Tied for Centuries and Clinging on Hope
An 18-year-old girl Amina Said along with her 17-year-old sister were shot dead by their father in Texas, US. Vibrant young lives brought to an abrupt end simply because of their ‘Western ways’ and not following their culture.
On the other hand, 100 million girls have already lost their lives through sex selective abortion. Why? Simply because even today, girls in many parts of the world are viewed as a ‘burden’. This makes on wonder; why so much hatred for women? Was this the very purpose for which woman was created?
When will woman be liberated from the cruel ways of the world?
My long absence from the blog was with good reason. I was recently asked to do research on Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its impact on the pattern of discrimination against women.
The research of this particular nature was the first of its kind for me. During my postgraduate studies, I used to answer a lot of questions regarding Islam’s stand on women and their rights. It was very helpful for it clarified various misconceptions and misunderstandings.
Yet, here I was doing a research where predominantly, the violence against women is on the rise, especially in the Muslim countries. How does one explain such a pattern? Worse, the crimes against women are now spreading in the West – where a woman enjoys the freedom and has access to her rights!. Why even in this century and modern age are young girls being victims of heinous crimes?
Tied for Centuries
Women remained tied to various cultural, economical, traditional and social norms. These norms have created a complex web from which there seems no escape at all. Despite the emphasis on educating young girls to equip them with tools of survival, their empowerment is still a big question today.
A woman is not deemed or rather is not even thought of as a human being. A woman is a commodity that should be oppressed and used for pleasure. The notion has existed for centuries. Laws implemented to protect women from violence have only intensified the violent acts further. The truth is that women regardless of nationality, caste, race, or creed remains the major victims of acid attacks, domestic and sexual violence.
Majority of the times, it is the men that suppress the women through various means such as imposing restrictions on movement, on friends and other activities. Generally, in Asian countries, people are scared of educated girls simply because such girls are aware of their rights in the religion and can stand up against such violence. Also, educated girls have the means to break the conventional wisdom and norms that deny a woman her fundamental rights. Therefore, now the Asian society does not prefer a girl or a young woman with higher education degrees.
The story does not end here. People who were lucky to migrate to Western countries unfortunately did not change in their fundamental perception. Various honour killing crimes are now being reported in US and in UK where young girls are tortured, strangled, stabbed or simply murdered for following the Western ways and not the ways of their parents’ culture.
The law enforcement agencies of both countries are working hard to tackle such crime primarily because they view woman as a human being with fundamental human rights. For them, such heinous acts are plain cruel and an attack on their citizens’ liberty.
Yet, the phenomenon is hard to understand because of the existence of the cultural gap. An honour, in many Asian countries, is attached with a girl or woman. Thus, any woman who follows the ‘Western ways’ through clothing, or interacting with the other sex is bringing shame to the family and is killed.
Yet, the question to such people is that when they decided to migrate from their countries for any reason, did they know that they would face challenges in raising their children abroad? It is rather unfortunate that people are migrating from developing countries primarily due to lack of opportunities of employment, security and freedom. But when they arrive in a developed country, do they realize that they now have to follow the rules of that country which is giving them freedom, employment and security? Do they realize that their concepts are different from theirs?!
The children see a different world compare to the world of their parents. They consider the country home where they are born. To accept the country where their parents were born as home cannot happen. This lack of understanding lies at the very core of these violent crimes that is continuously consuming the life of young women.
CEDAW – A Hope?
CEDAW is hailed as an international treaty that protects the rights of women. Various countries have ratified the treaty. Yet, in many countries, the progress on the women rights front is dismal.
Despite various laws passed, the discrimination against women is rampant. Part of the problem lies with CEDAW. Many countries that have ratified the treaty had reservations based on religion conflicts. Many countries have used the excuse of religion for the reservations, when in reality, it is an excuse to get away with implementing such laws in their home countries.
This leaves CEDAW primarily with the status of reporting. With no tools to pressure the states into implementing the laws, most countries are getting away with crimes against women. CEDAW in this manner is not helpful in preventing discriminatory acts against women in such states.
Then there is a flaw within CEDAW for in theory, it defines a ‘universal woman’. Academics argue that the concept of ‘universal woman’ is the key to various states exempting from the provisions of the CEDAW. Rosenblum argues that the concept of universal women does not exist because women differ in their experiences along the lines of culture, class, national and social lines. Therefore, the concept is flawed.
Secondly, for many women, religion plays an important part in their lives and CEDAW fails to recognise this aspect. Thus, the diversities in experiences only weakens CEDAW further.
Despite various problems being debated in the academic world and the organization, the fact is that CEDAW is one of the first and unique treaties that identifies that women do have fundamental human rights and play a critical role in national development. Although, the development of CEDAW and its implementation in the states will take time, yet, there is an international law that guarantees the rights of women.
My maternal grandmother told me once that ‘a woman is like a flower. Tend to her gently and she will bloom and spread beauty all around even in the harshest of times. Be cruel and the blessings of God will leave the house for she will fade away taking with her all the blessings and leaving nothing behind, just destruction’.
Today, I wonder how many people are there in the world who truly understand this. How unfortunate are those people who take away the lives of young women and plant the seed of destruction for themselves.
Rosenblum, Darren (nd.) ‘Unsex CEDAW: What’s Wrong with ‘Women Rights’ online on www.ssrn.com