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Title KLIPING BERITA: Is violence a woman’s fate?
Edition The Netherlands | Opinion | Wed, June 25 2014
Call Number
Author(s) Solita Sarwono
Series Title
Language English
Publisher The Jakarta Post
Publishing Year 2014
Publishing Place Jakarta
Collation Page. 7

Recently women have been under the spotlight of international media. Not as stars from a house of fame, but as victims of violence. Violence against women has been seen across cultures for thousands of years, varying from the deprivation of women’s basic rights to physical or sexual abuse and even murder.

In the last few centuries women have been struggling to secure their rights and gain power in society. Progress is noted in women’s participation in education and the workforce. The success is achieved by women with the support of men who care and appreciate women as their equal partners in family, work and social settings.

Unfortunately not all men share this appreciation. Male dominance transferred intergenerationally and cross-culturally, is often expressed in violent acts.

The world was shocked by the abduction of some 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. The girls were forced to marry members of Boko Haram or sold into servitude. Two years ago, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head by the Taliban for demanding education for girls.

Last week two teenage girls from the lowest caste in India were hung after being raped by a group of men. Two policemen were involved. Last year a gang rape in India triggered international outrage. It is sad to say but in this part of the world, rape is tolerated by the local communities and the state.

According to the Asian Center for Human Rights, almost 50,000 child rape cases were recorded in India from 2001 to 2011.

A Dutch journalist team televised the case of child-brides in Yemen. Parents gave away daughters as young as eight to marry men aged upward of 30 years old with small dowries (US$100 to $300). Besides losing any access to basic education those child-brides are very often brutally raped by the husband. Many have died from the injuries.

Every year 2 million young girls in Islamic countries in Africa undergo genital mutilation. CNN reported that almost a quarter of a million girls in the US today are at risk of such mutilation.

To spare their daughters from abuse at the hands of husbands, millions of Indian mothers of lower castes abort the pregnancy or kill their newly born baby girls. It is mercy killing, an act of love. Female infants are killed by parents in China following the strict one-child policy to control population growth. As a consequence, some 30-40 millions girls in India and China are reported missing. To compensate the shortage of brides in China, young women in neighboring countries are abducted, smuggled and sold to workers and peasants who desperately need a wife to support them in work and family care.

Honor killing is another justification to murder women. Every year approximately 1000 women in Pakistan are killed to save “the family’s honor”. A pregnant woman in Pakistan was recently stoned to death by her father, brothers, ex-fiancé and several other men for marrying a man she loved. Honor killing is also practiced in India, North Africa and the Middle East. Even in Europe and the US there have been reports of honor killings among the immigrant communities.

A woman in Sudan, with a toddler and a newborn was sentenced to death by hanging, preceded by 100 lashes for marrying a Christian. The woman’s father, a Muslim, left her when she was very young. The mother, a Christian, brought her up as a Christian but the Sudanese court decided that having a Muslim father makes her also a Muslim.

Therefore, she deserved the clubbing for adultery and hanging to death for apostasy. Governments and NGOs worldwide are petitioning the Sudanese government to annul the sentence. Such a petition saved a Nigerian woman some years ago from being stoned to death after giving birth to a child as a result of rape.

Fortunately, most Indonesian women do not experience the level and scale of violence described above. Girls in traditional, low income families, however, still have limited access to education and employment. Many teenage girls are rushed to assume the roles of a wife and mother, often leading to poor health and death. Domestic violence is underreported, found in all social-economic classes across the country, targeting not only wives and daughters but also the housemaids.

For decades the state has sent women overseas as cheap domestic workers although reports show those women were abused by their employers. The extortion by employment agencies and customs officers in Indonesia is widely acknowledged. However, allured by the high wage, every year thousands of women enthusiastically enroll themselves to work abroad as domestic workers, ignoring the risks.

Life is hard for women. But is that a fate ascribed since birth? Hundreds of millions of parents in Africa, India and China believe being a woman, or having daughters, is trouble. Religion and cultural tradition are often used as the source of this belief. There are two ways to deal with it: accept this destiny (being circumcised or abused) or die.

But no. Violence against women is not a fate. It is “man-made”. Economic and political factors play a crucial role in maintaining violent and repressive acts against women.

Women with low education and low incomes make easy prey for male dominance in chauvinistic societies. Lawmakers and decision makers in the state, religious circles to the family are predominantly men.

There have been too many victims of violence in the name of religion, tradition, economy and politics. A change of belief and attitude takes a long time but it is possible. Continuous sensitization training about the value and rights of women needs to be given through school/university curricula, government programs, NGOs and most importantly, through religious teachings.

Role models — women and men — need to set an example of just treatment for women. Hand in hand with men, women need to be united and empowered to make a difference, to free women from violence.

The writer is a gender specialist, psychologist and health educator, residing in The Netherlands.
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