India: It’s all connected!

Yet again, another horrifying rape case shakes India, reminding us of the rampant violence

Street art in India

Street art in India, Pondicherry

against women in the country. However, I think I’m mostly baffled by the lack of analyses of why these acts of violence occur in the first place. How can one expect a society to respect girls and women when families only want boys? What kind of signals does it send when the birth of a daughter is of less value than that of a boy, and mothers are blamed when they don’t have any sons? The ramifications for the country’s demography are serious, when so many female embryos are aborted. It seriously skews the sex balance in the country, and leads to a large surplus of boys and men. This leads to many men having difficulties in getting married, and women become sources of frustration and anger, which in turn leads to the horrific cases of rape and sexual violence. It also leads to an increase of trafficking of the most vulnerable girls and women, and sex slavery. In addition, how can one expect people to have a natural relationship to the opposite sex and sexuality when they live so segregated from each others, and normal  interactions are restricted? When girls’ and young women’s worth only equals their chastity and virginity status?

Things are changing in the cities, but in many parts of the country, traditions and conservative gender stereotypes still prevail. Nobody wins from this, and both women and men suffer from the consequences.

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Save the women and children! But what about the men?

Palais des Nations - the main UN building in Geneva where Syrian peace talks currently are taking place.

Palais des Nations – the main UN building in Geneva where Syrian peace talks currently are taking place.

The Geneva II conference agreement of today allows women and children of the city Homs to leave immediately to seek safety. I cannot help but wonder why women’s lives are considered to be more valuable than men’s. It’s the same thinking which allowed women and children to leave sinking boats first, and fuels the stereotype that men’s responsibility is to sacrifice themselves and die for the greater good. Why shouldn’t women do the same?

Everybody has an opinion about gender equality

GenderEven if I use money every day, I would never claim to be an economist or have the audacity to write an article about finance. Even if I use a phone every day, I would shut up and listen when technicians explain to my why it’s not working. The same with oxygen… I breath it every day, but wouldn’t claim to understand the chemistry behind it. However, strangely enough, with regards to gender equality, everybody seems to have a strong opinion about it based on their own experiences, and think of themselves as authorities on the subject just because they are a gender, or perhaps because they are vaguely known in a totally different area of expertise. I wonder if people who work with gender equality ever will get any respect for our knowledge, except hear that we are “feminist man-haters”. Sigh.

Graffiti in Beirut

I was strolling the streets of Beirut this morning when I saw this graffiti on a wall (among several others). Good, important message, still much work to do.

Graffiti in Beirut

Graffiti in Beirut

But I love their pasta!

Guido Barilla, chairman of the Italian pasta brand Barilla, has stated that they will never make an advert with a homosexual family, to conserve the “sacredness of the family”. Gay groups have called for a boycott.

Nooooo! I love that pasta! Why must this Medieval Italian chauvinist be such a… Medieval, Italian chauvinist??? Urgh. This boycott will hurt. That’s for sure. 😦

Article about the case from The Guardian

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Beirut traffic/gender activism

Walking in the streets of central Beirut, and this sign suddenly turned up. A nice surprise, apparently thanks to a parking service company!

Parking/gender sign in Beirut

Child marriages are pedophilia and slavery!

Let’s talk about child marriages. I was recently disgusted by an article about how an 8 year old girl died on her wedding night as she was raped by her 40 year old “husband” (read “rapist”):

8-year-old Yemeni child dies at hands of 40-year-old husband on wedding night

Ok, so the practice of marrying girls to older men is not something new, by no means exclusive to Yemen, and we all know it exists, as this documentary shows:

The reasons for why it happens are claimed to be numerous, but one main reason which is often repeated is the wish to protect girl’s chastity and honour, especially in societies where family honour is considered as more important than respecting individuals’ human rights. It is also considered a good idea to marry girls off before they get too many opinions of their own, become stubborn and “difficult” (read: “independent and form opinions of their own”). And then, in times of poverty and crises, families can be tempted to marry off their daughters because they will get money or other benefits from it.

Child marriages are also wrongly excused with religious and cultural arguments, which are (as often) twisted in ways to serve status quo rather than to disseminate religious imperatives of doing good and respecting others.

But I think it’s about time we start calling child marriages by their real names: 1) Pedophilia and 2) Slavery.

How can any man commit a sexual act with a girl, especially a pre-pubertal girl, without being pedophile? And… are they born with pedophile tendencies, or does the society they grow up in breed and encourage acceptance of pedophilia in a way which instigates pedophile tendencies in men who don’t naturally have those urges? Food for thought.

The second point is that child marriages are glaringly similar to slavery. Child marriages are forced. Children are sold off to someone who owns them, in a way which does not allow them to break the bond if they want to. They have to do labour, and are exploited sexually.
More on this from Anti-Slavery International.

This is not to say that child marriages do not also happen to boys, because they do. But in those cases two children are more often married to each other. And yes, men may also be forced into marriages against their will, which is a violation of their rights as well. But again, more often than not, the men still have the power in the relationship due to gender stereotypes.

How to prevent child marriages? It’s a very complex challenge which needs a multitude of approaches, and it will take decades to eradicate the practice and acceptance for it. But first of all, clear laws must be established to ban it, and the judiciary systems must be functional and willing enough to enforce the law and state examples. The police must uphold the laws and abide by them themselves. Then, there must be a widespread awareness change in society, by pointing out all the negative effects it has on the child, the community and the country, in terms of health, education, and economy. Traditional and religious elders and authorities must be convinced and advocate for the ban. Child marriages is a form for gender based violence, which is linked to how women in so many societies in general are discriminated against and considered to be inferiour. So all these initiatives must go hand in hand with similar messages about women and girls’ rights, and recognition that women should have the same freedoms and possibilities as men.

Right. Perhaps we’ll see the end of child marriages in some generations or so. But that in the meantime, we have to keep fighting it.

Misogynist becomes Prime Minister

If anybody recalls about a year ago, the previous Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gilliard, made a very convincing speech about the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, of how he had been making some pretty outdated and outrageous statements about women in general, and herself.

Now he will be the next Prime Minister of Australia. Oh my…

Mother’s Day? Not here!

It might come as a surprise to all those who celebrate Mother’s Day today, second Sunday of May, but all countries do actually not celebrate Mother’s Day at the same time.

In France, Mother’s Day is at the end of May. In Norway it’s the second Sunday of February, and Father’s Day is second Sunday of November.

Which day is it in YOUR country?

Saudi Arabia – baby steps

According to BuzzFeed the first ever abuse advertisement about violence against women has been launched in Saudi Arabia. Congratulations!

 

In addition, the first film made in Saudi Arabia by a woman director sees international acclaim. According to the Green Prophet the movie ‘Wadjda’, which won the best Arabic feature film at the Dubai Film Festival, is the first full-length feature ever filmed entirely inside the country. The movie tells the story about a ten year old girl and her dream of having a bicycle (It was just recently allowed for women to ride bicycles, and only in certain enclosed places).