Women own their own bodies. Period.
Unfortunately the world is not as clear-cut as that, and almost daily we are bombarded with new shocking and confusing issues to deal with involving women's bodies and women's rights. Miley Cyrus twerking on TV. Public breast-feeding. Acid attacks. Top freedom. Female circumcision. Forced marriages. Bullying. Teachers fired for modeling. Honor killings. Public stonings. Political executions of female activists and politicians, etc.
In the U.K., there have been a rash of attacks against publications that feature photos of topless women, and lots of confusing claims and appeals to women's rights. The models and the publications say women have the right to choose their own careers and to pose topless if they want to. Protesters say these publications objectify women and assert their right to decide what publications are allowed in public. But since "objectify" means to treat as right-less, we have to wonder who is objectifying whom? Are the models objectifying women, or are the protestors objectifying models?
Who is violating whose rights? Who is right about rights?
Let's put a spotlight on women's rights to find out.
Most people think rights are simply based on popularity. They believe if most people want a right then the law should give it to them. For example, in the U.K. supporters of NoMorePage3.org say they should have the choice if they see topless models in the paper and have a petition with +118,000 signatures supporting them. Ukfeminista.org.uk says they shouldn't have to tolerate men's magazines at all and have held many organized protests driving them out of several stores.
This is the "gang" model of rights, and according to it, whoever has the biggest, strongest, or loudest gang has the most rights.
The problem with this model is that rather than leading to respect for rights it leads to laws that establish one gang's right to violate the rights of everyone else. For example, any laws passed to guarantee that no one will ever see photos of women's bare breasts in public would violate the rights of all those who enjoy looking at women's breasts even in private, and more importantly, would violate the rights of women who wanted to bare them for other reasons.
But this does not deter advocates of gang rights because they do not see any other way. They mistakenly believe rights are a political concept and can only ever be determined by debate, vote or war. But the truth is, rights are not political at all. They are not even primarily social. In fact, as I understand from Ayn Rand, the real source of rights can be found only in an individual human being.
For example, if it is right for a human being to try to survive in the world then that human being has to think, therefore it is right for them to think. That individual will also need to produce things to survive, like food, water, shelter, transportation, energy, art, technology, etc. So it is right for them to produce values. Note these things are not necessarily social. They are simply the right things for a person to do even if marooned alone on a desert island. They are an individual person's rights.
Yes, there are certain advantages to living among others, such as division of labour, the possibility of specialization, productive agreements, etc., but these are only advantages if each person keeps their rights and remains free within that society. Simply being among others doesn't mean we no longer need to live, think and produce values, and being among others introduces the possibility that someone might try to stop us from doing these things. So it's also right that people should be free to trade their values with each other and right to keep and use these values - i.e. to own property. And since the main way to stop people from exercising their rights is physically, it is also right that people should own their own bodies.
Ownership of one's body means you can use it as you like, and that as long as you're not violating someone else's rights, no one can touch you, tell you what to do, or threaten you. It means no woman can be sexually assaulted or bullied. It means no woman can have acid thrown on her by strangers or be killed by her own family. It means no woman can be told who she can have sex with or denied access to an abortion. It means a woman can neither be a sex slave nor be kept from having a lover. It means no woman can be married or circumcised against her will. It means a woman can neither be kept from feeding a child in public nor be stoned to death in public. It means women can't be forced to cover their bodies or be prevented from nude modeling. And it means women can't be kept from school, careers, medical care, or elected office.
This is the model known as individual rights. And it's why within a society one of the most important rights is ownership of one's own body.
Notice that politics don't define rights, they merely implement them by way of laws. Nature defines rights, human nature, natural law. And this is why there's so much confusion and contradiction about women's rights in Britain and the world today. Rights can never be determined accurately or fairly by political means. It is only by looking at the values every single human being needs to live that we can ever truly know what is right and wrong socially. And individual rights is the only system that promises every person on earth the greatest possible freedoms. This is why only individual rights should ever be put into law and never gang rights. In any country with gang rights women have at best one or two of the "body" rights above. However, if you live in place where women have all of them, then you are living in a society where women are as free as they can ever be.
Right now in the UK women are being asked to choose between individual or gang rights over their bodies. They can't have both, simply because each contradicts and destroys the other when implemented. Either ALL women have the right to own their own bodies, or a vicious gang has the right to violate the bodies of any woman they choose, be that gang a government, a feminist group, a religion, a lynch mob, or a family. And when women do choose gang rights, as they have throughout most of the world today, they inevitably lose all their rights, just as women have in Iran or anywhere gang rights are the law.
So if you're a woman who feels your body or your rights are being violated then choose individual rights. Choose your right to your own body over your right to someone else's. Fight for ownership of your body with all your might against the growing gang that wants to take it away from you. Fight to have your individual right to your own body protected by law.
Fight while you still have the right.