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Woman's body has become a threat to her life

We come from all around the globe. We emerge from different backgrounds. We speak different languages, and hold different nationalities. Yet, unfortunately, as women we suffer from the same inequalities and gender based-violence everywhere in the world.

This violence begins early for some of us. It starts while we are still floating in the safety of our mother’s womb when outside the father, the family, and the community declare that they prefer a boy - a son. It continues up until we rise into adulthood and find ourselves judged and punished by society for the sole reason that we are women.

In Tunisia, women are the victims of this violence though we stood up for dignity and freedom, side by side with men, for the same cause.

During Tunisia’s revolution, I saw the many different kinds of violence to which women might be subjected. A Woman’s body becames a threat to her life. In the aftermath of the ex-President fleeing the country, one of the first outcomes was the kidnapping and raping of girls.

This behavior became so normalized that men and boys even joked about it on Facebook. They said: “if a girl today isn’t kidnapped, it means that they’re not beautiful.” It’s funny for these men because they've never experienced rape or how much it can affect the psyche, never mind the body.

Since then, the police has been taking advantage of the chaos. They took every opportunity to sexually harass women – from looking, to staring, to touching, to raping and beating and insulting. I can’t call these attitudes anything but animalistic. Some police acted in gangs to inflict violence on women as happened this past September.

Even before the revolution, I didn’t feel that I could walk by myself securely in the street at 3am, for instance, without being afraid of being insulted or raped. During last year unrest, I would be lucky not to be beaten or raped on any given day!

This violence is worldwide. Three days ago, I watched a documentary entitled “Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan”. It shows that even when people say that they want to make women happy, they terrorize them! It is called an amusing tradition, but it is not funny at all. In fact, from Kyrgyzstan, a tiny country in central Asia, to the rest of the world, women suffer from different forms of gender-based violence either under the name of tradition and culture, or under the pretext of religious teachings, or during and following conflicts, wars or political and economic crises.

This violence is verbal, and surrounds us in the whispers of our society. As a woman, I have heard all kinds of sexist statements even when visiting the supposed democracies of the world that guarantee women’s rights. The same kinds of jokes are everywhere: an American friend said to me some time ago, during an innocent conversation on driving: “you’re a girl, you can’t drive!” I face the same sexism in my home country, Tunisia. The same stereotypes: my ex asked me once our relationship got to engagement: “Do you know how to cook?”

This sort of question seems normal, since most girls I suppose have been asked this question by their boyfriends sooner or later – but try reversing the situation. It wouldn’t sound like an ordinary question if we ask them the same. Why? Is this women’s role in life? I still call these men and boys my friends, however. I refuse to simply get depressed from patriarchal attitudes. Instead we should try to change perspectives, one person at a time, to arrive at an understanding of who women are and what our role in society is today.

This is gender inequality we face and challenge every day in school, at home or at the workplace - only asking for work valued equal to men, the right to drive like men, or lead our businesses, or choose our partners as men do. I feel that these issues can be solved through dialogue and debate without engendering major losses - but what about the greater sexual and gender based violence and its effects on women? How do we address this?

We should not remain the victim anymore. It is also our role as women to raise awareness, to protect our fellow women and to help them understand that they are born with unalienable rights and freedoms.

Blogging is one way that I use to empower women, to give them a voice and reveal the violations that are otherwise hidden away in different corners. Blogging for me is the practice of 'citizen journalism' which is needed in every community.

One of the first articles I posted was about women’s experiences , simply because we need to realize; it is a daily experience as a woman to talk about my issues and violations. I have a voice, and now I am bringing it out of the silence.

It has always been a challenge to get women talk openly about their experiences, especially sexual violence by police and authorities. Women have been taught that both law and society will take the side of the violator and not the violated, where she is a woman. This continues into today – think again of the Tunisian woman that was recently arrested and charged with public indecency. And why? Because she had been gang raped by police officers!

Despite these hurdles, I am proud to say that Tunisian women were and still actively participating in our revolution. Women were among the first who rise up high our revolutionary slogans and they have been part of all crucial moments. We have been the protesters, the journalists, the volunteers, the elections observers, the campaigners… all this in spite of the violence we live in fear of from the bus station till arriving to the demonstration square.

I would like to leave you on a hopeful note. I was once asked by a Yemeni friend, “if you were born again would you choose to be a man or a woman?” I answered immediately: “I would be a WOMAN!”

A proud woman proves herself every day and changes her community. YOU should also be proud of being a woman. It is not your sex that you should change but the society that you live in.

This post is "originally published at Women Living Under Muslim Laws http://www.wluml.org/news/day-1016-activism-against-gender-violence-right-be-woman"

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Love this!

Dear Emi,

Thank you so much for posting this very confident and inspiring writing! The underlying attitudes that exists regarding claims about the inferiority of women need to be exposed now more than ever as violence against them spins out of control. Women's voices are so important. I am very glad you have chosen to be one of them!

Leslie Stoupas

Aya Chebbi's picture

Very insighteful

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for your comment. Indeed, women's voices have to be spread out loud to the whole world to realize that we are as a Tunisian feminist Taher Hadded says: "half of humankind" and without this half humanity will be unbalanced!

peace

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

Kadidia's picture

Women's Empowerment

Dear Emi,

Thank you for your comment.
It seems that violence against women has increased this year at a time when the UN and Women's organizations are speaking up and requesting the respect of women's civil rights.
I am proud to be a woman and I will always fight for my rights as a human being.

I like your answer: “I would be a WOMAN!”

Kadidia Doumbia

Aya Chebbi's picture

Dear Kadidia, I am totally

Dear Kadidia,

I am totally proud to hear from you "I am proud to be a woman and I will always fight for my rights as a human being".
That's made my day.

All the best,

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

Kadidia's picture

Women's Empowerment

Dear Ami,

You're so welcome. Let's stand together for our rights.

Kadidia Doumbia

mrbeckbeck's picture

Great!

This is a great campaign post! I appreciate hearing from your perspective how women in Tunisia have been affected by violence... unfortunately the story all too similar across the world. The hopeful point to remember is that there's another story that is shared across borders-- the story of resilience, of standing up and shouting for equality in the face of violence and discrimination.

Thanks for speaking out and using tech and blogging as tools for social change! Together we can do great things.

Kind regards,

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Aya Chebbi's picture

Thank you for your input

Dear Scott,

The hope lies in what you've just mentioned. As much as there are stories of violence against women across the world, there are also those defenders, activists and advocators dedicated to women's empowerment.

Blogging for me is a duty!

Peace

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

topieopolot's picture

dear Emi , thank you for

dear Emi , thank you for posting this story, it is sad for the part that we continue to suffer in this era and that women before us suffered. Your story reminds me of what is happening in the DRC, where women are being raped day in and day put. this has become the trend of wars. I fear for all women out there, in war torn areas, regions where pple hide behind cultures, or religions to dictate a woman,s life.
as you said we should concentrate in changing the societies in which we come from and we as women must stand up for our selves.
Also i hope you are fairly safe what with insurgencies every where and knowing repercussions that come with it.
take care and bye

Aya Chebbi's picture

Thank you for your concern

Dear sister,

I read about women's stories in Congo from World Pulse and I stay astonished every time by both the shocking violence and inequalities but also by the Congolese power and continuous fight. I am proud of you and of women in your society who are empowered to change their communities.

Stay blessed sister

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Thank you, Emi!

Dear Emi,

I've just read your testimony regarding the injustices and gender violence to which Tunisian women are subjected. Your sentence, "A woman's body becomes a threat to her life," is astonishing and eye-opening. Because, although it sounds so strange and shocking, it's so true! Under the circumstance you describe, women can do nothing to protect themselves. And so we must all step up and speak up in support of those who are forced into silence through oppression.

I echo what the other comments here shout out to you: that your voice, Emi, is a crucial one and that together we can make a difference.

With Respect and Gratitude,

Sarah

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby

Aya Chebbi's picture

Thank for your support

Dear Sarah,

As you perfectly highlighted , giving a voice to every woman in today's injustice should be on our top agendas as individuals, communities, institutions and nations.

Thank you for your support
Peace

Aya Chebbi
Proudly Tunisian

workworkwork's picture

Pheonix Rising

Dear Emi,

You are enormously courageous and pro-active. I loved the fact that you have found a way to enable your voice to be heard by blogging. Keep posting because many are reading your message stated at the end of your post,- "It is not your sex you should change, but the society you live in," and passing it along, one woman at a time.

Excellent insight and reporting. Please keep posting.

Deborah

Anita Muhanguzi's picture

I am proud to be a woman

Dear Emi,
Thank you for your lovely insight on violence against women and what we should change. I have and will always be proud to a woman because i believe we are the stringer sex, we are the ones who bear the children and this is a great task that God assigned to us. For sure if i asked to be reborn i would still want to be a WOMAN and i strongly believe that it is the society that needs to be changed and not the woman. Thank you my dear and God bless you.

Mrs. Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Head of Legal and Advocacy
Centre for Batwa Minorities
a.kiddu@gmail.com
cfmlegal@gmail.com
Skype: mrs_muhanguzi

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