A news item tucked away in the morning newspapers spoke of a young 14-year-old Nigerian girl who had finally managed to escape from her abusive 28-year-old husband, and a father who did not want her to come back home. Her face was swollen, her body carried welt marks, as she quietly informed the reporter there that she did not want to go back to her village as she would be beaten badly.
And why was she beaten? The international news agency took the trouble to find out by visiting her husband. “She had too much ABCD,” he said seeming more preoccupied with his knee length boots than the girl he had violated. “Too much ABCD,” he repeated clearly referring to the fact that she was more educated than she should have been.
Of course, this is the social sentiment that allowed the Nigerian terror group Boko Haram to abduct more than 200 schoolgirls and later declare that they would not be released but married off. The girls have still not been secured and the terror and trauma that has overtaken their young lives can only be imagined.
But this is not true just of Nigeria, or of some remote African village. It is true of South Asia, where education for girls is still frowned upon, and where early marriages are considered ‘respectable and sane’ and hence preferred to education and employment. All faiths and cultures unite to keep the women subjugated and ensure that they are not able to breathe, let alone live without deferring to the wishes of not just their immediate families, but also the social community at large.
The violence against women is not decreasing, but is on the rise. In India, rape has gone up. Sexual molestation is almost a norm in many parts of the country, with women in the nation’s capital bearing the scars of eve teasing and assault. Women remain a property to be used and discarded at will, with disturbed men these days making headlines for turning the gun on themselves but only after slaughtering their wives and children. For reasons really as flimsy as ‘ABCD’ and ranging from the wife objecting to her husband’s drinking, to a fight over children’s education, suspicions regarding problems at work, which men obviously cannot cope without indulging in violence and murder.
The social mores just do not seem to be changing with khaps determining the moral behaviour of women in the community, from what they should wear, how they should talk, and who they should marry. The political and religious right insists on joining the khaps in ‘controlling’ women and every now and again strike terror in the cosmopolitan cities of the country but attacking women for drinking, or wearing jeans, or going out with men.
Of course, women are fighting back and demanding action. The protests against the Delhi rape astounded the entire political system, but were not seen at the same level when it came to the murder and public hanging of the two Dalit girls in a Badaun village.
Empowerment of women, while much talked about in the seminar circles, is, however, agonisingly slow. The Parliament has still to consider and pass legislation. And clearly, this is not going to happen for a long time since male representatives of all political parties have united against sharing space with women.
Unfortunately, feminists are too apolitical to understand the dimensions and thereby calibrate the fight for equal rights and justice. Patriarchy alone is not the problem. It has to be taken as part of the larger system where a woman’s political, economic and social rights are as important as her gender rights, and where she is usually attacked for demanding them.
Despite this, women are reaching out and crossing the hurdles imposed by families, society and even governments. This is amazing prowess and shows a determination that is struggling through the clouds to be seen and heard.
So governments that talk of growth and development will have to recognise this slow but steady march forward, and join it if they really wish to change the horizons ahead.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2014.
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@Help Us: Muslims are not the victims of any global conspiracy of christians, jews and hindus, but infact are the victims of the paranoia which by the way is contagious and is now spreading to muslims as well. In this stage people start thinking differently, friends become suspects and are treated different than in the past and the enemy is looked upon as a reliable friend. This results in people and their Governments start shooting in their own feet.
Muslims are the victims of a global conspiracy run by Christians, Jews and Hindus. Thats why they idolize and name streets/missiles after muslim plunderers who raped and pillaged region as well as suicide bombers and terrorists and make them out as some martyrs and glorious rulers.
Women are more oppressed in muslim society than anywhere else but somehow its not the fault of the muslims but the rest of the world. One can only wonder about the world the author lives in cause it sure aint the real world the rest of the people are living in.
@Motiwala: Did you notice that Mr. kharsing said 'here in India' clearly indicating that he is an Indian? It is your mindset of 'Hindu India' which precludes the possibility of an Indian Christian. Thus you automatically conclude - incorrectly that he is an Indian (which he is) pretending to be British or American ( which clearly he has not).
@Gp65: Excellent comparison between the state of misogyny in India and Pakistan. One wonders why the author did not include a sinle example of misogyny in Pakistan in an OpEd written for a Pakistani newspaper?
Seema chooses to speak about the fact that India has not yet succeeded in passing a 33% reservation for women in Parliament. She however is silent about the fact that such a reservation does exist in local governments and there are a million elected women working at grassroots of democracy. Compare that to some districts in KPK where all leading political parties ot together during the last election cycles and said that the women would ot be allowed to vote.
@Dr Robert Kharsing: You are a typical macho man who will not waste any time in showing disrespect to a woman, and trying to link women victimisation with the religion instead of cult and traditions before the religion was born. Being a muslima, Miss Seema is the enlightened one within the ocean of non-believers, you call them seculars, who have cultural complications as well which restrict the realisation of Indian laws Remember, it was in 70's that a swiss woman was allowed to vote for the Gvernment. The universaly accepted thesis is that the women must themselves at the end to struggle for their rights and not only kind hearted men
It is not easy to write on this very sensitive subject of discrimination against women and becoming victims at the hands of men by design or neglect, for one or other kind and for one or other reason. It is extremely complicated when all types of victimisation is lumped together into one and all cases occurring in different parts of the world including the developed and underdeveloped countries of the world. It is good that Miss Mustafa has taken the initiative to write about it, who else but a woman could write about the pain which women go through. Each country must address and resolve this issue since the women are now up in arms and can no longer take it any more, says a young Indian married woman with two boys on BBC program, Have your say" about Bharatya culture, or young muslim women who despite danger to life are no longer prepared to submit to the will of the family honour.
ET moderator - 2nd attempt. Everything is factual and directly relates to the subject at hand i.e. misogyny. Pls. Pulish
@Swat wala: In rural India khap panchayats tried to stop girls from wearing jeans.. The girls went to court which ruled in their favor. In rural Pakistan, irls were honor killed for clapping at a wedding. In fact around a thousand girls get honor killed each year and the honor killings happen not just in rural areas but in front of Lahore high court also. Their killers will go scot free under the deeyat laws.
In rural Imdia girls were gang raped - there was anger throughout India and in response the minister has decided to establish 660 rape crisis centers in India (1 per district). An earlier gangrape and strong protests forced parliament to update an old Brotish era law around rape and sexual harassment. In Pakistan meanwhile there have been no rape convictions in last 3 years and the law requires 4 good Muslim men's testimony in rape cases. No-one cares that a thousand minor on-Muslim irls are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted in Pakistan each year.
In India in school going age, there is 100% enrollment of girls in school. In Pakistan, 100 plus schools were blown up In FATA and KPK. Malala was shot for advocating a woman's right to education.
So if India is 200 years behind imes, please tell me where Pakistan is.
@Dr Robert Kharsing: Er...sorry...but your writing style phrasing composition is not British or US. It came across as fake. Bad attempt to pass yourself as a westerner. Stick with the Raj's English. The Queen's English. You will be better off.
@Gazb: American? When did he claim he was that? Kharsing is a last name you would foynd in North east India which has a high Christian population.
Its a bit different this time .... The author does not have those magic words called "BJP" included in her whole op-ed. Otherwise generally it would have gone like " In the BJP led government Nigerians are abducting and converting Nigerien girls". If BJP cannot avoid this the BJP government should resign for not keeping the promise... LOL ....
@Dr Robert Kharsing:
So says the Hindu posing as an American.
Ms Mustafa must be ashamed of equating Boko Haram's abduction of hundreds of young christian females in Nigeria for sexual slavery and worse with the misconduct of a Nigerian man towards his wife. This must be condemned with utmost vigour. Express Tribune is doing a disservice to its Christian and other secular readers by allowing Indian Muslim journalists to write such utterly contemptible things against christians and others who do not protest. One can only have deepest contempt for such 'writers' who proclaim themselves as Chief Editor of a magazine nobody knows about here in India. These Muslim journalists misuse the liberal values and freedom they enjoy in India to further their sectarian and hatefilled objectives.
In India solution is staring right in our face and yet we keep our eyes closed.
Empower the police. Increase the police force of every state to adequate strength.
Every police station must compulsorily have a woman sub Inspector.
Total strength of women in the police should be a minimum of 30-50%.
Understand that rape and molestation are simple law and order problem as far as solution itself goes.
Once the men realize that you cannot grope a woman's body and run away without ever getting punished, once the men realize that you get to taste police boot for passing lewd remarks at women, the crimes against women will go down like a new born calf.
Even domestic violence will gradually go down once men realize that they are no more the controllers of women's mind and body or they will get arrested.
The author describes Indian society in vivid color. Mindset is still behind 200 years.
Also Heard About Pakistani Men Stabbing Women For Going to Shopping.....pubs is outta League...anyway Alcohol Is Banned In Pakistan Thanks
In this regards, the step announced by Maneka Gandhi to create 660 rape crisis centres (one in eqch district) which will provide a one point support to the woman from medical help and of course evideence gathering, FIR filing, legal help, emotional council is a unique step. It puts women at the centre of the design pulling together multiple services rather than the traditional concept of citizens having to run from pillar to post to get something done. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/660-Nirbhaya-Centres-to-be-set-up-across-India/articleshow/37716232.cms
It also gives a clear signal that the state is by side of the woman and she is not alone in her fight against a rapist. Also this will address the issue -especially in rural areas where FIRs were not registered if the accused was a highly influential person.