinion that the Industrial Revolution and its socio-economic developments caused tremendous changes in family roles and women’s perception of their human and gender identity.
Until the middle of the 20th century, despite the dramatic changes in the socio-economic system, many women did not give in to family estrangement and anti-family practices in a move to defend their self-respect and dignity. A number of analysts at that time viewed the traditional gender and family roles that were rooted in the beliefs of different generations of women as being the main reason for this lack of willingness in women. It was for this reason that this time they attacked the natural family institution in the form of a socio-cultural movement.
In the 1960s, a revolution known as the sexual revolution was born in the West. It questioned all the rules and principles of traditional sexual behavior and ethics, and it disrupted the natural order of male-female relations. This revolution became the basis for the emergence of a new discourse that seemingly defended women’s freedom, but inwardly and in practice, it caused the physical, sexual, and emotional slavery of women. After the sexual revolution, which took place very close to the birth of the “discourse on the defense of women’s rights in the field of international law,” terms such as gender equality, freedom of choice, human dignity, sexual orientation, and the elimination of discrimination were used as tools to deceive the women of the world for this new method of exploitation.
The predominance of these terms and their broad semantic influence on all societies promised a humane world for women on the surface, but in practice, its consequences for women were terrible. In reply to the extensive movements and activities of liberal feminists, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was approved in 1979. This international bill is the first comprehensive document that paid attention to women’s issues at the global level and tried to assert women’s rights by emphasizing the concept of equality and non-discrimination. This unilateral recommendation and emphasis that did not take into account the biological and gender differences between women and men had no outcome other than to increase the violence against women in addition to increasing social and gender gaps.
In the speech that he delivered on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy clearly stated, “…The facts are shocking. In the EU and across the world, one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence. One in five girls today are victims of child sexual abuse. Online violence is on the rise with one in two young women experiencing gender-based cyber violence.”
A study was conducted in 2015 across the European Union on the issue of violence against women. This study showed disappointing results with regard to the condition of women and the violence against them that could be seen in developed countries. Some of the results published in this document included the following.
Research on 10,000 cases of German women conducted by Germany’s Federal Office of Family Matters showed that 37 percent of the women interviewed had experienced at least one form of physical violence or a threat of violence since the age of 16.
Statistics from a study in England and Wales proved that in a one-year period, out of 46,000 men and women, 18 percent of women had experienced some form of stalking since the age of 16, while the percentage rate was 10 percent for men.
On average, 33 percent of women claimed to have experienced violence or sexual assault by adults in their childhood. This means there are about 61 million women across the EU who were physically or sexually abused as children.
There are other noteworthy statistics that also show the depth of the deviation and corruption of the West with regard to the identity and status of women as human beings. In a study in 2009 that was conducted by W. Rossler in Sweden, 193 female sex workers were asked why they had entered such a profession. 37 percent replied that they considered it to be like other professions. 29 percent said it was because they couldn’t find another job. 26 percent said they needed the money to support their families. 24 percent said their reason for turning to this profession was to pay off their debts. 22 percent said they needed the money to buy drugs. 8 percent said they needed to pay for their education. 6 percent said it was to help their parents pay for their expenses. And the last 2 percent were forced into this job. There are important points for analysis and evaluation that can be seen in the results of this study with regard to the situation of women. Out of all the people who were interviewed, only 2 percent claimed they were forced into prostitution. The other 98 percent said they had done this at their own will.
This shows that prostitution is the focal point of women finding their identity in the Western systems. In order to further clarify this matter, it is necessary to state that, basically, due to the widespread prevalence of prostitution at the international and national level, countries are obliged to look at prostitution as being like other common occupations based on the binding and recommended global and regional agreements. Furthermore, the governments are committed to treat the workers in this field like other workers and to provide and guarantee their rights. This normalization of sexual corruption, which intensifies sexual violence against women more than any other field, is rooted in the West’s attitude toward women according to which they treat women as sexual objects who serve the economic interests of different groups in society. This bitter truth is the basic foundation of the modern model for their defense of women’s rights in the West.
None of the activities that are being carried out for women’s rights in the West will come to fruition, because, basically, they consider a woman’s identity to be synonymous with her body. Thus, a woman who does not have a physical object to offer will be removed from the scene of this competition. This phenomenon has created one of the biggest forms of violence against women all over the world. This phenomenon is called beauty competitions, and it is accompanied by a tendency for cosmetic surgery. The global statistics regarding this phenomenon and its extensiveness perfectly show how women reduce themselves to a level that is limited to their physical body in order to find their identity in the system of Western civilization and its global lifestyle. The extensive spread of a culture that encourages making drastic changes in one’s face and body, which has come about by way of the use of widespread advertisements and also by way of the increased use of the influence of influential people and celebrities, has turned into a disastrous plague for all societies.
The tendency of women and girls from different nations, especially among non-Europeans and in general young people, to submit to extreme cosmetic surgeries in order to match the imposed Western standards has created various physical and psychological risks for women and girls. One outcome of the spread of this unfavorable competition is the victims who suffer from the physical or psychological effects of this phenomenon. In addition, another outcome is the social pressure and numerous labels that women and girls who are unable or unwilling to perform these surgeries suffer from. In the meantime, a change in people’s taste in society and their accepting an unnatural shape of the face and unnatural body shapes provide the basis for more competition to win this endless race.
The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) has announced, based on a recent research study that they had carried out, that during the four years ending in 2021, the amount of cosmetic surgery performed worldwide had increased by 33.3 percent. In just one year, more than 1.9 million people had undergone liposuction surgery. According to the statistics published by some research institutes, 31.4 percent of Asians, 27.4 percent of Hispanics, and 18.8 percent of African Americans undergo invasive and non-invasive cosmetic surgery procedures.
The similarity of the rights of men and women in the context of international human rights and in the form of the national laws of many countries has not only failed to help women and their identity, but it has also led to the emergence of discriminatory practices against women. This is because instead of providing and facilitating conditions that are suitable for the female gender, it compares her situation with that of the opposite gender, making her rights subordinate to the rights of men. In practice, this approach has increased various kinds of violence against women. Not only has it not created a place of refuge for her, it has turned into a source of violence itself.
Ultimately, it can be said that the system of Western civilization in the shadow of its modern model, which is women abandoning their homes, has not solved the problem and the main question, which is the identity and status of women as human beings. The only thing that it has done is to change the context in which women are oppressed and ignored. Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the traditional family environment in the system of Western civilization has provided the means for oppressing women by denying the legal and educational identity of women (as they say, by making them civilized). Now, the modern model of economic-social relations has deprived women of an identity as a human being. Furthermore, it has made her path to destruction a hundred times faster. If there were a time in the past when a woman only used to live in the structure of a traditional family and with a specific Western lifestyle without basic rights, today she has become a slave of the capitalist system. She is prepared to succumb to any form of humiliation in order to satisfy the male society and the market economy in order to have a buyer. This issue confirms that since yesterday and continuing up until today, women have lacked value and a position as a human being in the Western world due to the various flaws and defects there. The slogan of defending her rights is nothing more than a pretext and a mirage.
Dr. Niloufar Moghaddami Khomami is a professor at Imam Sadiq University. She received her PhD in Public International Law from Allameh Tabatabai University. She is the head of the Department of Women and Family in Imam Sadiq University’s Human Rights and Citizenship Institute.
(The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of islamicvoiceofturkey.com)
 Hauch, Gabriella. “Gender and revolution in Europe, 19th-20th centuries.” Encyclopédie d’histoire, 22 June 2020, https://ehne.fr/en/node/12343
 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Violence against Women: An EU-Wide Survey: Main Results. FRA, 2015.
 Rossler, W, et al. “The Mental Health of Female Sex Workers.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, vol. 122, Dec. 2009, pp. 143-152.
 International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). “ISAPS Annual Global Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures.” ISAPS, 9 Jan. 2023, https://www.isaps.org/discover/about-isaps/global-statistics/reports-and-press-releases/global-survey-2021-full-report-and-press-releases/
 Branman, Rhys. “Cosmetic Surgery Becoming More Popular Among Minorities.” Little Rock Cosmetic Surgery, 18 Jan. 2023, https://www.littlerockcosmeticsurgery.com/blog/cosmetic-surgery-becoming-more-popular-among-minorities/