By Yasmeen Ali
Man is allowed hormones, a woman not!
Sexual violence against women is greatly under reported. It happens everywhere. Homes, educational institutions, work places, transit areas. The list is long. In our society in particular, young girls, may not be believed that an uncle, a cousin, or even a brother or father committed sexual assault on them. They may be accused of ‘acting in a way to invite trouble’, a classical approach of making the victim an accused. They may be silenced by threats and repercussions of assorted nature by the assailant allowing the assault to become a repeated occurrence. They may be silenced by the mother for fear of ‘breaking up the family.’ Whatever the reasons, it damages the victim psychologically for life. Making future relationships difficult and painful.
Why do men feel sexually negating a woman is easy?
Because it is. Freud rightly stated that ‘anatomy is destiny.’ Women can be easily overpowered by men due to their advantage of being physical stronger. It’s a biological disadvantage women face. It is because of this vulnerability women face that the social influence and value structures encouraged by parents play a role in checking male sexual aggression. (Or not).
However, in a society where men are taught to be superior, they are allowed to get away with things women cannot, they are taught a woman’s place is in the kitchen and in a man’s bed and women in any third place (like workplaces) are whores no less, even those they come across on social media — the inner feeling of superiority grows vis a vis the woman. The two sets of values we have and nurture do not help. Yes, the man can have an affair; however no ‘decent’ woman will have one. Her love and feelings must be put under lock and key for the man she eventually marries. Even though her husband has had many affairs before tying the knot and continues to have more after tying the knot too. It is a female’s duty to be the custodian of the family’s honour — never the man’s. What nauseating double standards! Man is allowed hormones, a woman not!
Pakistan’s culture of offering justice by panchayats or jirgas (informal council of elders of an area) often base their decisions that are a departure from the legal system. In July 2017, a local council in Multan ruled that the sister of a rapist should be handed over to the brother of the girl raped for like assault. The family had to hand over the girl to the brother of the 13 year old raped in name of justice. What kind of honour is it that is restored by committing an act of dishonour on a young girl? Why is a female viewed as an ‘object’?
In 2015, a young girl was gang raped in a village. She thought, if she kept silent, her humiliation will not be made public and her family reputation will remain intact. The video of the bestial act started circulating online and on mobile phones. The video saw her being raped by four men and her crying for mercy. It was only once her elder brother upon seeing the video and recognising his sister lodged a police case that the culprits were nabbed.
The entire approach of the society in general, of treating a female as an inferior gender manifests itself in many kinds of discriminations — including rape.
This raises an interesting question. One we would rather not ask or face. It’s uncomfortable to say the least. If a man sexually assaults his wife, in anger, against her wishes, using other forms of physical abuse, does this way of mating makes it legit because she happens to be his wife? Legally this may not be questioned. However what about morally and ethically? Or do the lessons of respect taught in books for the mother, sister, daughter and wife remain restricted to the pages alone?
Many values are linked to childhood, growing stronger as they grow. A daughter-in-law is assured of a better footing if she is carrying a male child. She can be assured of better treatment, better food and kindly behaviour. Why? Simply because men are considered superior. In case of toys, girls are given kitchen sets, prams and baby dolls while male pests enjoy guns, cars, engineering sets so on and so forth. This is role enforcement. All negative towards the female gender.
What can bring a change in this mindset?
First is education. Education brings about a societal change, a departure from typically traditional mind set. A change in gender set roles till now accepted by certain pockets of the society need to be broader based. Media can play a very important role through entertainment, advertisements, discussion programmes, etc, in bringing a change by projecting a balance between both genders. Drama serial Udari by Hum TV was an excellent effort in addressing the issue of a young girl-child sexually assaulted by the step-father and the tremendous effort by her mother to fight the circumstances, carving out a better future for them.
Individual capacity of girls to rise above their circumstances can be a huge influencing factor for the society. Breaking cultural taboos stifling their capabilities, these girls are a beacon of light for others to follow.
Men need to be taught: sexually assaulting a woman proves one and one thing only: his character weakness.