Saturday, July 12, 2008

Violence Against Women

Zahra posted on this story earlier in the week and I came upon this article in regards to the same story recently. I appreciate the article and the larger message it’s attempting to send. It isn’t necessarily attacking or blaming Islam, but addressing the larger issue of the unequal/unfair treatment of women in many societies. What good does it do that our beautiful religion guides us away from such atrocities and teaches us to honor women, when we do nothing to end such acts of violence and instead help to perpetuate them if not by our complacency alone? The issue of violence against women is not a problem that plagues one country or the other…it is a problem that exists everywhere.

It hasn't received much notice in Canada but, last Sunday in Georgia, Sandeela Kanwal, 25, was strangled with a bungee cord. Police arrested her father in connection with what the media call an "honour killing."

The victim was reportedly unhappy with her arranged marriage, which took place in Pakistan three months ago, and so, on July 1, she filed for divorce. On July 5, she was dead. Not surprisingly, the U.S. cybersphere is having a blogoblast, with the usual suspects going on about how Muslims should be kicked out of the U.S. of A. before they take over.

It's very much a rerun of what we saw here last December, when Mississauga teen Aqsa Parvez was killed. Both her father and older brother face murder charges in her strangling death, which occurred after the girl had repeatedly flouted their restrictive ideas of how she should dress.

Meanwhile, south of the border, the more progressive pundits blame the misogyny inherent in so many societies in Asia and the Middle East, where, according to the United Nations, some 5,000 women every year are executed by their fathers, brothers or other male relatives, supposedly to preserve the family's good name.

If it were funny, it would be ironic. I mean, how do you restore your reputation if you go around strangling your daughters and sisters? It's confounding how this works.

Conceivably, men in these societies are guilty of all kinds of crimes against their religion and their states, whether we're talking gambling or drinking, burglary or murder, and yet their families don't seem to feel the need to stab them or stone them to death. Unless they're gay, of course.

If this honour thing applied to all, prisons would close. If families cleaned up their own trash, the state wouldn't have to. Yet only the act of bringing recalcitrant women to heel is a matter of honour.

Paradoxically, the very fact of killing them is an admission that, as man of the house, you're a failure since you couldn't make your females submit. This is partly why so many men here kill themselves after killing their partners, at a rate of four women a day dead in the U.S. they, too, feel like failures.

Thankfully, considering the billions of people who live in the countries where these so-called "honour killings" are committed, the murders are relatively rare. (And yes, occasionally they have crossed religious lines.) In fact, but for a few feminist journalists, they were never even part of the Western discourse before 9/11.

I say "so-called" because that term "honour killing" diminishes the crime, which is femicide. It all but excuses the killer on cultural grounds.

What's more, it attributes motives, and the media should not do that. We don't report domestic homicides with phrases like "It was a she-talked-back-at-him-once-too-often killing" or "She wanted to leave him killing," do we? With "honour killing," we buy into a political agenda. Indeed, it distracts from the real issues: patriarchy and control.

The fact is, much of the world is deeply misogynistic. In far too many countries, women are mere chattel, the property of men, passed from their fathers to their husbands.

But, if you want to make this about Islam and, Allah knows, so many do, then consider: If women are indeed the inferior sex in Islam, then it stands to reason that allowances would be made for their weaknesses. And, if men are their betters, wouldn't their religion hold them to a higher standard?

You'd think. But it's not about that. The real "honour" here is about power, and who has it. Sometimes, when women defy men, they take that power, and some men will stop at nothing to get it back.

Source here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great insight on the term "honor killing" - duly noted!