Defending Our Daughters: The Rights of Women in the World

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Release date: March 08, 1998
Directed by: Barbara Kopple
Produced by: Lifetime Television
Running time: 60 minutes

Meryl Streep hosts "Defending Our Daughters: The Rights of Women in the World", an incredibly powerful documentary from Barbara Kopple, the two-time Academy Award director. As Streep notes in the one-hour special, it's tough to watch. The program is broken up in three segments. The first deals with a 20-year-old law in Pakistan that declares sex outside of marriage - whether consensual or rape - a crime. One scholar notes that even in repressive Muslim countries, this is a particularly reprehensible law.

Director Barbara Kopple looks at a safe house for women who have fled abusive husbands or have nowhere to go once they’ve been raped. Interviews with Pakistani males – particularly holy men and police – are chilling. But that is a mild precursor to what follows: a report on female genital mutilation – a tradition used to control female sexuality, primarily in Egypt and Somalia – and how it is now spilling into the United States through immigration. Lastly, Kopple and crew go to Bosnia to interview women who were systematically raped during the war. We see a support group led by a psychologist trying to let the women understand it wasn’t their fault. We then meet a filmmaker who has made a personal documentary on her experience – it moves the other women far more than the psychologist’s examination of what happened. Their stories are beyond sad. What they went through is incomprehensible. And justice has been nonexistent.