“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”
― Khaled Hosseini, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’
Accusing a woman and thrashing her body and soul to pieces; life, of course, is not a bed of roses, especially for a woman. It still is acceptable with thorns embedded in it. But, what if these red flowers change into red blood and thorns take the form of molestations and mutilations? Scary! Isn’t it? Scarier is the reality for the female section of our much-loved globe. With 35% of the world female population being assaulted physically, emotionally, mentally or sexually in some way or the other, reality appears to be hitting really hard and the world seems to be getting a frightening scar right on its pretty face.
Violence against women is one of the most prevalent global issues of contemporary as well as classical times. Ironically, in the human world, where male and female are moulded into the identities of man and woman much through their physical strengths, tenderness and harshness go hand in hand for women. The girls and women are defined to be tender, not built for tedious physical work and their roles are gendered in such a manner that all types of ‘laborious’ outdoor work fall out of their basket. On the other hand, these ‘tender’ women are handled so brutally by the very people who gender them that the attribution of tenderness appears unjustified.
Domestic violence, molestations, rape, FGM/C (female genital mutilation/cutting) and the list goes on. Violence against women has become an everyday reality. Such statements are hard to accept, harder to witness and hardest to experience. But, with harsh practices like female genital mutilation, still being prevalent in parts of the world; with the inhumane attitude of the male section of society towards the opposite sex, such statements seem to summarise a global story.
Violence against women, in some form or the other, appears to be woven into the fabric of all societies. More saddening is the fact that up to seven in every ten women face physical/sexual abuse in some countries of the world. Approximately three million girls under the age of 15 remain at the risk of FGM/C annually as per a WHO report and more than 130 million women and girls have been accounted so far who have already been through the procedure worldwide. The rest of the female population isn’t secure either. More than 700 million women alive today are estimated to have been married as children and this section of women and girls are more vulnerable to domestic violence as well as complications during maternity.
The situation seems quite alarming as these facts come to the limelight because these are not mere figures, these are actual human lives. It’s high time for a makeover now. We need to join hands and say a big ‘No’ to violence against women. A small step was taken by the United Nations in this direction in the year 1995 when the UN and the Inter-Parliamentary Union jointly declared the 25th of November as the day of International Observance for Elimination of Violence against Women. The date―25 November―was chosen to commemorate the three Mirabal sisters, political activists who were brutally assassinated in 1960 under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961) in the Dominican Republic.
Another baby step forward was taken the previous year with the introduction of United Nations’ Secretary General’s ‘UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign’ under the banner of ‘Orange YOUR Neighbourhood’. This was planned to be stretched from 25 November up to 10 December, i.e., The Human Rights Day ― a sixteen-day campaign to end gender-biased violence.
The ‘Orange’ campaign projected the following message:
“Reach out to your neighbours, local stores, food sellers on the corner of your street, gas stations, local cinemas, barbers, school, libraries and post offices. Project orange lights and hang orange flags onto local landmarks, tie orange ribbons where you are allowed and organise local ‘orange marches’ on 25 November to raise awareness about violence against women and discuss solutions that would work for your community.”
It was basically about colouring the world with orange and sending a message to people to realise that women, too, are humans and the they need humane treatment. This indeed was an appreciable effort and measures like these need to be taken to make this world a better place to live in.
Awareness is a fundamental requirement for ending the social evils, crimes and violent practices against women in different parts of the world. The efficiency of women is recognised to a great extent in the growing economies of the world. Approximately 50% of the workforce today are women; women are emerging as some of the most influential personalities in politics, the corporate world, art and many other fields. Girls’ excellence in education is proven by statistics such as those of enrollment which is, for example, 140 and 150 women in America and Sweden in higher education for every 100 men respectively. Various studies have also proven that women are, increasingly, performing better than men in the workplace and in academics. These facts, though, are nullified by cruel acts against, the subjugation of and through frightening the ‘better’ half in this male-oriented world of ours.
To overcome these mentalities we do need awareness campaigns, commemoration days, weeks and fortnights. They are worth the issue. But these things become heartbreaking jokes when a girl is raped in some corner of the globe on that very day. The fear of being hit, raped, molested, killed and strangled is the first feeling of a girl as she steps out of her cocoon into the world. This fear needs to be prevented from becoming a habit for yet another generation to come. Equality, empowerment, opportunity are big words meant to address this big issue. But the very basic need is ‘being human to every other human’ (whether a man or a woman).
More baby steps are to be taken with the hope that slowly the idea of respecting women would become embedded in their male counterparts. We might fall and get hurt but it is always for the better to stand up again. Hands are to be joined and heads held high, to abolish this ‘everyday reality’, to act now, always and forever before it’s too late.