Peer Shaista Shakeel
Having a daughter doesn’t make a man decent, having a wife doesn’t make a man decent; treating people with dignity and respect makes a man decent. Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an American female politician serving as the US Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional district, was seen confronting a Republican lawmaker’s verbal assault on her. In doing so, she was demanding an end to the acceptance of violent language against women. Respect for women seems to be always on ventilator. Anyone can switch it off anytime, anywhere. Violence against women has a long and structured history. It is prevalent in every nook and corner of the world. Even the valley of sufis and saints, our very own Kashmir, is full of it.
Violence against women is any act of gender-based brutality that results in or is likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual harm or suffering to women. It includes acts of coercion – whether occurring in public or private life. Though lesser than in other states of India, the amount of violence in J&K is enormous. Atrocities on women take various forms. Sexual assault, molestation, verbal abuse, blackmailing, and household abuse are the most common ones.
The trust deficit with the government and misinterpretations of religion and tradition make it difficult to address issues concerning women. Only some cases get addressed by the system, but the majority of victims wait for justice till their soul leaves their body. We as a society feed sexual predators by continuing to brand the victim with social stigma, casting aspersions on her morality and character. Some scholars present arguments on behalf of religion. But respect for women is at the core of religious beliefs, especially in Islam. Both men and women are being fed with falsehoods in the name of religion.
Though women of all ages suffer one way or the other but our young women and teenagers are particularly vulnerable. What makes them a soft target? Maybe it is their resistance. Every girl in Kashmir has heard the counsel, “Panaskarzi chop, agar kahvenitekeh (Don’t utter a word even if someone provokes you)”. Had our society adopted responsible parenting rather than saying, “ye chulardkimohnivemis chi hishikatha (He is a boy, he can do whatever he likes)”, the situation would have been different. We need to fix the responsibility of wrong deeds done by the male folk. Silencing one and nurturing the other will only breed inequality. It is the foundation of an unhealthy culture. We need our male folk to be more self-disciplined and bound by morality.
As a woman I strongly believe there is a story in every home to be listened to. We must let women speak their mind and share their hearts out, ask them if they need any help if they are suffering in silence. Men need to ponder on what they have done as a father, son, husband, and above all as a human being. Nobody is perfect and no one expects perfection. But we must restrain the beast. Treating women with dignity has to be a non-negotiable condition in every society.