Being a woman is a crime
The girl I talk to is 24 years old. Let’s call her Maryam. Maryam is a virgin ex Muslim, stuck in an increasingly sexist and patriarchal society. She is forced to veil, and is too scared of her controlling father to remove it. She says ‘I’ve had moments when I’ve removed it, but never in public. If someone tells my father, I will be beaten. His daughter has to veil, she cannot show her hair. I hate my veil. It’s hot, it’s suffocating. There is nothing like feeling the breeze blowing my hair, it’s so rare, and so precious. I’ve been forced to veil since I was a child, and wear an abaya.’
Maryam comes from a tribal society, where they deem women inferior. She is a survivor of the disgusting practice of FGM. ‘ I found out later what had happened. The female members of my family arranged it. I was crying when my mother casually informed me years later what she did. She thought it was for the greater good. She can’t see what she did wrong. I was mutilated as a small child, too small to remember it. It’s damaged how I see myself. I always thought something was wrong with me, but I hoped it wasn’t true. I don’t understand why she felt she needed to do this. It’s child abuse, all because I was unlucky enough to be born a girl. I am being punished, injured, suffering because of my gender. I didn’t choose this. My brothers are treated well, no one imposes their sexist values on them, they are not veiled and can leave the house. I can’t. I am denied freedom because I’m a woman.
I don’t have any control over my life. I’m more like a prisoner. Being a woman is a crime to this society’.
Laila, a young Saudi woman, says that ‘being born in Saudi is the worst thing for a girl, our lives are controlled by men. We can’t choose even what to wear, to study… It’s very controlling, and some times I feel like I’m going mad. I feel trapped. I want to get away from here. From this hell. Anywhere, but it’s impossible for me to leave. If I were male, it would be much easier. No one suspects a male. They do not need a guardians permission to leave. My guardian would never let me leave. I feel as though I am drowning, I am an object. I want to be free, but I don’t believe I ever will be.
History has always treated women cruelly, and it’s sickening this still exists today. I spent my morning in college reading statistics of female infanticide and women honour killings in Pakistan. Is there such a term of ‘honour killing’ that is so mistakenly named? There is no honour in such a killing. It is a tribal practice. And the victims are mainly women. Why?
The answer is simple. In some cultures and societies, mainly the Middle East and south Asian, it is a crime to be a woman. You are a prisoner, an object, a liability. You pose a threat to their old fashioned and out of touch ideals. The phrase keeps rebounding in my mind, ‘women are the root of all evil’. This is emphasised in Abrahamic religions, that the sin of humanity was triggered by Eve. Analyse the messages from this fictional tale (yes that’s right – it didn’t happen, cause evolution). In the bible, Eve tempted Adam to eat the apple. God curse women because of Eve with the pain of childbirth. We are portrayed as the root of calamities that befall men. With the odd exception of Islam in this parable, as it says in the Qua’ran both parties were responsible.
Religious condemnation of women plays a vital role in influencing such cultures that demonise women and thus making us suffer, tribal and primal attitudes and society undoubtedly link too. I keep using the analogy of Eve because to me, what she did was an act of female independence and she was condemned and punished. Like these women. An act of female independence that contradicts the norm or the outdated expectations.
There is nothing wrong with sexual freedom. What is the root of the issue is the primal and tribalistic attitudes that these communities and individuals face. It is not the fault of the woman, it is not merely excused on cultural or geographical differences. This is wrong. An ethnicity does not have any bearing on the crime committed. Factors do not provide an excuse for what they did – it helps us understand why they did it.
Women are suffering. Do not lay them on the sacrificial altar of political correctness, like the Rotherham victims.