Dear readers, this post is about the status of women in the society. No, we are not going to think about the strong and the successful today. Instead, we will explore the violence women are subjected to.
I had some time to kill one morning, before my daughter’s school bus arrived. So, I decided to catch up with my friends from Facebook. This was what I came across in one of the posts.
A daft remark
It’s all over the news so I am sure you must have already heard it. Salman Khan, a much-loved actor with a huge female fan base (I liked him too, till he started talking without a script) following, has recently commented describing his role as a wrestler in an upcoming film Sultan. He said, “When I used to walk out of the ring, after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman. I couldn’t walk straight.”
Salman Khan’s fame is not only for the commercial success of his films but also for his colourful lifestyle and some foot in the mouth situations.
This is a country where more than 90 women are raped on an average per day, and news reports bring up a new case of monstrosity almost every day. The actor probably did not understand the emotional trauma that outlasts the physical abuse of rape. He was not forced to wrestle against his will and did not have to go through the humiliation and unjustifiable criticism endured by a rape victim. Mr. Khan as a public figure could have used a script if he was himself not capable of making a justifiable comparison of his hard work.
As the noted film-maker Anuraag Kashyap has suggested, an irresponsible journalist who reportedly laughed at this comment and decided to make a headline out of it is at equal fault with the actor whose father Salim Khan had issued a public apology on his behalf.
Let us move on to real issues women face, such as the horrifying game of public assault that was first documented in Egypt, 2005.
A sickness in the name of game
Taharrush jamai (collective harassment in Arabic), is a 3 tiered circle formed around the victim (reportedly these women were separated from their group by force or chance) intending to intimidate protestors (with political agenda or otherwise) off the streets by sexual assault. Such loathsome act that has occurred for years and was kept under cover till a CBS reporter Lara Logan was subjected to the ordeal by a crowd of around 200 men. Military and police along with a group of women helped her out alive though not without resistance.
Sadly the list continues. Driven by the misogynist ideology of women’s place inside the house, these barbarian maniacs have spread to European countries like Germany and Switzerland.
Women have always been considered as the object of barter or price of victory by the dominating male, since ancient times. They have been ill-treated in the name of religion or a twisted sense of justice or a misogynistic want to dominate.
Now let us go through the consequences a woman suffers when war is at her door.
War crimes on women
Nazi concentration camps
Probably since the earliest human beings had started fighting for territory, women have always been a primary target of terror and intimidation during or after the war. Women in masses have been reported to have been tortured and mutilated as war victims.
Nazi torture and atrocities committed in the name of medical experiments (such as testing the efficacy of sulphonamide in treating syphilis were later tried in Nuremberg, during the historic prosecution of war crimes and other charges against the six criminal organizations namely Nazi party, the Reich Cabinet, SS, SD, Gestapo and SA.
Friend or foe
I want to bring up an article before you about one all female concentration camp where horror had come with faces of enemies and the liberators. After suffering from a severe and prolonged agony in hands of the Nazi, the women who welcomed the short-lived freedom were subjected to rape by their ‘rescuers’ the Red army.
Many of the prisoners were Russian nurses imprisoned during the war but were suspected of being ‘Nazified’ or ‘spying’ for the Germans. Reports say that the Red army did not even spare their own country-women from the horror. Apparently, they were considered as ‘campaign wives’ or ‘payment for liberation’ and the act itself was considered a revenge against the Germans.
As if rape and pillage were not enough, the Japanese army had developed a concept of comfort women, obtained by abduction or deceit and forced to become sex-slaves or work in brothels specifically for the soldiers.
Japanese, British, US, German, French, Russian and army of other countries involved in both sides of the World War II were reportedly responsible for many sexual crimes against women.
December 25th, 1941 is known as “Black Christmas” in Hong Kong. On the day of the British surrender of Hong Kong to the Japanese, the Japanese soldiers terrorized the local population by murdering innocents, looting the citizens and raping an estimated 10,000 women.
Vietnam war (My Lai massacre), Bangladesh Liberation war, Bosnian war, Rwanda genocide, Sri Lankan civil war, Congo Darfur, Iraq, Libya, no country was spared from violence against their women.
Dear readers, I urge you to take a look here for Susan Brownmiller’s book on the history of rape that was selected as one of the 100 most important books of the twentieth century. This was the very first attempt by a woman to investigate the pathology of rape.
History of violence on women
While browsing the internet for a history of violence on women, I came across an interesting paper by Vivian C. Fox, Ph. D. analysing the impact of three ideologies namely Judeo-Christian religious ideas, Greek philosophy and the Common Law legal code that might have influenced the western society’s views and treatment of women.
If you wish to indulge in the social status, role and daily life of women in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Rome, Athens, Israel and Babylonia, you can check this website by James C. Thompson, B.A., M.Ed. It helps us understand how the patriarchal society had set out restrictions in a woman’s life from the early ages.
Women and Indian culture
Women enjoyed equal status with men in ancient India, during the Vedic age. Sadly, a gradual deterioration was noticed in a woman’s stand in the society. As documented in the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, women were expected to abide by a set of rules created by the patriarchal society and a slight deviation even if unintentional, was not taken lightly.
Sita’s abduction by Ravana was not her fault but she was asked to walk through the fire by her husband to prove her purity and loyalty to him. Draupadi was shared by five brothers to fulfil their mother’s word, but she was the one facing criticism and ridicule for polyandry.
Sati (widow being immolated alive on her dead husband’s funeral pyre) and Jauhar (voluntary immolation of women to prevent capture and later molestation in the hands of the enemy when the male in the family was defeated, mostly prevalent among Rajput women during the Islamic invasion) are two examples of practices common among ‘honourable’ women in the medieval and somewhat modern India that prove how the society bound a woman’s life to her husband. Sati reportedly continued even after the social reform movements during the British Raj.
Dowry system drew many families (bride’s) to the streets due to the father’s inability to pay the cash or kind negotiated before the alliance. The brides were driven to suicide or endured a life of torture. Polygamy was common and huge age difference due to child marriage was considered acceptable.
Female illiteracy and all other conservative traditions were questioned and gradually abolished after strong movements by Indian social reformers during the British rule. For reference, please check here.
Woman in modern world
Women today have a better life compared to the Victorian age. Education, profession, and other opportunities have opened up and there are many women achievers across the world. However, the patriarchal society still often questions our ‘virtue’ and ‘honour’. We are still raised and expected to adhere to ‘social norms’ supposed to followed by ‘good women’. The blame should not be on men solely. Quite often, it is a fellow-woman who judges our actions like clothing, marital status, speech, and behaviour. We are human beings, most advanced of all organisms, yet so retrogressive in nature.
We, if possible will tie up half of our population and dominate over them to prove our superiority. Even today, in India, a rape case is reported from various states every day, irrespective of caste, creed, social status, age or background. Sadly, people (men and women) accuse the victim of being too ‘forward/flashy’ or criticise the victim’s choice of attire or company of male friends. It is always the victim’s fault in this country and never the criminal’s.
Economy and development of a particular country are often cited as the reason for such heinous crimes against women. Why? Should we not try to progress instead of unleashing our pent-up frustration and rage on the innocent?
I refuse to call these criminals animals. Animals hunt for food, not pleasure. Animals playfully growl and bite but never humiliate or abuse. Animals fight for territory and leadership, but they do not do so in the name of some twisted ideology or the urge to dominate. These criminals are HUMAN BEINGS, not animals.
Dear readers, I am sharing this with you all with an earnest request that you spread the word too. We can only hope that a mass awareness and public protest makes an impact on the derogatory mind of a significant part of the population. You can share your experience or action taken on any of the issues discussed today in the comment section. See you next week.