Violence Against Women—It’s Actually a Men’s Issue.
“I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime. I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change.”
–Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon
So, today is the 25th of November for the year 2013. By now, some of you might ask this question, what’s so special about this date? 25th November, it’s the official date of The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
First of all, let us truly understand the term of “violence against women”. The term “violence against women” is understood to mean any act of gender-based violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or; an act that which affects women disproportionately.
You could also say it as gender violence, gender-based violence or family violence. But to understand the meaning of violence against women, we need to be aware that it has distinctive meanings and is located in discourses with implicit analyses.
So, it’s basically a specific date that is chosen or designated by the United Nations General Assembly with a premise; that is to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence. Aside from that, one of the aims of the day is to highlight that the scale and true nature of the issue that is often hidden.
Some people perceive this as some sort of “hate-crime” legislation because of a simple reason, it places violent crimes against women as somehow “more bad” than violent crimes against anyone else. They will ask things such as, “why is it that a guy hitting a girl becomes a big issue but when a girl hits a guy, it’s not an issue at all?” Then they will put the blame on the issue to the women. It’s a wonderful thought but it actually doesn’t help at all.
Towards a Paradigm-Shift on the Issue
First and foremost, obviously this is also a women’s issue and we appreciate that view. Most people see this problem as “women-issues-that-some-good-men-help-out-with”. But, calling this issue as “women issues that some good-men help out with” brings out another sort of problem.
Seeing it with that kind of perspective is nothing more than making this issue turn from bad to worse. Why is that?
It gives a reason for men to not pay any attention to this gender-violence issue.
Most people who sees this kind of issue happening in their surrounding tends to put the blame on the victim and get away from this problem. Such blame can be seen from questioning the issue with rather sexist arguments such as “Why did the woman go out with the guy in the first place?”, “Why do women wear these kind of clothes” and such. This is a problematic approach on the issue. That kind of approach will eventually lead to silence of men from this issue as if they have nothing to do with it.
Martin Luther King once said,
“In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemy but the silence of our friends.”
There has been an awful lot of silence about this on-going tragedy of men’s violence against women and children. It’s our job to break that silence and we need more men to do that. We know that it’s obviously easier said than done, because it’s actually not easy in male culture for a guy to challenge each other. Which is one of the reasons why part of the paradigm-shifting that’s about to happen is not just to understand this issue as men’s issue, but also leadership issues from men.
In our religion, the Quran itself stated that we are a leader of the women in a proper perspective which we must carefully understand. It is stated in the verse below.
Allah says: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because of what Allah has preferred one with over the other and because of what they spend to support them from their wealth.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 34]
Hence, we must remain cognizant of the fact that both men and women are Allah’s creations. And that Allah would never oppress any of His creatures. He prepares each of His creations to the purpose that He intends for it and bestows upon it the innate abilities needed to carry out that purpose.
Allah has made it of the exclusive qualities of women that they fall pregnant, bear children, and nurse them. Therefore, she is by nature burdened with the care of what the union between a man and a woman brings about, and it is an immense responsibility. Not only is it a heavy responsibility, it is a critical one, not something that can be approached lightly, without the physical, mental, and emotional preparation that Allah has bestowed exclusively upon women.
On this basis, it is only just that Allah would burden the other half of humanity – the men – with the task of fulfilling the needs of those women and protecting them, and that He would bestow upon men the innate physical, mental, and emotional qualities that would allow them to excel in doing what is required of them. Moreover, he would require men to be financially liable for the women under his care, since this is a necessary consequence of the duties he has to carry out. These two elements are, essentially, what the verse is talking about.
Now we return to this issue with another problem that is rooted through men. There are men who have this kind of naïve way in understanding this problem (which is actually much deeper and a much more systematic social problem).
They rather blame the individual perpetrator and think of ways to solve the problem by finding and solving the individual problem.
The things to understand is that, the perpetrators are not just some kind of monster who crawls out of the swamp coming to town and do their nasty businesses and then retreat back into the darkness. That is a naïve notion, right? Perpetrators are actually more normal than that, more everyday-looking than that.
So the question and focus here now is what are we doing here in our society and in this world? What is the role of various institutions such as religious belief system, the sports culture, the pornography culture, the family structure, economic, race, and community in producing abusive men? How all of these institutions intersect and how do all of them work?
When we start making this kind of connections and asking those important and big questions, only then we can talk about how we can do something differently. That is all what is important, paradigm-shifting on an issue-basis.
We Can Do Better
Together, we need to raise our awareness and understand this issue as early as now. We are the future leader in our family and perhaps the community. So in conjunction with this “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women” let us together spread the word and understand our role as leaders, maintainers and protectors of women in this issue. Caring deeply on this issue is not enough, we need to be the man with the guts, courage, strength and moral integrity to break the complicit silence to challenge each other and stand with women, not against them.
Emir Haziq bin Haji Mohd Lela
Second Year, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University
Unit Karya PCK 2013/2014