To my sisters in Africa fighting for even access to education, To the daughters in India forced to marry as a child and have her dreams snatched away, To the mothers in Mexico and Afghanistan facing domestic violence because the government failed to protect you , To the women around the world who face sexual assault, abuse, low pay wage working 10x harder than a male coworker who makes more, not getting inadequate health care. May you overcome the gender discrimination. WE SEE YOUR STRUGGLES AND WILL KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOU!
An Indian state has shut high schools and colleges for three days after a row over the hijab that has gained international attention after Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai weighed in. The government of Karnataka state in southern India took the decision after protests by students over Muslim women wearing headscarves in the classroom escalated into […]Protests in India as Karnataka state moves to ban hijabs in schools – BBC News
Written By- Mubina C
“He doesn’t let me see my child!”
Erica shouted at the other person on the line. It was my second year in college. We had 15 minutes for the Biology class to start and were both waiting outside the lecture hall. She hung up the phone in rage, wiping her tears with the sleeves of her sweatshirt. I could not resist and asked her if she was ok. She looked down in misery with tears dropping on her open textbook. She told me she was fighting a complicated custody battle of her four-year-old son.
Erica got pregnant when she was a junior in high school. Afraid to be a single parent, she continued to stay in an abusive relationship with her child’s father. One day during an argument, Erica’s boyfriend attempted to beat her. To save herself, she threw a paperweight at him, which accidentally hit her son. He was hurt so severely that they had to take him to the ER, where her boyfriend, upset about Erica fighting back, accused her of hitting her son and child neglect. Since Erica didn’t have a stable job after high school and never contacted domestic violence support about her abuse, her boyfriend was given temporary custody. She luckily didn’t go to prison because the act was proven unintentional but reckless. However, she had to take court-ordered parenting classes and pay an attorney $3,000, given to her by friends and family. Erica decided to transform her life while continuing to fight for her son.
I wondered how many Erica’s there were in the U.S prison who weren’t that fortunate. How many women linger in an abusive relationship with their children too scared to get out? End up getting killed? Alternatively, sent to jail for attacking their abuser in self-defense?. Even with domestic violence support and human services, it is not always easy for abuse victims to get up and walk out. Even after the abuser is detained, he could get out of jail in less than two years. Unfortunately, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating the abuse despite issuing a restraining order.
- Nan hui Jo escaped an abusive relationship by fleeing to her home country with her daughter. The father reported her for child abduction in 2009. She stated that she didn’t know that she and her child could not leave the country to escape and not violate her U.S citizenship in 2014. She served 175 days in jail and lost her child’s custody.
- Marissa Alexander was prosecuted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend. She fired shots at the garage door when she couldn’t get it to open and escape. Even though no one was injured, she was sentenced to 20 years in jail. However, her conviction was overturned in 2013, and she renegotiated a deal to serve three years in prison and two years on house arrest.
- Bresha Meadows, 14 years old, shot and killed her abusive father in Ohio in 2016. She had reported her father to authorities multiple times but was dismally turned away. She spent a year in juvenile detention.
The list goes on…
In 2018, van der Leun started a project to provide that context and tell the complete stories of battered girls and women serving time for their victimhood being criminalized. Out of 5,098 surveys being sent to 45 detention facilities in 22 states, only 608 were completed. 60% reported abuse before being incarcerated. 43% confirmed their partner abused them. In comparison, 41% killed their abusers while claiming to be protecting themselves. That is 250 women serving years in prison for self-defense. Sadly, This is not even 1/3 of the actual numbers.
Around 4,000 women are killed yearly due to domestic violence in the United States. Approximately 75% of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left an abusive relationship. So what options are there for women repeatedly traumatized by abuse other than leaving their home in a body bag or handcuffs?
“You are disgusting, and this is what you deserve” – slur said to an Ethiopian rape survivor.
‘Look at how many children you can have. Now you are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Chetniks,’ said a Serbian white eagle gunman to a Bosnian Muslim rape survivor.
“Now you’re engaged, but after we rape you, no one will marry you.” – Kurdish rape survivor taunted by her captors.
There are countless slurs like the ones above that are said to war rape survivors by their rapists. Yet, they can’t do anything but endure the pain. They are displaced, their family murdered, raped, and everything taken away from them, waiting years for justice to be served. When rape occurs during the war, it is very insulting to the community’s honor. Other communities and countires are not as accepting as in the west. Women must cope with the physical and psychological trauma of rape and the possibility of rejection by their families.
Sexual assault in a war has been occurring since the classical period. Before laws against sexual violence during any war came into place, it was acceptable for a man to use a woman as legitimate booty, valuable as wives, slave labor, or battle-camp trophy. Capturing the wealth and property of an enemy was regarded as a legitimate reason for war in itself. Women were considered lawful property of a man. Therefore, the rape of a woman was considered a property crime committed against the man who owned the woman. Even if we don’t see a woman as property owned by men today, females are judged as weak. A women’s sexual purity holds the honor for her and her community. When she is raped, that honor is taken away from her and her people. Her community indirectly blames her for the shame they have to face.
It was not until 1994 that rape was considered a war crime by the U.N. Near the second half of the 20th century, cases of rape were documented in more than 20 military and paramilitary conflicts. The international community became aware of this, especially after reports of mass rape of Bosnian women during the 90s’ Balkan war and the genocide in Rwanda (1994). That sexual abuse is intentionally used as a weapon to destroy whole populations, terrorize people and drive them from their homes. Unfortunately, the government does not give victims of rape proper psychological care, leaving them traumatized.
Children of war
During the Bosnian war, more than 50,000 Muslim women were raped and forcefully impregnated by Serbian soldiers. There are around 4,000 children born out of those rapes. Many of the children were abandoned right after birth or given up for adoption because the children reminded the mothers of the horror they had to go through. In 2018 Rohingya women shared a similar faith. Raped by Myanmar soldiers and militiamen and impregnated, they were forced to flee to Bangladesh for safety. However, since Bangladesh doesn’t allow abortion after the first trimester, most women had to keep the baby.
What we can do to help
Educate others that rape in war should be spoken about and brought attention to. Help provide counseling to the victims and those affected. We must change people’s attitudes that women and girls are just as worthy as men and boys. Donate to charities that help survivors of war rape and children born from war rape.
I am a woman of color
the one who is racially profiled
and wrongfully convicted
are my race, ethnicity, and faith such a threat?
why do I wanting the same privilege as you
makes you so upset?
I am a woman of color
who is attacked and falsely accused
for starting a pandemic and putting the world in a troubled state
if only they knew a much worse disease is hate
I am a woman of color
who doesn't get a callback or a job interview
for this reason only, "my name does not sound white enough"
but I keep my head high and remain tough
I am a woman of color
who suffers violent crimes
The world disregarding my silent cries
I am a woman of color who is killed in the name of honor
raised to believe the only way a lady can fit into society is to be proper
if I have the freedom to wear whatever I want
why am I viewed as oppressed
when I choose to cover myself?
Or a flaunter if I am provocatively dressed?
I am a woman of color
who is exoticized and hypersexualized
in American films dominated by white men
objectifying and degrading me again and again
I am a woman of color
who is excluded and have my dreams shattered
like my voice never mattered
everyone ignoring my troubles
If you turn off social media you will see, white women are not the only ones
with tears and struggles
BY- Mubina C
Stop disparaging other Muslim females in the name of modesty. At times individuals in our community are too quick to judge other Muslim sisters on how they follow Islam just because they see a hijab on their head. There are countless times I have scrolled through social media reading comments by non-hijabis and Muslim men on how a Muslimah should wear her hijab and act. Some passing rude remarks like, “if you can’t wear it right, take it off” on their photos.
As a Muslim woman who struggles with wearing the hijab herself, I want to make it clear that WEARING A HIJAB DOES NOT MAKE US PERFECT MUSLIMS! YES, WE SIN AND MAKE MISTAKES, WE DO PARTY (HALAL WAY), WE DO HAVE CRUSHES, WE DO HAVE GUY FRIENDS, WE HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS OF STYLING OUR HIJAB AND LIKE TO PAIR IT WITH SKINNY JEANS. We do the same things that our non-hijabi Muslimahs do. If you feel that you need to advice a Muslim woman on modesty it could be done privately not by publicly shaming them. If they don’t want to take you advice it is their choice and shouldn’t be forced on them.
But even if that makes us look like a not-so-perfect Muslim woman, we dare to roam around in a western country being the face of Islam. Some of you brothers and sisters are so quick to pass judgment but would not be able to walk a day in our shoes. If I had a dollar for every time I have been called a towelhead, terrorist, a F***** Arab, let’s say it would have helped a lot with my college tuition. I have not only been verbally abused but physically attacked just because I chose to cover myself.
Westerners look at us with piety because they think we are being oppressed. If that isn’t bad enough, we have our brothers and sisters belittling us because we don’t wear the hijab a certain way. I know many other hijabis have experienced the same thing. Yet, we still wear it with pride. Like many of you tell us, we could take it off, and life would become so much easier, but we are not quitters. Our sisters before us didn’t carry a long fight to wear the hijab in a western country just for us to quit. Remember, next time you criticize a hijabi on how she wears her hijab, know that she goes through hell to represent the Muslim community you are part of.
Talking about period has always been taboo, mainly in the 3rd world countries. Women for years have been trying to end the shame associated with it while fighting to make sanitary products affordable. Taboo surrounding menstruation excludes women and girls from many aspects of social and cultural life. It’s time we get rid of the period taboo and have an open conversation with both genders about menstruation and how the female reproductive system works.
I remembered when I was thirteen and had suddenly gotten my period on my trip to India. There was an all-women gathering at my friend’s home, and I asked her for a pad. She looked at me in surprise and pulled me to the side. She took out two pads from her closet, wrapped them in a plastic bag, and handed them to me. I didn’t understand what I did that made her feel embarrassed. Why didn’t she want any of the ladies to notice she was giving me a pad. I later asked my mom, who explained that girls in developing countries are not supposed to talk about their period, especially in public. Even if it’s the 21st century, people still believe that menstruating women are impure and dirty. Girls are made to feel ashamed about getting their period and associate it with something negative. That indicates many young girls are not taught safe, hygienic practices or even about the reproductive system due to social shame.
I didn’t realize what a vast taboo it was in India until my dad went to pray in a mosque in Bombay, and my mom and I had to stand outside because there wasn’t a women section to pray. Muslim women in India are told to offer prayer at home because it’s assumed to be better for them. They are also not allowed to enter a mosque when menstruating. That is why most mosques don’t have a separate room for ladies to pray their Salah. Hindu women are also asked not to enter the temple during menses.
Superstitions about periods around the world
Many of the elderly population in different countries believe that periods are a curse given to women and hold many superstitions. In India, women are not allowed in the kitchen of their own homes or touch anyone for several days until it passes. In places like Poland and Italy, menstruating women should not touch a flower or plant because it’s believed to die quicker. In Bolivia, you shouldn’t hold babies during the time of the month if you do it can cause them to get sick or die. As more people learn about the female reproductive system and myths, period superstitions are becoming a thing of the past.
How education is affected
Period taboo doesn’t just stop there. It also affects young girls’ education in India and other developing countries. About 23 million young girls drop out of school every year after their period begins due to the lack of awareness and the availability of appropriate menstrual hygiene products. Many young girls fear classmates would mock them if it stained their clothes. In H.S, teachers find it a delicate topic and avoid talking about it. When they try to discuss it with their students, there are looks of disgust and discomfort on their faces. In India, an H.S teacher stated, “we avoid talking about menstruation because we will then have to talk about sexual education. That is also a taboo topic that parents should discuss with their children, not us. If we talk about it, parents say we are trying to corrupt Indian culture.”
Countless women in India cannot afford sanitary napkins. Some females use old rags and cloths repeatedly, causing infections. There are also other countries like Kenya, where 65% of girls don’t have access to sanitary pads and tampons. Females suffering from period poverty resort to using leaves from trees, the insides of mattresses, socks, or even reusing dirty sanitary pads. Places in Nepal have huts away from home where women stay until their cycle is over.
What we could do to help
Many foundations have been created to educate women and men about menstruating and end period poverty. Your donation can help a young girl continue her education and bring change.
Written By- Mubina C
It was the Fall of 2017. I was on the F train going home after a long day at work. It was getting dark, and there weren’t many people in the subway car. After a few stops, the doors opened, and a blonde woman in her early 30’s walked in and sat down few seats away from me. She held this beautiful green handbag.
“Nice purse” I told her. “Thanks” she responded with a smile. We had a 40 minutes long conversation in which one of the questions I asked her was what she did for a living. “I am an escort” she told me. At that time, I had no idea what that was, and there was no WIFI on the train for me to search it up on google.
“what’s that?” I asked with a confused look on my face. “It’s when you get paid to spend time with someone at a social event.” she replied. I was surprised I never heard about people giving money to spend time with them. For a moment, I thought about quitting my retail job and becoming an escort myself. “That’s so cool! how much do you make, if you don’t mind me asking?” I know it was a personal question I don’t usually ask people, but this was the first time I learned such a job exists. “around $400-$700 per hour.” I was extremely shocked. After almost breaking every bone in my body and putting my mental health at risk, that was the amount I made in a one-week paycheck. I have made many friends and spent time with them, but the most I had gotten was a Starbucks coffee.
Before I could start asking her more questions, she cut me off by telling me that being an escort is somewhat like prostitution. At times escorts are paid to have sex with the person they are accompanying. She looked a little embarrassed and continued by saying, “I don’t tell people because they are likely to judge.” I understood what she was trying to say, and it was true. I asked her why she told me a “hijabi woman” wasn’t she afraid I might say something or judge her?
” Yeah. But you seem nice,” she responded. I thanked her and changed the topic before it could get more awkward. We started talking about college courses, and she informed me she had a degree in graphic design. I didn’t understand and had to question her why she worked as an escort after having a degree. She said it was a quick way to give her brother financial help, who was fighting cancer. Her brother was the only family she had. Her mother passed away when she was a teenager, and her father abandoned their family right after her brother was born. She did work as a graphic designer for a year or so. Unfortunately, most of her salary went into paying rent and bills. She made more money as an escort in NYC than two proper jobs and overtime.
She told me many of her childhood friends were Muslim. They would bring her Indian sweets during the month of Ramadan. Some of them she was still friends with and had them on Facebook. “you are a strong woman, and your brother is lucky to have a sister like you.” I assured her. After volunteering at a senior center with many cancer patients last summer, I wanted to help her. I wrote a list of organizations that give cancer individuals financial assistance and ways to get it. She was thankful and relieved that someone was willing to help and not pass judgment. Her stop came, and we said our goodbyes. That was the last time I saw her. When she left, I kept thinking about the struggles and offensive comments this woman must have been facing.
At times we are so quick to judge others we ignore to ask what’s the reason and how they are coping with that problem. Even though sex work is shunned and many reasons why that is. We are all human beings who require emotional support and respect. Someone’s life choices shouldn’t be the reason why they don’t deserve that. That day was the first time I had a conversation with a sex worker. Talking to her made me realize that society looks down on prostitution but not the people paying for it. What about the males who exploit and abuse these women? Shouldn’t they be held accountable?.
Sex work has been practiced since the beginning of time and is illegal in many countries. After society and religion came into existence, governing systems were designed. Whatever disturbs this system, such as prostitution, is criticized. The community believes that prostitutes sell their moral value for money and don’t hold dignity. After many decades, men have never been responsible for their sexual behavior, but women still are. In many cultures, a woman’s body is referred to as a temple and is supposed to guard it and prevent male sexual behavior.
Prostitution may be forced or a choice, but it is our responsibility as decent human beings to not judge and try to understand why and how they are in that profession. Try providing help and not ridicule them. If you feel someone is sex trafficked, don’t overlook it and reach out to authorities.
At least every woman has been told once in her life to “act like a lady” by her mother or older women in her family. It is a term used to control and discipline young girls during the years. Simply it means not to do anything that doesn’t look ladylike in front of society. Acting like a lady has to do with your etiquette. How a female should behave and act in the presence of others.
Where did the word “lady” come from?
The term lady was developed in the 19th century and was the equivalent of gentleman. It used to describe only women of high social class or status. The women during that time practiced acting more feminine and classy so suitors would give them attention. The word “lady” itself means strength and respect but has been misused to disparage women. When a girl is told to “act like a lady,” she is described as not equal and having less power than men. People who tell young girls to act feminine are basically saying girls can’t act a certain way or do things because of their gender. Gender stereotypes like this hold women back, making them believe they cannot succeed in life because of their sex. It causes as much harm as telling young boys to “man up” and not share their feelings.
The problem with “Boys will be Boys”
We have been using stereotypes throughout history to control one gender’s behavior and not the other’s. “Boys will be boys,” for example, has always been used to excuse poor behavior in males for years. The phrase developed in 1589 Britain originating from a Latin proverb, “children are children and do childish things.” however, like the term “lady” was misused to discredit the female gender, the word “children” was switched to “boys” to excuse the attitude and actions of men all ages. The idea that aggression and bad behavior are something boys are born with and expressing that behavior is normal does wrong. Unfortunately, “Boys will be boys” has been used to justify serious offenses like sexual assault (Steubenville 2012 Rape case). The phrase leads boys to assume that they are free to do as they please without facing the consequences because of their gender.
What can we do?
Gender stereotyping has been harmful and prevents both men and women from developing their personal and professional abilities. It lowers self-esteem leading to depression and anxiety. We should try to eliminate gender stereotypes and educate others about its damaging effects. Talk and train parents to avoid sexist behavior and raise their boys and girls the same way. Help our children understand stereotyping, and if they feel being treated differently because of their gender, they should address it.
Written by- Mubina C