Friday, July 5, 2013

They need action. Now.

Hold out your hand and close your eyes.

What would you expect? A present? A surprise? Something pleasant, no less?

Hawa Akhtar. Image from here
Well, that’s what Hawa Akhter thought she’d get when her husband blindfolded her and taped her mouth, telling her he had a surprise for her.

He did have a surprise for her. A nasty one at that. He chopped off all her fingers while another relative mercilessly threw the fingers away lest a doctor seek to attach them back with surgery.

Yeah. You read right.

Why did he do it? Well, because he was dead set against her ambitions of studying. For Malala Yousufzai, it was the Taliban. For Hawa, it was her husband. Whether Malala or Hawa, there is one thing that’s clear: this is cowardly, so absolutely cowardly, because only cowardice goads one to be threatened by a girl with dreams to study, and to be threatened by the propensity of an educated society of women.

But here’s the irony in all of that. The Taliban and these oppressive husbands understand the force to reckon with that an educated woman can be, that their dominance would fail to have any effect. But we, we that call ourselves educated, are conspicuously lacking in our understanding of this. An educated and equal woman is truly a force to reckon with. So they go about oppressing women, so they can break society, so they can keep their dominance alive. And we? We support them through our rhetoric: “Silly girl! Who asked her to seek to study when her husband said no?” “She dressed provocatively, so they raped her. Good girls don’t do that.” “Oh she? She stayed out long with her boyfriend. No wonder she got raped.”

This mindset – this very notion – that a girl “deserved” what she got, though everyone knows it is WRONG, is what needs changing. As a people, as a society, as this “intelligentsia” that we love calling ourselves, we’ve failed to understand that this culture of impunity thrives because of our tacit consent: through our “she-deserved-it” speeches and tsk-tsks.

So yes: The Taliban, The Human Traffickers, The Rapists, The Oppressors: They’ve realized the significance of an educated, employed and empowered woman. They’ve realized that these women can obliterate their hard-line thinking and action. But we? We think that they are “powerful” because of their brute force. We think that we are nothing against them because they can use violence to silence us. We think that our girls deserve to be oppressed, so we do nothing about it.

And that’s why, our girls suffer.

Our girls don’t need op-ed pieces about their heroism, or their bravery. They need action. And they need it now.