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ISIS’ Justification Of Sex Slavery Is Scary And Horrifying

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By Divya Bansal:

A sex worker is not a victim of a man, an outlaw, who with their own volition, controls the sexual channel between nature and culture. But there are times when they are forced into this practice from an early age. It is appalling to witness girls, as young as 12 years old, becomes the victim of human trafficking. Imagine a case where sex slavery is taken as something that can be justified on the grounds of religion. So much so, that it is called ‘divine’ and a practice ‘approved’ by a deity. It is termed as a practice that brings the slave and the owner closer to heaven and an ultimate release of the soul. It is seen as a process of purification.

Excess of anything is harmful and blindly following an ideology without rationally reasoning it may prove to be destructive. There is a chunk of terrorists who are a major threat to world peace because of two main reasons: Firstly, it is almost impossible to collate them back into normal society because they have been brainwashed rigorously. Secondly, their agenda of continuing and expanding their religious beliefs is so evident and strong that they leave no stone unturned in making sure that the perpetuity of their norms exist even if they physically get destroyed. They make sure that the future generation is ready to take over and re-build terror.

When ISIS took responsibility for the Paris attacks in November 2015, it was a clear indication that they have a fearless attitude. Their regular videos of beheading journalists, shamelessly making it viral, make sure that their presence is felt, especially on social media. They disregard every emotion and every human regardless of their age and the only ideology that they kept supreme is the fundamental thought of ‘continuation and expansion’. The group’s ideology is defined as radical Islamist that aims to establish a ‘caliphate’ – a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law. Furthermore, they are jihadists who adhere to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and consider themselves the only true believers. They hold that the rest of the world is made up of unbelievers who seek to destroy Islam, justifying attacks against other Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Apart from mass killings, bombings and brutal practises, ISIS seeks to ‘teach a lesson’ to non-Muslims in another horrendous way. Keeping sex slaves has become a trending practice with this terrorist outfit. They believe that it is one of the best forms of revenge they can take on their enemies. Rather than taking the lives of men, they prefer to take the woman under their control and auction them among the soldiers. The astonishing fact is that this group has its own set of rules which the owner has to strictly follow when buying and ‘maintaining’ slaves.

In an official statement released by ISIS, the religious justification regarding the policy towards Yazidis (ethnically Kurdish religious community, now under the control of ISIS because they are considered ‘kafirs’ i.e. non-believers of Islamic norms) is explained.

“Prior to the taking of Sinjar, Shariah students in the Islamic State were tasked to research the Yazidis to determine if they should be treated as an originally polytheist group or one that originated as Muslims and then apostatised, due to many of the related Islamic rulings that would apply to the group, its individuals, and their families. Because of the Arabic terminologies used by this group to describe themselves or their beliefs, some contemporary Muslim scholars have classified them as possibly an apostate sect, not an originally polytheist religion, but upon further research it was determined that this group is one that existed since the pre-Islamic ignorance, but became ‘Islamisised’ by the surrounding Muslim population, language, and culture, although they never accepted Islam nor claimed to have adopted it. The apparent origin of the religion is found in the magianism of Ancient Persia, but reinterpreted with elements of Sabianism (the converts of Islam mentioned in Quran), Judaism, and Christianity, and ultimately expressed in the heretical vocabulary of extreme Sufism.”

Another pamphlet clarified which women may be enslaved and specifies that female slaves are women “from among people of war who have been captured by Muslims.” It explains that it is permissible to capture ‘kitabiyat’ (Jewish and Christian women) and polytheists, but that it is still disputed over the capturing of apostate women. The consensus leans towards forbidding it, though some people of knowledge think it is permissible. ISIS “leans towards accepting the consensus.”

ISIS continues to justify, elevate and celebrate sexual violence against women as ‘spiritually beneficial’. In various interviews of former kidnapped women, they were noted saying that members of ISIS considered this practice of raping a woman, who is not a follower of Islam as ‘ibadah’. The personal encounters of various Yazidi women where the entire process is termed as ‘systematic rape’ is a clear signal of how blindly the ISIS group is led and bent towards a thought process, where before and after forcefully having sex with a woman, they kneel down to pray and feel closer to Allah. They also believe, that is the supreme punishment they can possibly give to a female non-believer of Islam, thus feeling like a messenger of Allah himself. Furthermore, the pamphlet issued specifies the manifesto, procedure and legal remedies to be followed while practising sex slavery.

Few of the illogical norms are that a man can have sex immediately after possession if only she is a virgin, otherwise ‘purification’ of the uterus is mandatory. He has to own the slave exclusively and not under any partnership. They are not allowed to have sex with the maids of their wives because this was one of the main reasons why sex slavery prevailed and gained acceptance. According to Islamic rules, it would prevent a man from involving in prohibited temptation (with the maid) resulting in a sin of illegal sex, whereas slavery is legally and religiously accepted. The official ‘rape handbook’ specifies the fact that the owner cannot be rude or harsh to the slave. He cannot assign her work which is off her limits. He needs to hold compassion. It is seen as an ‘act of serving mankind’ which Allah preaches and how by being kind, they can get closer to heaven. To add to it, if the owner sets a slave free, Allah rewards him by freeing his body from the pain of hell fire.

As many as 5000 women were abducted during 2015, and around 3500 are still captivated. The older, unattractive women are either killed on the spot or chased out of their houses, while the younger ones were captivated, raped multiple times and then sold in the market. They are often ‘gifted’ among friends and re-sold too. Their pricing depends upon their age and there is a thorough body check-up by the potential buyers before the actual sale. Girls are often stripped down to complete nudity and then auctioned accordingly. They are often traded for cash, arms and ammunition or exchanged for another slave.

The horrifying reality of ISIS is just not confined towards terrorism and mass killings. Their ideologies are a big question towards the war crimes they are boldly marching forward with. It is alarming to notice that where on one side feminism thrives, the other side is facing startlingly opposite things where women are not just raped but are taught to accept it as their ‘destiny’.

Another disappointing part is where ISIS is training its upcoming generations with even more gruesome ideologies to carry forward its legacy even if the current clan gets destroyed. The ‘Cubs of the Caliphet‘ are taught to hate ‘kafirs’, disregard human emotions and inject supreme hatred towards other religious groups except Sunni Muslims. It is a question of major concern for not just world peace but the protection of basic humanity. It is disappointing to witness the failed attempts to tackle this group and the fact that a chunk of terrorists have the ability to threaten and send out shocking waves to practically threaten the supremely powerful U.S. ISIS has managed to be in the headlines almost every day and sadly every time it is grows, its operations grow in geometric progression.

The purpose of religion should be to control oneself and not criticise others. It is meant to put the mind at rest and not at dissonance that leads to self-destruction and catastrophic effects on others. If religious groups like these start growing in numbers, it will be a ground of war soon. Religion has caused enough unrest in the past. It is high time we understand that the world is de-globalising again and the quantum of insecurity is making the population territorial by nature. It is not just trade, economy and employment but each one, irrespective of their age, necessarily needs religious literacy which is least talked and understood about but exploited and misunderstood.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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