Sunday, October 16, 2016

Honor Killing and Misogyny are Two Sides of the Same Coin

(You can also read the article here.)

We are horrified by honor killings and rightly so. That’s why when Pakistan, a country where the practice is prevalent, passed a tough law against it on October 6, we cautiously rejoiced. Perhaps now the killers of daughters and sisters in societies afflicted with this deadly vice will be brought to justice.

A day later, we learned of remarks Donald Trump made in 2005 to a group of admiring toadies on a studio bus about the apparently irresistible attraction he exerted on women. 

Married in January of that year to his third and current wife Melania, he boasted in language unprintable in a family newspaper how he could grope women at will because of his celebrity status. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” was how he summed up his ways with young, and always white, women.

Pakistan and the United States are two starkly dissimilar countries, yet the two events show that misogyny transcends both border and the GNP. Treating women as less than human, 
- main reason for honor killing - and treating them as sex objects - main reason for sexual assaults - are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.

Consider the statistics.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of sexual assaults every year, on the average, about 500 women are killed annually in Pakistan over perceived damage to ‘honor,’ which includes marrying against family’s consent, elopement, socializing with men, and ‘crimes’ of passion and ‘immoral’ behavior, as defined by men.

The new law mandates life imprisonment for convicted murderers. It has come under attack from some sections of the clergy who accused the government of trying to impose ‘Western Values’ on a Muslim country. But it has also been welcomed by Pakistan’s Human Rights advocates who hope it will bring about a cultural shift in their society.

The critical test will be whether the government has what it takes to enforce the law in Pakistan.

Although statistics vary, according to a study by the ‘National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey’with support from the ‘National Institute of Justice,' over a million American women annually are victims of sexual assault, rape or attempted rape. According to another survey commissioned by the Association of American Universities, in four years of college, more than one-fourth of undergraduate women at a large group of leading universities said they had been sexually assaulted.

What adds to these chilling numbers are the victims of sex trafficking who often go undetected and unreported.  According to the ‘National Human Trafficking Resource Center,' in the first six months of 2016 alone, about 4,000 sex-trafficking cases have been reported in the U.S. (Worldwide, the estimate is over 20 million annually). 

One of the main enablers of sex-trafficking is a web-based company called ‘Backpage,’ about which Kamala Harris, California’s Attorney General who is running for the U.S. Senate in the November election, said: “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.” 

Harris issued a warrant that led to the arrest of Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, on felony charges of ‘pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping.’

It happened on the same day that we learned of Trump’s infamous tape.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” declared First Lady Hillary Clinton at the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995.

It is true that our awareness of the violence of honor killing and misogyny since then have increased but real progress in these areas have been painfully slow. Far too many men worldwide, educated and uneducated alike, continue to treat women as chattels and far too many women continue to be victims of men, often paying with their lives. Far too many men take pride in their propensity for objectifying women while denying it outright. We just witnessed this in the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump when the Republican nominee repeated what has got to down as one of the most Orwellian lies of all time: “Nobody respects women more than I do!”

Honor killings by powerful or conservative families in many poor countries, and sexual assaults by powerful men in many rich countries, with the lucrative business of
sex-trafficking flourishing in rich and poor countries alike, are driven by the same factors of power, lust, cruelty, greed and insecurity. We must use a combination of enforceable law, exemplary punishment and education to ensure that women enjoy the same privileges of freedom, dignity and honor that men like Donald Trump seek to destroy with their action.


Arifur Rahman said...

Do you know any example of honor killing in Bangladesh? Just curious

HZR said...

I have not heard of any. If anyone knows about it, please post here.