PORTLAND – In a scene from the play “The Poets and the Assassin,” which is scheduled to be performed at Bowdoin College next Thursday to celebrate Women’s History Month, a female character questions the treatment of her sisters in ayatollah-ruled Iran, saying:

“Because of one single apple, I am cursed for eternity. The Muslim fundamentalists punish my female offspring by forcing them to cover their bodies, their hair, and skin. To them modern women might cause the fall of men by baring their hair and skin. In their eyes, my hair is the apple and my curvy body the snake.”

Judging by the news — be it from the U.S., Pakistan, Iran or India — it seems that men with power, including conservative politicians and religious fundamentalists, who claim to speak for God, are on a warpath against women.

On Feb. 28, after months of opposition by Republicans, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark 1994 law, which assists victims of domestic and sexual violence, passed with 138 lawmakers opposing it.

In 1993, I was in Vienna as a delegate to the U.N. Second World Conference on Human Rights, where governments acknowledged that domestic violence is a public health and human rights concern.

Twenty years later, the battle continues, whether in the U.S., where every few minutes a woman is sexually assaulted, or in Pakistan, where women risk being maimed by the men related to them or getting killed by the U.S. drones.

Recently in Iran, the authorities announced that some 70 subjects in science and the liberal arts would be closed to women — although female students make up some 60 percent of the student body in Iranian universities.

In India, when a 23-year-old woman died 13 days after being gang raped because of the brutality of the crime, some public figures said that women themselves were to blame. A popular guru suggested the tragedy could have been avoided if the victim had chanted God’s name while falling at her rapists’ feet.

In neighboring Pakistan, a young girl by the name of Malala Yousafzai was shot by men claiming to be Taliban supporters. Her crime: challenging the Taliban, who, despite their power and their guns, seemed to fear girls with books and pens.

Years earlier, encouraged by her father, Malala, meaning “grief-stricken,” had started to write a blog for the BBC’s Urdu program. In January 2009, she wrote, “I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. … I was afraid of going to school because the Taliban had made a public announcement banning all girls from attending schools.”

In response to the threats made by the Taliban, Malala’s school principal had instructed the students not to wear school uniforms anymore, in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Malala wrote in her blog, “I decided to wear my favorite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colorful dresses.” She ignored the death threats sent to her on Facebook.

One day as she rode home on a bus, a masked gunman shot Malala twice after shouting her name. (Malala survived the attack and is now back in school.)

Across the U.S., young women faced with bullying — such as Amanda Todd, a victim of cyberbullying, who committed suicide — are at risk.

In short, in today’s world, being born a woman can be a liability.

But there are victories to remember this Women’s History Month: the reauthorization of the VAWA; the elimination of stoning of women for adultery in Iran; the national outrage in India that has forced the Indian government to change some of its laws in regard to sexual violence; the fatwa against the Taliban assassin by the religious authorities in Pakistan; and the success of One Billion Rising, which created solidarity among women across boundaries and differences.

For my part, I’ll continue to write letters and sign petitions to protest the imprisonment of prominent Iranian women, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, the human rights lawyer and co-winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

On March 28, I’ll join the Bowdoin and Bates college students in Brunswick for a production of my play at Bowdoin’s Kresge Visual Arts Center. Inside the dark theater, I’ll mutter prayers for the world’s rape victims and the world’s Malalas, Amandas and Nasrins, wishing for a day when being born a female is no longer a curse.

Reza Jalali works at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.