Saturday, October 08, 2011

Must we lock away the men for women to be safe?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 01 October 2011)    

Today is the first day of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month. There is some important information I want to share with you as well as part of a story written by an Indian woman in 1905.

Domestic violence makes absolutely no sense in society – it has no purpose other than to control the victim and maintain subjection to the abuser. This type of hostility and barbarianism has no place in a modern world and must be exposed for the lowly ideology that it is.

According to a September 23 article entitled, “India, China Responsible for Many ‘Missing’ Women,” on the Wall Street Journal Blog, “In its annual World Development Report, which this year focuses on gender issues, the World Bank estimates that two-fifths of the world’s 3.9 million “missing women,” or over 1.4 million, went “missing” at birth. And this was in 2008 alone, the latest year for which figures are available. The rest are excess female deaths at later stages in life.”

The US Council on Foreign Relations blog had and posted this on September 20, “The most alarming statistics are with respect to the roughly 4 million excess deaths of women and girls, relative to males, in low and middle income countries.  Forty per cent of these ‘missing girls’ are never born: the spread of inexpensive sonogram technology allows parents to abort unwanted female fetuses. Another 17 per cent die in early childhood. Some 35 per cent die during their reproductive years. Maternal mortality, which takes approximately 1,000 female lives a day, is still the top killer of women in many countries.”

And according to, “Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.”

When one also considers the amount of honour killings and deaths from domestic violence into this grim situation, the outlook for women is not a good one. There can be no denying that this is a Female Holocaust. Only this is not something from humanity’s history, this is reality for women today.

Women are still being murdered! This is not in the past for women, this is now!

Allow me to share a story with you from a young Indian woman as she dreams of a different way of life for herself and the women around her. The following is an excerpt from Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream, written in 1905 when she was in her early 20s. Sultana (Hossain’s alter ego) is conversing with a friend she calls Sister Sara as they stroll through Ladyland, a society quite dissimilar to her own because Sultana and the women in her culture are isolated from anyone but their immediate family:

“Where are the men?” I asked her.

“In their proper places, where they ought to be.”

“Pray let me know what you mean by ‘their proper places.’”

“Oh, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.”

“Just as we are kept in the zenana?”*

“Exactly so.”

“How funny.” I burst into a laugh. Sister Sara laughed too.

“But, dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.”

“Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.”

“Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.”

“Of course not.”

“Suppose some lunatics escape from the asylum and begin to do all sorts of mischief to men, horses, and other creatures: in that case what will your countrymen do?”

“They will try to capture them and put them back into their asylum.”

“Thank you! And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?”

“Of course not!” said I, laughing lightly.

“As a matter of fact, in your country this very thing is done! Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?”

“We have no hand or voice in the management of our social affairs. In India man is lord and master. He has taken to himself all powers and privileges and shut up the women in the zenana.”

“Why do you allow yourselves to be shut up?”

“Because it cannot be helped as they are stronger than women.”

“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves, and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

[*A zenana is the part of a house belonging to a family in the Middle East and South Asia reserved for the women of the household.]

Hossain’s story goes on to describe a beautiful utopia for women as “Sultana” explores Ladyland, a place of peace, structural beauty and efficiency as well as intellectual ingenuity. When women live in so much torture, is it any wonder they dream of a place where men are hidden away and women live in safety and peace?

Ultimately, Hossain’s goal was, as mine is, to see a utopia where no one is isolated from society, where no one is killed because of gender, where all are safe. However, how can one not see the logic in “Sister Sara’s” argument that those who are so dangerous to others should not be the ones running the world? Just look at the world today. Just look at Guyana today.

The main point I wanted to highlight from this story is the statement by Sister Sara, “A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves, and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

Likewise, Guyana’s women have neglected the duty they owe to themselves and lost their natural rights by shutting their eyes to their own interests.

By staying with men who beat them and abuse them, by making excuses for the way women are treated in Guyana and by allowing things to get to such a dangerous state for women – Guyana’s women have neglected their own interests and lost their natural rights to a safe life, equal pay, a work atmosphere free of sexual harassment and ultimately the respect due to the female half of the nation’s population.

This October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, let us explore what is necessary to create a utopia of peace, structural beauty and efficiency as well as intellectual ingenuity for all. Let us find a way to finally end the ongoing Female Holocaust.

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