War on Gender-Based Violence and Inequity
This is the longer version of my VOF application's Week-2 assignment: http://worldpulse.com/node/68965
It has been published today by the Independent Bangladesh (a popular English daily newspaper in Bangladesh) because in light of Nigella Lawson and Mita Noor's cases, it is relevant and timely: http://bit.ly/12qKsUK
I live in a society where a woman’s struggle begins way before she is born. A tiny lump of flesh and blood, she is unable to plead for a chance to live as her parents opt for sex-selective abortion. I live in a society where the birth of a girl casts a gloom of uncertainties on the face of her parents. She is placed in the warm embrace of a mid-wife, another female, only to be murdered, buried alive, or abandoned by her for a paltry sum of money. I live in a society where girls are given dolls and make-up whereas boys are given toy-cars and books. I live in a society where girls receive one spoonful of rice when her brother receives two.
I live in a society where a woman is considered aggressive, Western, and even Satanic if she is expressive, independent, educated, and ambitious. She is perceived as a threat to modesty and religious values. She is held in contempt by her male peers and supervisors. I live in a society where beauty of a woman is judged by her looks, not by her character or intellect. I live in a society where chocolate-skinned, healthy women are hardly venerated. I live in a society where a woman is pressurized to be obsessed with fashion trends even if her interests and capabilities lie elsewhere. I live in a society where a woman’s choices are dictated by others and she is expected to submit to the will of others. I live in a society where men are the decision-makers, the bread-winners, the leaders.
I live in a society where certain roles, such as nursing, teaching, sewing, and cooking, are set aside for a woman. Invisible limits are placed on a woman’s mental and physical capacity. As a result, a particular advertisement featuring a female truck-driver seems comical to the masses. I live in a society where a woman attracts undue attention if she decides to drive a vehicle. I live in a society where a woman is instructed, from a very young age, to occupy herself solely in being a perfect housewife as exemplified by her ability to cook, to obey and serve the husband, to compromise, and to gossip about others, while watching soap operas with her mother-in-law. I live in a society where marriage is propagated as the conclusion, rather than an evolving plot, of a woman’s story.
I live in a society where a girl as young as eight or nine is married off, often to a man several times her age, as a means of safeguarding her future. If fortunate enough, she gets married when she is prepared, albeit to a person she hardly knows, to a person chosen by anyone but her. I live in a society where a woman’s marriage is secured by dowry just as a loan is secured by collateral. I live in a society where a woman is discouraged or even prohibited to seek divorce. I live in a society where “working mothers” exist, not “working parents.” I live in a society that believes a woman is a gullible creature who should remain at home, with no social life of her own.
I live in a society where the economic opportunities for a woman is sparse as she is encouraged to financially rely first on her father and then on her husband. I live in a society where a woman is not entitled to the same wages as her male counterparts. Not surprisingly, a certain bank’s form (that is mandatory to be completed while opening an account) states “Dear Sir” (with no mention of “Madam”) and the waiter at a posh restaurant in Gulshan-1 greets the male customers and takes order only from them, serving the ladies later if noticed at all. After all, it is the norm for men to earn and pay. A woman is a bystander with no control over finances, over her own property at times.
I live in a society where a woman is easily labeled a prostitute, a witch, an adulteress, an inauspicious widow or barren, and is flogged with 100 lashes, stoned to death, or burnt on pyres. I live in a society where women too conspire against other women in a property-grabbing bid, often driving out the legal but weak owners; separate a mother from her son; slander an accomplished woman; and hand over a female friend to a pack of lustful hyenas.
I live in a society where a woman risks remaining unmarried for life if she loses her temper yet a man is honoured for doing the same. I live in a society where women are blamed for rapes, domestic violence, extra-marital affairs, divorce, acid-attacks, and unruly children. I live in a society where a woman is frequently beaten by her male family members as a method of disciplining her. I live in a society where a woman is forced to be accompanied outdoors by a male guardian. I live in a society where a woman’s right to sexual pleasure is curbed by female genital mutilation. I live in a society where a woman is not even aware of her rights. If she happens to know them, she is expected to suppress them.
I live in a society where oppression against women is acceptable, where it becomes a defining part of the culture. Such a society transcends across geographical boundaries and occupies every corner of the world. Now is the time to challenge the status-quo and overturn centuries of oppression against women globally.