Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fear of the Empowered Woman

Written by Raakhee Suryaprakash

Image from Pixabay
It has been over two and half months since “hundreds” of school girls were abducted by the Boko Haram (remember the name means Western Education is Sin) overnight from their school in Nigeria. Despite the #BringBackOurGirls which spread like wildfire on social media which finally forced the sloth-like Nigerian to accept international assistance to find the missing girls there’s been no rescue. Like the missing flight there’s no tracing the whereabouts of these teenagers and their terrorist abductors.

The Boko Haram post videos online of the girls in hijab reciting the Koran even as they threaten to sell them to recruits as sex slaves and demand release of their members from prison in exchange. The Nigerian Muslim community leaders belatedly condemned the abduction and organised prayers for the girl’s safe return. The only result of the so-called search is that the international community is finally aware of the atrocities and terrifying dogmas that motivate the Boko Haram. Cutting-edge technology, Big Brother monitoring the Internet, international collaboration . . . yet no hide nor hair of either the girls or the terrorists! The Boko Haram continue to be active online even as they terrorise the Nigerians in the north-eastern states – their power base. In just the first ninety days of 2014 1,500 Nigerians have been killed by them in raids of villages, towns, schools and colleges. These north eastern states are run by opposition ministers who have maintained the limbo and the Sambisa forest continues to keep its secrets. In the meantime international attention and resources have been diverted to combat the ISIS in Iraq. The effect those insurgents have on international oil prices makes containing them a priority...what’s the worth of a few hundred school girls when viewed against oil! It is said that education is the most powerful weapon to empower the fairer sex. 

Yet the forces against educating the female sex – girls and women reign supreme!

In the time since the abduction even as conferences happen calling empowerment and the end of rape as a weapon of war, the shameless “leaders” of India demonstrate the value they place on women and our safety. The union minister caught up in a gang-rape case is yet to resign or be fired. Business as usual, it doesn’t matter if its BJP or Congress, a woman leader or a man, misogyny is the norm with women’s issues getting low priority. The Trinamool Congress MP from West Bengal, the woman-led state that witnessed the gang rape of the tribal woman by her community members for daring to love an outsider and failing to pay the fine, is now showcasing rape as a political instrument! He is shown threatening to shoot opponents and unleashing his boys to rape their mothers and sisters. No action against him, and I have doubts it ever will! Pressure is brought on with great result in cancelling Goan politicians’ state-sponsored World Cup jaunt but no action will be taken against politicians in positions of power who are a threat to women. What inference do we draw: money is more important than securing women!

My own state is no safe haven anymore: A Dalit girl was raped and killed en route to school in a village in Tamil Nadu. The school has since remained shut with villagers not willing to risk the safety of their girls for the sake of ‘iffy’ education and noon meals! All such news are dismissed by the majority as being the nature of the beast needlessly sensitized by the media. Respected people, people in power, educated people, those who hold position of power – both men and women – have a dismissive view of women’s safety and empowering women.

“For all the hatred and violence to end we need to consciously respect each and every woman in our life starting from our respective homes to everyone in the society,” writes Pratik Mantri in The Indian Economist. Others recommend “indoctrinating” the future generations with gender sensitivity with a strict regimen in schools and colleges. Like that will happen when we have a Health Minister, a doctor, who wants to abolish sex education! Yes that’s a priority in a nation plagued by disease and poor health care infrastructure!

Actions speak louder than word. Children mimic the habits of their peers and adults. Will a child witnessing unchecked domestic abuse at home practise gender sensitivity? Will a student speak up about eve teasing or abuse when they see their teachers demonstrating their misogyny as a matter of course? It’s time to man up and find workable solution and implement it. We each one of us needs to take responsibility – call out regressive, misogynistic actions – “Be the change you want to see.” That’s the only way to empowerment and safety! Power from within, and action not just words against acts that seek to subjugate.

CNN documentaries and news coverage on the Boko Haram and Life in N.E. Nigeria and as refugees across the border.
Nobel Women’s Initiative’s Facebook Page posts
 “When Will Men Put Down Their Arms,” Carlos Andrés Gómez at the ‪#‎Beijing20 launch event.
 “Trinamool MP ‘threatens’ to kill opponents,” The Hindu, July 1, 2014, p. 10.