Monthly Archives: August 2016

Morality Police: Institutional Violence vs. Women

— By: Alexandra Kinias —

Clerics with long bushy beards and fermented brains obsessed with female sexuality, I envision them gathering in dark caves in remote mountain terrains. From behind thick clouds of opium smoke, they fantasize over the memory of a woman’s scent that lingered in an empty elevator long after she had disembarked, or at a sight of toes in summer sandals seen from under a long kaftan. As they acknowledge the evilness of women’s sexuality, they draft fatwas to relegate them from the ranks of humans to a level above their domestic animals, to discipline and control them.

Beating women publicly first caught international attention after the rise of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. They were caught on cameras whipping and beating women who walked in the streets unaccompanied by male guardians or not covered from head to toe in a burqa. Women with uncovered ankles were also beaten and so were those whose heels clicked the ground as they walked.

Women and human rights organizations attacked the Taliban’s atrocities committed against women, unaware of or choosing to ignore the fact that these laws were instituted in Afghanistan by Burhanuddin Rabbani’s Islamic government when it came to power in 1992, four years before the rise of the Taliban to power. But for political reasons atrocities committed against women then were not a subject of interest to anyone to discuss.

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The Taliban

Rabbani’s government hadn’t invented these rules either. They were borrowed from the Saudi model of the Committee for the promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPCPV), which is commonly known as religious police. Formed in 1940 to enforce and ensure the implementation of the sharia law in the Saudi society. Members of the CPCPV known in Saudi as Mutawee, patrol the streets, to enforce the strict dress code on women and ensure gender segregation.

Until 2007, they were armed with wooden canes to beat the offenders, including foreigners working in Saudi Arabia who didn’t adhere to the laws of the land. They were also empowered to detain offenders. After multiple videos went viral on how they exploited their power, the Saudi council of ministers issued a regulation in 2016 that stripped them from it. They still roam the streets on the watch for women who are not covering their heads or mingling with non-relative men, but they have no power to arrest, only to report such incidents to the regular police for action.

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Morality Police following a women in Saudi Arabia

In Pakistan, the leader of the Pakistani Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Mohammed Khan Sheerani, condemned a women’s protection law passed by the Punjab government in March 2015 and declared it un-Islamic. The Women’s Protection Act was drafted to protect and defend victims of domestic violence, encourages them to report abuse, and assist them with legal protection from their perpetrators. Even though the act doesn’t criminalize domestic violence, yet it was attacked by all religious groups in Pakistan that requested the Punjab province to withdraw the law. And in return, the CII proposed a controversial bill that permits husbands to ‘lightly’ beat their wives with a small stick, to punish and discipline them if they disobey their husbands’ orders.

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Pakistan CII

CII was formed in 1961 with a 20-member constitutional body that include at least two judges and members with a minimum of 15 years’ experience in Islamic research and teachings, to advise the government on religious aspects of the law and society – but its recommendations are not binding or legally enforced. While CII proposals are not taken seriously by leaders when they intervene with political and financial decisions, they influence the government’s decisions in matters concerning family and social issues. The ridiculous bill that encouraged violence against women was shunned by the media and women’s rights activists in Pakistan, yet its proposal was sufficient enough to squirt more venom against women into the minds of millions of the CII followers.

Sudan’s Public Order Police, notorious for its aggression and brutality was formed in 1993, after the rise of Omar Bashir’s Islamic government to power, to enforce the implementation of Sharia law. POP is empowered to arrest violators of the code of conduct, which includes women walking in public without head cover or wearing pants. Suspects are arrested and tried in special Public Order courts. According to the Sudanese constitution, suspects of such are punished by public floggings.

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Public Flogging of a Woman in Sudan

When violence against women is institutionalized by governments that govern according to the Sharia code of laws, how can we expect that men growing in these cultures to stop abusing women?

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Somethings Can’t be Covered

 

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–By: Alexandra Kinias —

It was not uncommon, when I was growing up in Egypt, to hear loud screams screeching the stillness of the hot summer nights, when people opened their windows to the cool Mediterranean breeze. Chilling sounds of women pleading to their husbands to stop or calling for help pierced the neighborhood. And by sunrise, perpetrators walked freely in the streets, as if nothing had happened, while the bruised faces you met, with eyes averted were the only proof of the heinous crime committed against women

Domestic violence is a disturbing phenomenon practiced by men across cultures for control and dominance. According to the UN reports, up to 70 percent of women have experienced violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. And according to the same report, it is estimated that of all women who were victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

No woman is immune against this abhorrent practice regardless of her age, religion, race, education, and social or economic status. And while it is criminalized in many countries around the world, in male dominant societies, as in the Middle East and where sharia is the panel code of law, domestic violence is often blamed on women for bringing it upon themselves.

In these societies, domestic violence is not just accepted, but also promoted, advised and justified by religious scholars. Defenders of the faith deny that Islam is responsible for the perpetuation of violence against women, as it also exists in non-Muslim communities. Many go as far as refuting the interpretation of the verse that explicitly states it.

Domestic violence is practiced by men of other cultures and other beliefs in communities around the world, but in such societies, it is criminalized and perpetrators are punished. On the other hand, in communities where Islam rules, not only it is not criminalized, but also viewed as an acceptable male behavior, where victims are mostly blamed for their victimization.

As violence continues, women not only reach a state of submissiveness in accepting this abusive treatment, but also justify it, and question their role in triggering it. This justification becomes their coping mechanism. It gives them a delusional hope that if they changed, violence would stop. In a survey reported by amnesty international, 39 per cent of Egyptian women agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances, which may include going out without telling him, neglecting the children, arguing with him, refusing to have sex with him, and burning the food.

Awarded with the privileges handed over to them at birth by their gender, men find no need to change. Women in societies where violence pervades are bred to obey, please and work the relationship, take more care of the men’s needs, avoid confrontations, and become a subordinate – not an equal partner – in the relationship. So under whatever circumstances, women believe that it is their fault to be punished for not being a good partner, and often come to the defense of their abusers.

Acknowledging their own fault in triggering their aggression, women modify their attitudes and behavior, as a good wife or partner should. They avoid confrontations, for it’s their role, dictated by their society or community, to be understanding and considerate; to stay calm, accept the abuse and not answer back, not to intimidate, and not to complain. And when women are punished for defying the status quo, they blame themselves and promise to be more careful next time. Unfortunately with each incident, their voices get lower until they are eventually silenced.

Experiencing violence is traumatic and demeaning. Physical and mental abuse is humiliating. It shakes women’s confidence and her self-worth dwindles. It perpetuates in silence because it is shameful to talk about. Perpetrators achieve control over the victim by breaking her emotionally and mentally. Victims become isolated and as a result, the cycle continuous because silence is the perfect ground for abuse to thrive.

Many victims endure years of abuse without seeking help because of financial dependency and fear of homelessness. So instead of breaking away from the relationship, women stay and try to make it work. But against their best judgment, the vicious cycle of domestic violence not only doesn’t end, but it escalates and the episodes become more frequent, severe and intense.

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