Thursday, February 09, 2012

Violence will not stop women from being free

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 7 January 2012)

This is my first column for the year and as such, I would like to address a topic that is always close to my heart, violence against women. I am very active on the Internet as an advocate for women and I post several news stories, blogs, each day that I gather from around the world on a variety of topics of concern to women both in and out of Guyana.

Those who read posts that entail violenceagainst women are often shocked and upset at the details and the horror of the act – as they should be. I still feel that shock each time I am faced with this issue, as well.

However, after the shock wears off, I attempt to approach the problem from a more academic standpoint. If we never use our brains to address these types of issues, they will continue to wreak havoc on the human race. My major concern is with the situation in Guyana and trying to understand the domestic violence situation as it has developed over the past ten years or so.

That is not to say that that men did not beat, rape and murder women before 1990, but one cannot deny that from that point going forward there has been a noticeable increase in both volume and brutality. This causes women’s advocates to ponder the reasons for such an increase in violence against women.

We were sadly greeted this past holiday season with the news of a particularly disturbing case in which a little five-year-old girl was taken from her bed where she slept and raped in the nearby bush. What causes a man to inflict such horror to a little girl? In fact, what would cause a man to inflict such horror on any woman regardless of age? The first woman to be murdered in Guyana in 2012 was 66 years old. It seems she was also sexually violated.

One cannot help but wonder if this increase of violence against women, not just in Guyana but around the world, has to do with the fact that women are becoming more independent, getting an education and working outside the home. The correlation between the rise of women in the workplace and the increase in violence cannot be ignored.

Another interesting response to female independence around the world, but to a lesser degree in Guyana, has been the rise of religious extremism. In the US, the religious right has been fighting a war against women’s rights and has, in some cases, reversed the advancements made by women in the past three decades. The pressure to appease this minority religious group is so great that even the ‘pro-woman’ Obama administration recently overturned an FDA science-based decision to give easier access to the Plan B contraceptive pill.

In Israel, there is another minorityextremist group demanding women to conform to a particular dress code. Moreover, of this campaign against women in Israel, a December 27 New York Times report said, “The battle has broadened and grown increasingly visible in recent weeks and months. Orthodox male soldiers walked out of a ceremony where female soldiers were singing, adhering to what they consider to be a religious prohibition against hearing a woman’s voice; women have been challenging the seating arrangements on strictly ‘kosher’ buses serving ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods and some inter-city routes, where female passengers are expected to sit at the back.”

In Egypt, female political protesters were subjected to humiliating virginity tests after being arrested by the army during the protests. In Saudi Arabia, women are desperate to simply have the right to drive a car. These are all current events, not ancient news.

Is it any wonder that violence against women is so high? All of these examples and many others point to the fact that certain men still want to control women and their bodies. These men want to tell women what to think, how to worship, what they can learn, where to go, when to have sex, how to dress, when to reproduce – and the list goes on.

Subsequently, when women push back and insist on controlling their own bodies, their own money, their own decisions about their own lives, the response is violence. In Guyana, these extreme religious views do not exist on a large scale, so it seems that element is omitted and some males resort directly to violence.

I once read a statement by a man who said that by encouraging women toward independence in my writings, I was a cause of the violence meted out to women. This man is out of his mind. Women will have free minds whether I write or not. This movement is spreading and it will not stop. Women will be free and independent.

Moreover, I would never lift a hand to harm a Sister or any other human being. I will not be blamed for the violent and controlling actions of these shallow-minded men. My writings on women’s issues are not the problem. It is men who want to control women who are the problem – a big problem – because women are refusing to be controlled any longer.

Instead of blaming the messenger, it would be wise for these men to find a proper response to the developing independence of women. Violence is not going to stop women from being free. No matter how many women are beaten, tortured and murdered, more will rise to fight for their Sisters.

Man’s dominion over women is done and it is time for men to socially and psychologically come to terms with this fact. Running away from family obligations, drinking oneself into a stupor and beating women are not healthy responses to this social evolution.

The sooner men accept the new role women play in society and acknowledge them as equal and independent agents with free will, the sooner we can get back to the business of creating a better world.

Women do not belong under the man’s thumb. They belong right along side the leaders of the world as we search for a way to feed the hungry, adapt to climate change and cure diseases. This is the world of which I dream.

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