Women in a male dominated society
We may quote several women, national and international, in support of the argument that women can excel, a la men. But does it mean women, as a community, are happy? No; right from USA to Africa to China to India, women are still ill treated!
THERE IS much talk about liberation of women, reservation for women and prominence to women. We now talk of many women - Indira Gandhi
, Benazir Bhutto, Kalpana Chawla, Hillary Clinton, Pratibha Patil
and others. There are women astronauts, pilots, office bosses, teachers and whatnot. But this does not mean all women are happy. It is time to deliberate on some issues related to the freedom enjoyed by women and the atrocities committed against women at home in particular and in the world
in general. This presents a dismal picture because violence against women is rooted in the global culture of discrimination, which denies women equal rights. Every year, violence at home and in the community devastates the lives of millions of women all over the world.
In the US, the so-called land of freedom and democracy and also a country where a woman President is likely to win, a woman is raped every six minutes and a woman is battered every 15 seconds. In North Africa, 6,000 women are genitally mutilated everyday. This year, more than 15,000 women will be sold as sex slaves in China. 200 women in Bangladesh are horribly disfigured when their spurned husbands burn them with acid. More than 7,000 women are murdered in disputes over dowry in India
where the President of the country is herself a woman. Even today in our country, a young man visualises himself as a prince about to marry a princess and hopes to return home with half the kingdom.
Lately, I read a few books on Afghan family life. One of them is Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. It deals with mothers, daughters and wives in a society where religious, social and cultural climates have worked together for centuries to limit women’s freedom and opportunities. Women like Mariam and Laila in the novel suffer beneath the masked identity thrust upon them. Mariam is a bastard child, forced at 15 to marry Rasheed, a shoemaker nearly 50 year old because her father’s wives wanted to get rid of her. A generation later, Laila, a teen, is also forced by a profound secret and betrayal to marry Rasheed.
Women aged between 31 and 40 and who have been married for six years or more are the most likely victims of domestic violence in Bahrain, other Arab countries and Iran. More than 75 per cent of domestic violence is not reported until after more than 10 years of marriage. The main reason for keeping silent was the desire not to break up the family, a feeling of powerlessness and the fear of losing children and family and above all, livelihood. But this silence, which gets longer and longer, inflicts a lot of damage on the family. Women suffering from such silence contract psychosomatic illnesses such as ulcers, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Then there are also stories of rampant abuse of female prisoners, which causes mental breakdowns and suicides. A recent report issued by the human rights group Amnesty International has documented extreme degree of mistreatment, sexual and otherwise, suffered by the growing population of incarcerated American women at the hands of prison authorities. Amnesty found more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse. There are many more unreported cases of such nature. In Canada, female prisons are staffed 90 per cent by women versus 45 per cent in the United States according to the National Corrections Information Centre. The condition of prisons housing women in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan is unthinkable.
We need to prevent violence through indirect education, such as through the child’s upbringing and the media. People should come out in the open to discuss domestic violence; to raise awareness about domestic violence; to encourage the government and civil societies to take action to help prevent the torture of women and assist victims. The need of the hour is to help control the atrocities perpetrated by men against women.