Farzana Parvene. Meriem Ibrahim. Nigerian school girls. 14 and 16-year-old cousins gang- raped and murdered in India. These girls and women are now forever linked together, indicative of an increasingly disturbing war on females that shows no signs of abating. In fact, judging from daily news reports, there are growing concerns that many women worldwide are in constant danger of kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder. If this pattern goes on unchecked, it is the male population of this planet that must be blamed. As of now, these male criminals have blood on their hands and it is the responsibility of all law abiding males and females to do something immediately.
Anyone who has a daughter, sister, or granddaughter should be worried about these events. Women are being targeted because of their gender and vulnerability in societies that disparage them. I recall being in North Africa many years ago traveling with male and female friends, and one of the girls was blonde. At a rest stop we came across a man who had ten camels, and he offered three of them to me “For the yellow hair.” I laughed but he looked at me seriously and said, “Okay, five camels, final offer.” We got back on the bus and my blonde female friend was shaking with fear, and what may have been viewed as something isolated was really a glaring microcosm of a problem that is now being seen in the news. Women are just chattel to people like the guy with the camels, and they are considered a possession that can be interchanged, beaten, and disposed of at the whim of the man in charge.
Recently I saw a story about President Obama’s daughter Malia attending her first prom. We Americans take this for granted. Prom is a rite of passage for young women who get to dress beautifully, go alone or with friends or a date, and dance and have a good time. There is inherent freedom in that kind of thing, and Malia deservedly got to partake in something healthy and normal for young people. But let us Americans not start getting too comfortable because we have our own problems in this matter.
Think of Ariel Castro who kidnapped, raped, and incarcerated three women for eleven years. This didn’t happen in some distant Third World country; it occurred in Cleveland, Ohio. These three women are an example of girls and women who are taken every day in this country. They are abused, threatened, and sometimes end up dead. This is because some men even here in supposedly enlightened America still think in medieval terms – women are a possession, the inferior sex, and subject to male whims and desires. Thankfully, the ongoing narrative of Castro’s victims continues to inspire and amaze as these young women reclaim their lives, but they have paid a terrible price. Hopefully, Americans can learn a valuable lesson from this and take action in their daily lives to prevent this kind of thing from happening.
The story of Farzana Parvene, a 25-year-old Pakistani woman who was three months pregnant, rattled the world with its brutality. Since she dared to marry against her family’s wishes, a group of men consisting of family members (including her own father) stoned her to death. Afterwards the father claimed it was “an honor killing,” which probably means that he believes this absolves them of guilt. The fact that her husband Mohammed Iqbal says that he murdered his first wife in order to marry Farzana only adds more insanity to this bloody charnel, but the truth is that no matter what the details are, a woman was killed for being a female who tried to have some kind of independence in a world where she was deemed to have none.
Sudanese woman Meriem Ibrahim’s situation is even more incongruous. Despite being pregnant (she has since had the baby in jail), Meriem was sentenced to death for failing to renounce her Christianity and marrying a Christian man. The pregnant woman found guilty of “apostasy” also has her toddler in jail with her. The brutality of the sentence and the condition of her captivity has sparked worldwide outrage, and there are now reports that she will be set free. While this story may have a happy ending, that is yet to be realized. The trauma and pain caused are indicative of this continuing war on women, and there has to be more than outrage. Much more.
In an chilling and frightening account, we hear of 14 and 16-year-old cousins who were gang-raped, strangled, and hung from a tree in India. Three brothers (two have been apprehended) are accused in this crime, but more details are expected to come in this ghastly example of males dominating women with horrific results. Of course, this is not the first gang rape story to come out of India. The gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in 2012 sparked worldwide awareness and outrage of a pattern of sexual violence against women in that country.
Perhaps no other story has shaken decent people to the core more than the that of the 219 school girls abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria. While we all take for granted that kids go to school everyday and should be safe there, this is not the case in many places, and this story frightens everyone with the kidnappers’ pernicious intent to punish the girls for being students in a Christian school. The story takes an even more ominous turn when the captors claim that they have converted the girls to the Muslim faith and that they will be sold into basic slavery.
These stories are microcosms of a World War against women – World War W. Make no mistake, this war is as dangerous and difficult to fight as any previous conflict, and the enemy is as nefarious as any dictator or opponent that we have ever faced. The fact is that women are being treated worse than animals in many places around the world, and we must assemble armies bigger and stronger than ones that have ever marched against military foes. The combat must be intensive, extensive, and ultimately decisive because the lives of women and girls are at stake. While there are many other important worldwide issues to deal with today, nothing is as important as the true and lasting freedom of females worldwide.
If these stories don’t move you, this one hopefully will – the ritual of genital mutilation that occurs across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The World Health Organization categorizes it as a real and growing issue of great concern. WHO’s description of the practice should send shivers down your spine: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Many people will find it difficult to process this barbaric practice. Little girls from infancy to about age fifteen are subjected to procedures conduced by male relatives who have no medical background or experience. You can read about these atrocities on the WHO website, but I have heard firsthand accounts of screaming girls being held down as their fathers or other male relatives use razors, knives, or even jagged edges of tin can covers to butcher them. All of this is not in the name of any religious practice; rather, it is an obsession to dominate females and subject them to a place of inferiority and subservience, where they have nothing to say about their health or well being or anything else for that matter.
The World War W continues at an incessant pace, and it shows no signs of ending any time soon. As a father two daughters and President of the United States, President Obama must make every effort to align allies in a joint course of action to secure the safety of women worldwide, to provide them opportunities for education and healthcare, and remove them if necessary to locations where they can live life in normalcy.
More than any war on terrorism or enemy, this battle is necessary and compelling – these are “Our Women” as much as the girls taken by Boko Haram have been called “Our Girls.” Just as Michelle Obama has taken up the cause for the school girls, so too should we to push for their freedom and for females everywhere.
In the name of justice, in honor of Farzana Parvene, Meriem Ibrahim, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, the Nigerian school girls, the raped and murdered Indian girls, and oppressed females across the globe, we must shout out our support for them and condemn the perpetrators of violence against them. It is time to make every effort to liberate girls and women worldwide, and it’s the responsibility of good decent people everywhere to take up the cause and bring them home.
Photo credits: ny daily news, thetimes.co.uk, thehollywoodgossip.com, express.co.uk[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=1476773955] [amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=1890772887]