The United States of America is a lucky place to live as a woman. Although it took many years to guarantee women their rights and freedoms, eventually we have received them, even in their most basic forms. Women in other countries are not as fortunate—as the horrific murder of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini illustrates. The famous Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, color, or national origin in public places, schools, and employment. Although discrimination based on sex was not initially included in the proposed bill, it was eventually added as an amendment in Title VII. Back then, the omission of women’s rights did not go unnoticed. Many women and advocacy groups wrote to President Johnson, expressing the need to expand Executive Order 11246 to include enforcement of discrimination against women. The omission of sex in Executive Order 11246 was finally rectified in Executive Order 11375 on October 13, 1967. While this was a tremendous step forward for women in America, women in Iran still do not have these very basic freedoms or rights. On a daily basis they are still discriminated against for their sex. Thousands of these women have dreams of immigrating to the United States of America for this simple reason. My mother was one of them. Judith Wood is a renowned, Los Angeles-based Immigration Attorney specializing in political asylum. Her landmark victory in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Nasseri v. Moschorak, opened the door for women fleeing violence to seek refuge in the United States. In her case Nasseri v. Moschorak, one of her first as an immigration lawyer, Judy Wood represented an Afghan woman who fled her home country after being persecuted by the Taliban for opening a school for girls. After a tenacious battle both in and out of court, Judy's efforts culminated in arguments before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit where she fought to include women as a protected class. Wood argued that sending her client back to Afghanistan was almost a death sentence, especially because she was a woman. Wood noted that “women go through a lot of tragedy, a lot of hardship. And it's not the same kind of hardship that men go through. The persecution of women takes on this invasive nature, not only of their body, but their soul”. The appellate court agreed, ruling there would be a “clear probability of persecution” if she were deported, and reversed the lower court's ruling. Since then, Wood has championed the causes of other women with similar harrowing tales all over the world. The United States needs more Judy Wood’s. We need more attorneys fighting for women’s rights and basic freedoms. We need to get involved and activly combat the discrimination of women taking place in other countries like Iran. I am so proud to be a part of UCLA’s Pre Law Transfer Society where we do not condone the murder of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini because her head scarf was not put on “correctly”. I am proud to be a part of a club that inspires young students to become lawyers and fight for women’s rights around the world.
By: Niloofar Y. Novinbakht