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Monday, January 16, 2006

violence aganist women

From: fahmina hussain

Sun Nov 6, 2005 9:25 pm

Subject: What is it about us men? Why do we always seem to want control over
women? Why do so many of us become violent when the “requisite” degree of
control is not available to us?

Violence against women is the scourge of all societies. My family’s
background is Indian Muslim. Indian cultures are some of the most
oppressive toward women. Muslim Indian society produced Mukhtar Mai, the
Pakistani villager who was sentence to be raped as part of communal “justice”
for the crime of bringing “dishonour”. Her actual “crime” was that her
brother had befriended a woman from a powerful clan.

Instead of defending her pleas for justice, Pakistani President
Musharraf caused international outrage by claiming rape had become a
“money-making concern” used by women to seek refuge overseas.

On a perhaps more mundane level, it is the same society in which male
religious scholars pass edicts (known as fatwa’s) against tennis star
Sania Mirza for the length of her skirt, while ignoring the tightness of
my namesake Irfan Pathan’s cricket trousers.

In Bangladesh, women are regularly attacked with acid if they are
deemed to behave in a culturally inappropriate fashion. Yet this same
community at one stage had a female president and opposition leader.

Something is rotten in the state of Islam. The way we treat our women
is atrocious. Which doesn’t say a lot for Muslim societies as a whole,
given that at least 51% of their community are women.

One recent well-publicised gang-rape case in Sydney involving
defendants of Pakistani background outraged the community. A defence barrister
reportedly claimed his client’s crimes were an inevitable result of
“cultural conditioning” as the defendant grew up in Pakistan where
traditional views are held about women.

Traditional views? To gang-rape a woman is deemed traditional? One
Sydney lawyer, Ms Wajiha Ahmed, was outraged by the claims. She was cited
in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph as stating: “To make this excuse of where a
person came from and that they lived a traditional life, is not good
enough. This is a travesty for all women, not just white Anglo-Saxon
women, but for all women.”

But it isn’t just Muslim communities that subject women to violence. In
the great bastion of Judeo-Christian values that is 21st century
Australia, domestic violence is on the increase. Yes, something is rotten
across the Tasman as well.

On October 27, the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics released
a report that showed reported incidents of domestic violence had
increased across NSW by some 50% over the past 7 years. During the period of
1997 to 2004, rates in Sydney alone increased by 40%.

The trends are predictable, but the figures are alarming. Most women
are abused by current or former male partners. 36% of incidents involved
the abuse of alcohol by perpetrators. In the past year, some 86% of
incidents occurred in or near the victim’s or someone else’s home. Around
one-third of victims suffered injuries – mostly bruising, red marks,
minor cuts or bleeding.

Some 15% of victims suffer more serious injuries – fractures, burns and
internal injuries. And who knows what emotional and psychological scars
women bear as a result of domestic violence.

We read these statistics. We read what women activists are saying about
domestic violence. But what about men? What steps are men taking?

November 25 is my mother’s birthday. It is also White Ribbon Day, the
United Nations’ designated International Day for the Elimination of
Violence Against Women. On this day, men claim the issue of violence
against women as a men’s issue.

Which makes sense. After all, the overwhelming majority of acts of
violence against women are perpetrated by men. It is only appropriate that
men be the ones to champion non-violent relationships amongst other

White Ribbon Day began in Canada in 1991, on the second anniversary of
a massacre in which one man killed 14 women in Montreal. Since then, in
countries across the world, men have been wearing white ribbons to
signify their opposition to all forms of violence against women.

An important feature of the White Ribbon Day campaign is the role
played by male ambassadors who are at the heart of the campaign to inform
and agitate to eliminate violence against women. Among Australian
ambassadors for White Ribbon Day are three Australian Muslim men (including
myself), as well as men from across the spectrum of Australian society.
They include footballers, politicians, entertainers, lawyers,
politicians and businessmen. They include indigenous and not-so-indigenous

White Ribbon Day is about turning violence against women into a men’s
issue. The men involved as ambassadors for White Ribbon Day are not
perfect in their relations with women. But if we remain silent on the
issue, we may as well be lending a helping hand to those who perpetrate
violence against women.

Men really have only two choices when it comes to violence against
women. They either speak out or they effectively lend a hand. Or perhaps a
fist. Or a broken bottle. Or some other implement being used. The
choice is ours.

(The author is a Sydney lawyer and occasional lecturer in the School of
Politics at Macquarie University. He is an ambassador for White Ribbon
Day 2005. iyusuf@sydneylawyers.com.au)


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