GROSS: If I asked you to make a list of the five most important issues for women today, what would be on that list?
STEINEM: Well, I can do it. But I would like to say that the most important issues are those to the women who are listening. I mean, it’s not about dictating to each other what’s important but supporting each other and solving the ones that are in our daily lives.
GROSS: I like that point that you just made (laughter).
STEINEM: However, if you add up, you know, in terms of the numbers of people, I would say that competing for No. 1 would be violence against females worldwide. If you add up all the forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence in this country, which is at an enormously high rate – I mean, the most dangerous place for a woman in this country is her own home. And she’s most likely to be beaten or killed by some – by a man she knows. Or it is FGM – female genital mutilation – or it is female infanticide or honor killings or child marriage and too-early childbirth, which is a major cause of death among adolescent girls worldwide. So, you know, violence has reached an emergency – well, it’s – I mean, any violence is an emergency. But, you know, collectively…
GROSS: What – well, the sense of emergency has certainly increased with groups like the Taliban and ISIS…
STEINEM: Yes, yes.
GROSS: Truly attacking women and denying them any form of rights.
STEINEM: Yes. No, it’s the extreme forms of patriarchy, often religious – so-called religious – and the violence against females in warzones – sexualized violence in the Congo and, you know, many in the former Yugoslavia. You know, and all of these have mounted up to a real emergency. But tied, I would say, for first place is the ability of women to decide when and whether to have children because that is a major cause of death. The lack of that ability is a major cause of death. And it is also a major cause of inability to be educated or to be free outside the home or to be healthy. You know, so I would say those two concerns, violence – sexualized violence against women and reproductive freedom or reproductive justice are right up there in our focus in every country.
About every 90 minutes, an honor killing unfolds somewhere in the world, usually in a Muslim country. Pakistan alone has more than 1,000 a year, and the killers often go unpunished.
.. “She took away our honor,” Maqsood said from his jail cell. “If you put one drop of piss in a gallon of milk, the whole thing gets destroyed. That’s what she has done. … So I said, ‘No, I will kill you myself.’”
.. “After this incident, everyone says I am more respected,” her father boasted. “I can proudly say that for generations to come none of my descendants will ever think of doing what Saba did.”