Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’


Guest post by Monica Sarkar, a freelance journalist and writer. Original post at http://missinterpreting.com:

The tragic case of the Delhi gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman last year forced India to take a long, hard look at itself in the mirror and decide how to change.

Or rather, the citizens looked at the government and judiciary system and made it reconsider how it deals with the abuse of its women.

But let’s not forget one thing: violence against women is a crime the world over. Alongside the stories emanating from India, there have also been reports of gang rapes in Mexico, Brazil andSouth Africa.

In war torn countries such as Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war – even after a ceasefire is declared.

And it isn’t restricted to the developing world; in the UK, approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year.

Society’s fabric drapes mens’ shoulders

Patriarchal beliefs, sometimes subtle and other times misogynic, are woven into the fabric of many societies that hold down women and drape the shoulders of men.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states: “…violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

Perhaps there has been more noise about the incidents in India because, out of sheer frustration and anger, its citizens have taken to the streets and are shouting about them too.

So when you hear or read of such tragic tales from India, I hope you don’t just point your finger, shake your head and think this is India’s problem. Because violence against women is likely to be happening on your soil, but your attention is on another land.

But we need to be aware; a link has even been suggested between the abuse of women and international violence. The study, entitled “Heart of the Matter,” in the Harvard-published journalInternational Security, concluded that the best predictor of societies’ peacefulness is how well they safeguard the interests of women. Therefore, mistreat women and you mistreat the world.

Yes, India’s rape problem is alarming. But look at your own country, look at your people, look at yourself: how do you treat your women and how do you need to change?


Navratri, a combination of 2 words, ‘Nav’ meaning 9 and ‘Ratri’ night is a 9-day Indian festival wherein 9 avatars (incarnations) of Goddess Durga are worshipped.

Durga is a Hindu Goddess of power/energy/force. She is divine warrior and has the combined energies of all gods. Goddess Durga was created to annihilate a powerful demon called Mahishasur who was awarded with the power that made him invulnerable to defeat from any male.

The festival of Navratri is celebrated with vigor all over India, mainly in North and West regions as well as in some Eastern states. For the first 3 days, avatars of Goddess Durga are worshipped, followed by worship of Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) and finally worship of Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of wisdom).

On the 8th day of Navratri, a kanya pujan (girl-child worship) takes place wherein pre-pubescent girls are worshipped by washing their feet and traditionally, offering rice grains and new clothes. These girls are worshipped according to the philosophy of ‘Mahamaya’ i.e. the Ultimate Goddess, Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of power). Another reason for worshipping young girls is because they are said to be the purest and most innocent. Feminine gender is at the core of universal creation which is what these girls represent.

In most families, this Kanya pujan is observed on Ram Navmi i.e. the 9th and final day of Navratri. This tradition is still prevalent throughout the Navratri-celebrating population and hordes of girls are ‘worshipped’ by each family in order to complete the Navratri pooja.

Let us now take a look at this celebration of womanhood throughout the country over the last 9 days i.e. from 11th to 19th April, 2013.

 

11th April, 2013 (West Bengal) – http://www.tibetsun.com/news/2013/04/11/monks-among-those-arrested-for-gang-rape-in-kalimpong

12th April, 2013 (Punjab) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1821724/report-man-rapes-ninety-year-old-woman-in-punjab

13th April, 2013 (Karnataka) – http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/teenager-held-on-charge-of-raping-4yearold-girl/article4631013.ece

14th April, 2013 (Bihar) – http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-14/patna/38528481_1_complaint-class-vii-student-ssp

15th April, 2013 (New Delhi) – http://www.ibtimes.co.in/articles/457069/20130415/11-year-old-raped-inside-bus-delhi.htm?cid=5

16th April, 2013 (Maharashtra) – http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/maharashtra/Woman-beaten-up-foetus-dies/Article1-1045222.aspx

17th April, 2013 (Goa) – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1823530/report-school-going-girl-gang-raped-in-goa-five-youths-held

18th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/woman-allegedly-gang-raped-in-delhi-thrown-semi-naked-onto-road-355746

19th April, 2013 (New Delhi) [Kanya Pujan]- http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Candle-bottle-forced-into-minor-rape-victim-Doctors/Article1-1046989.aspx

9 days of Devi poojan or 9 days of devil worship.


Guest post by Samar Esapzai, a visual artist and PhD student in International Rural Development and Gender Studies.

In an enlightening class I took last semester, my professor said something that stuck with me long after the class/semester ended, for it held so much raw truth. She said:

“The woman’s body is the battleground upon which cultural and religious wars are fought.”

Being a woman in any given society, whether it may be within South/Central Asia or in the West, there are often triggers of distress and tension, and the constant battle with one’s image and appearance that plays over and over again in a woman’s head like a broken record. We live in a world where, right from the time we are born up until we die, we are told that our body defines us; that our sexuality should be proscribed – protected; and that we should do everything in our power to guard our bodies – our honour – from the enemy: men. And, if we don’t, then the blame falls solely upon us.

While there are some who manage to break free from this never-ending cycle of staring, leering, gawking, examining, judging, etc., most women will, however, be forever stuck in this rut for the majority of their adult lives. The worst part is that some women have even accepted it – accepted that they, their bodies, are the reason behind every incident of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence that have been, and will be, inflicted upon them. It has almost become like an unspoken sort of awareness, where a woman suddenly realizes how dangerous her body is to her safety. And if she slips – even once – she will have no choice but to suffer the dire consequences that accompany it.

Furthermore, when we look back at history, especially in the context of war and conflict, women’s bodies have often been treated as territories to be conquered, claimed and marked by the contender. This is why violence, especially sexual violence, against women was and still is quite common during communal/ethnic conflicts. Women would not only be raped but their bodies would be marked in such a way so as to remind the opposing enemy that their women – who are supposed to be “pure” and a representative of the community’s/nation’s “honour” – are stained.

Such markings would include stripping a woman naked and serenading her in shame in public; physical mutilation and disfigurement, i.e. cutting off a woman’s private parts, or other parts of her body, such as her nose, ears, hair, etc.; tattooing and branding a woman on her private parts, i.e. her breasts and/or genitals, with hate slogans against the enemy; and other forms of debasements to emphasize conquest and suppression.

Thus, the violation of women’s bodies equates the same political territories upon which the men from the rioting communities would inscribe their markings on. It’s like an uncanny sort of relinquishment – a victory, where it becomes blatant that in order to defeat a nation, you must violate their women. Such atrocious violations against women hence create a sense of helplessness in communities where a woman’s honour is more important than her life. And in order to revive this honour, members of the community (usually male) have no choice but to kill off every single female who was either raped or physically/sexually violated in any way. For it is known that a woman’s dishonour is the dishonour of the ethnic race, the community, and the nation as a whole.

Consequently, the targeting of women’s bodies is both an effect and a cause of the acceptability of sexual violence against women. It serves to subjugate women further, and creates an environment where violence becomes habitual and is committed with impunity. And while there is no denying that the blame often falls upon the woman for failing to guard her body from being violated, even if it is against her own volition, an equal burden falls upon the shoulders of men who deeply value their women’s honour.

I personally believe that as long as such societies conventionalize the woman as a symbol of honour and continue to instrumentalize her in such an ignominious way, gender-based violence in these societies will persist, making any iota of progress seem bleak.

Even so, not all societies associate women with honour, despite the fact that rape and other forms of violence against women still occurs. There are societies, particularly within the South and Central Asian region, where a woman’s dignity equates her entire existence as well as the existence of those around her. And though it is clear that men, too, are targets and victims of violence, it is the gendered nature of violence that marks women’s experiences as wholly unique.


Guest post submitted by Samar Esapzai (@SesapZai), Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_), Vanessa D. Rivera (Nasreen Amina @Nasreen_Vr), Ayesha Asghar(@ashsultana) and Hyshyama Hamin (@SisterhoodArt):

This article is in response to a post by Qasim Rashid of the Muslim Writers Guild of America titled, The Islamic Solution to Stop Domestic Violence” published in the Huffington Post’s Religion Blog on March 5th, 2012.

Although this post came to our attention a year after it was written, as young Muslim women having worked with and/or written about gender-based violence issues that have personally affected some of us, we deemed it fit to respond. Also, the points discussed in this article are not only limited to the particular post written by Rashid, but rather it addresses similar arguments that have been made by other writers as well on this issue.

It is a concern to us that Rashid uses the Quran verse 4:34 to explain that it therein contains the “Islamic solution” to domestic violence. He states that according to one perspective of an American social scientist Dr. James Q. Wilson, known for his controversial works on the criminal justice system, that men are more prone to stimulations of anger and aggression and less capable of self-restraint. This, we assume, the author took from one of Wilson’s essays, The Future of Blame in which he cites research from neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Louann Brizendine, where Wilson merely states it as a “claim.” Interestingly, Wilson was also a rational choice theorist on the causation of crime and violence; he has made arguments on the terms that individuals make clear, rational decisions after evaluating all possibilities and does that which benefits them the most.

The theories, both biological and psychological, that claim women and men experience as well as react to anger and violence differently is not new. Christa Reiser, author of Reflections on Anger: Women and Men in a Changing Society writes about how there are other variables such as socio-cultural norms; class and age differences; and process of socialization that explain how men and women react to anger. She writes with regards to a previous research that, “Analysis of independent variables shows that men with low-self esteem, traditional gender roles and attitudes, adversarial sexual attitudes towards women, a history of sexual abuse, and who believe in rape myths generally score higher in hostility towards women.”

So, for Rashid to state only one viewpoint about male violence and saying they have a natural inclination to violence against women is not only biased, but it is also playing into the patriarchal stereotype that men are solely dominated by brute forces, and are therefore unable to control their instincts. This is unfair to men, for not all men are like this; we know of many men who are not violent nor are they inclined towards violent behaviour. And though this behaviour may be universal, for we are living in a global culture of violence and subjugation against women, we cannot automatically conclude that it is part of our biological nature. Violence is a choice; it is not genetically mandatory nor is it innate.

Further, Rashid uses the typical examples of stating facts and figures from the United States, whilst explaining that domestic violence is not only a “Muslim” problem. Of course it isn’t! Women all over the world experience domestic, as well as other forms, of violence regardless of their nationalities or religions. And we all know this. What becomes a “Muslim” problem, however, is the various interpretations to justify domestic violence, and in the author’s case to seek a ‘solution’ to domestic violence, using the Quran. Certainly there are many interpretations of the Quran verse 4:34 and even efforts through initiatives such as WISE – Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and their Muslim Women’s Shura Council, in trying to make sense of the verse. [link]: Jihad Against Violence Digest

Nevertheless, we are appreciative for Rashid having stated that the verse in fact restricts the husband from using violence and thus promotes the adoption of a restraint and reconciliation approach, which is certainly a more progressive interpretation. Yet, at the same time, this interpretation is more of a “preventative” measure and not necessarily a “solution.”

According to our understanding, verse 4:34 is seen as a one-way street when it comes to placing faultlines, as it rests on the prerequisite that the woman has endangered the relationship in some way. In the instance where a husband may be at fault, Rashid indicates the solution as simply – “women who fear harm from their husbands, Islam gives women an even easier path: demand their husbands to stop their egregious behavior or file for divorce.” Here, the author is deeply mistaken if he believes the “easier path” would suddenly put an end to domestic violence. Neither “demanding” nor “divorcing” is an option for many women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. This is because many are highly dependent on their male family members – both economically and socially – especially when it comes to their livelihood, security, and other dependencies. Additionally, there are also socio-cultural burdens around ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, which affects many women at a deep psychological level.

Conversely, we know today that domestic violence is not only limited to spouses, for many children, elderly women, daughters, sisters and mothers etc. are also subject to violence at the hands of their male family members, as well as female family members (i.e. a mother-in-law abusing the daughter-in-law and vice versa).

Hence, Rashid’s method of rationalizing a solution to domestic violence using verse 4:34 requires a deeper analysis and review. It is not only exclusionary, it is also inadequate to reach such a conclusion based on the living realities of Muslim women. The root cause of gender-based violence is the imbalance of power between men and women, resulting in gender inequality and discriminatory patriarchal practices against women. And in order to resolve this issue, a greater understanding and promotion of gender equality is necessary at all levels, including the promotion of positive masculinity (which the author appreciatively touches on) and shared gender roles. The most highly erroneous assumption is that women are solely to blame for allowing domestic abuse and violence to occur, and this perspective needs to change.

Thus, men and women need to work collaboratively to address these issues at both the domestic and local levels, as well ensure that they raise their children in a community that believes – truly believes – that men and women are equal. And this will only be possible through meaningful, rational and open-minded dialogue in order to gain a deeper understanding of the living realities that exist within the communities we live in.


Guest blog by Prashanth Kagali:
Rape means, “the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will.”
I am a positive person and would love to inspire people and get inspired from them. But I have no idea how to inspire a girl who is raped. I feel shame even to approach considering the resentment she would be having against men, which is perfectly right on her part.
When fathers are raping their own daughters, there is no way a girl can trust any man. Even animals would not do this kind of heinous act. As the above definition goes, rape is something that is forced onto another person, against their will. Being a guy if someone forces me to do a simple thing as eating something, which is against my will, I reject it in the strongest of terms. I may never understand what a girl goes through and how it feels for her when someone rapes her, but forcing someone against their will even for smallest of things is just not respecting that person what he or she is.
What needs to be done?
Enough is written about the Rape incidents and its good people are talking and writing more about it. We always have to address the root cause of any problem. Here is where the education comes into picture. Education means not only what is taught at school but also at home. Parents have to teach their male children how to respect girls and how to treat them.
If only these Rape incidents have to end, then every parent should handover their son, a rapist, to the police and ensure strict action is taken. Tell me, how many parents or sisters or brothers would treat their sons or brothers with the same anger as they treat with any other rapist? It’s all about taking a stand.
We cannot live peacefully in a world if one tries to dominate the other. It’s all about giving respect to the other sex. Men need to be educated about the pain that girls goes through when they are raped. No matter what law is passed and what punishment is granted, rape can never be eliminated unless rapists exercise self-control.
I don’t get the idea of movies showing rape scenes. According to me it doesn’t make any sense. Rape scenes should be banned in movies. These rape scenes clearly show that men can exercise control over women. May be this is also in some way helping the rapists. Passing a single law or legislation or holding committees or giving death sentences can never eliminate rape. As we all know how death sentences are given in India. If the amount of time and money spent on deciding whether to give death sentence to Kasab is any indication then you can imagine what would be the case in these rape incidents.
Women deserve respect and it’s a shame that they have to fight for it even today.