Saturday, September 28, 2013

Defiled, raped, lashes and killings - Where the law approves

It is dark for women and children in many places. Regardless of their sex but more so for girls.

 It is a world in which a child cannot play alone.

 also at home. A Pakistani five year old was playing outside her house last week. She went missing. She was defiled. By a gang.

 But we cannot stand there pointing fingers. We have allowed some things to carry on. And to some extent, let us call this child a world or global citizen for such cases are more common than we would wish.  Yes, even in more open societies.

So many children get defiled. On fb it is next to impossible to say or do anything sensible upon seeing the photographs of a woman

who was raped by her father and then subjected to beatings as she is accused of being raped after being raped. Always guilty.

She is beaten up so that she cannot lay her body down in any direction. This kills all voices against rape. It tells women to keep quiet or else. 

She is turned into a mumbling creature that floats somewhere in some consciences. Why did they do this? It was for honour. It was rationalised through a culture, a religion. A mindset. A law. Rituals archaic and ugly have lasted to this day begging the question, "does the sun truly rise for all of us and does the rain fall for all of us?"

In Pakistan, Mukhtar spoke out about rape. The rapists were charged. More and more women are speaking up. There will be a school named after Mukhtar but at what a cost! This is her story. 

In a small Punjab village in Meerwala province, Mukhtar Mai, 18, was raped by four men in a hut. They were retaliating for an attack. She begged for mercy in the name of God. Gawkers cheered outside. It was not over. She had to crawl naked in the village for her shaming. That was the sentence a local court had given her at with the threat that if she did not fulfil it all the women in her family would be raped, one after the other.

Mukhtar Mai's 11 year-old brother had been sexually harassed by men of a higher caste. After they abused him, they locked him up with a 40 year- old woman of their caste and claimed that the small boy had a socially forbidden relationship with her. It was his punishment that Mukhtar Mai was paying for.

Saudi Arabia defended a controversial verdict sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The Shi’ite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation of the sexes.

A question of honour? The family will not speak out in cases of the defilement of children.

It is important that these cases are in the media more and more. Some people argue that only some of them are played up but they should accept that this is better than silence.  The idea that women are humans who must give consent never existed in some cultures? So the child gets treated too like they have no voice. 

Women are seen as people who owe whatever a man wants. Civil and political rights are seen as alien to them so also rights to their own bodies safety. They are seen as born for use. Use to further a tradition and a religion. To be married off, to be mutilated in the most intimate of their parts and to be ashamed of having a body.

Those who are experts in different types of laws, international, religious and so on, should work for a common working front of laws.  We cannot entertain laws that blur women as human beings. 

It is a world where a man can dream of his wife's infidelity and have her killed. How then does she sleep beside him. She can live in her nightmares. All crimes are placed on her.  A simple rumour too can lead to her making rounds in the village puts a woman's life in danger. Every year, more than 300 women lose their lives because of a rumour in Pakistan.

Pregnant Zafran Bibi, 28, plucked up courage to report her brother. " He raped me!" She said. Yes, some men rape pregnant women too. She was subjected to hours and hours of interrogation and in the end she suddenly confessed adultery for that is all the interrogators wanted to hear. Zafran Bibi was sentenced to death. It was protests from the highest Islamic Courts that saved her from death by stoning. 

Human rights organisations report that every four hours a woman is raped. In India it is every twenty minutes.  Showing the  frequency of rape in different countries is important. It helps us not to isolate the few reported cases or cases that are picked up by the media in a prolonged way. And these cases are useful. Those who play them down asking questions on why one case becomes so important in a sea of so many fail to see the strategy here. For example, the exposure of the medicine student in Delhi in India in December 2012 flowed in the world like a Ganges. It is not just punishment we are looking for. It is for the healing of the world from such abuse. The Mahatma Gandhi had ways and a spirit that seized the world and which must continue to transform all the continents: Asia, Afrika, Europe, Australia and America. The problems are global, dressed in one way or the other, they oppress women. 

Never be afraid! Speak out for your sake and that of generations to come!

"The Ganges of rights takes its origin in the Himalaya of duties," He said.

Think about it for the world. Think about the highest mountain you  know and the biggest river. Think that they all lead to the big oceans and we are all united. Think and act about the one case you know. Make a difference!
Philo Ikonya and Dr. Helmuth A. Niederle