Trigger Warning: mentions rape, gender-based violence
Have you ever driven down an autumn valley and seen the view outside? I bet you took that fresh breath of air in and sighed with joy. But do you ever bother to look down at the billions of red, turned to dust, leaves on the ground? You probably don’t.
“I’m not a woman. I’m a force of nature,” said Courtney Love.
Ironically, she wasn’t wrong. The bloodied leaves on the road are indeed a part of nature. However, they don’t embody the dynamism of a force of nature. Instead, they are dying. You breathe in this world without even realizing that beneath this layer of ignorance that you call “fresh air” is a majority of women being exploited, beaten, raped and raised to dust, and you’re adding to the problem.
You’re making violence against women even more prominent and permanent. Every nine seconds a woman is beaten or assaulted. Every 15 minutes a rape is reported. In fact, as you’re reading this, there’s a woman out there crying for help and relief.
The harrowing truth of the situation is that the abuse starts at home. Many women are assaulted by drunken fathers, husbands, intimate partners, and other relatives. In fact, according to WHO, the consumption of alcohol is the leading catalyst for domestic violence. The usage of alcohol affects cognitive skills and heightens emotions like stress, anxiety and anger, eventually leading to severe violent streaks and conflicts.
Another leading factor for violence against the female gender is the situation of wars and the refugee crisis. Women and girls in refugee camps are often forced into marriages, sexual relations and slavery. Culprits of assault and violence are not limited to residents of the camps but also to Border Security Force officials, United Nations Peacekeeping Forces like the UNPROFOR, UNTAC, UNAMIR, UNOMOZ, etc.
In 1991, the UNTAC was sent on a mission to Cambodia to supervise refugees. Their presence led to a situation of horrifying assault of women in the camp. Women were forced into prostitution, and the number of sex workers increased from 6,000 to 20,000 in a year. This was also the cause for Cambodia becoming the country with the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases.
A question that needs to be addressed: why does domestic, sexual and emotional violence exist in the first place? What’s the psychological aspect that explains the culprits’ actions? Leading psychologists believe that the primary cause for domestic abuse is a superiority complex that a majority of men harbour within themselves. They feel like they have predetermined rights to control their partner and everything about their relationship.
Other researchers believe that abusers resort to violence to prevent their partner from leaving them or for being guilty of infidelity. These are signs of mate retention behaviour that a lot of abusive partners tend to possess. So how do we tackle this dreadful situation? The answer to this question is two-fold.
Firstly, women and girls need to be made aware of their rights. Half the time the victims aren’t aware of the fact that what’s happening to them is wrong, and they need to speak up against it.
There also needs to be a strong and approachable justice system that helps victims feel safer and secure as a citizen. Moreover, there is a crucial need for more attention towards the mental health of women and girls who have had traumatic experiences and suffered abusive relations.
Secondly, a point that I cannot emphasize enough; educate the male counterpart of the population and tell them that any form of sexual or domestic violence is wrong. In fact, a recent practical experiment in Kenya proved that educating boys is actually the best solution for eradicating gender-based violence.
Ujamaa, an NGO that runs these programmes wherein they teach young boys that violence against women and girls is wrong, that a female’s clothes are not justification for sexual harassment, and that rape myths must be busted. This pedagogy has proved in making the domestic and social atmosphere better for the female counterpart.
“I’m not a woman. I’m a force of nature.”
It’s time to end the irony in this quote. Women are building blocks of an economy, a nation, a society and a family. It’s time to pick up the bloodied, dusty leaves from the ground and banish the inevitable autumn of violence.