The Cold Reality of Numbers~ The Dystopia is near - Part II ~
...men are really outraged, because a single movie theatre in Austin, Texas, “violated their rights” when it decided to do a women-only screening of ‘Wonder Woman’, on account that it is the true rarity of a female super-hero movie. Men found their exclusion to be really “offensive”. They went on to express a deep concern about “REAL equality”. (Not to mention a remarkably gigantic, lack of sense of irony)
Art & words by Fanitsa Petrou
Upon sharing my last two articles on Social media ("The Dystopia is Near – Marching Towards Gilead: & "The Handmaid's Tale - The Stuff Female Fears are Made of" that refer to the real life parallels between to “The Handmaid’ s Tale book / TV show and present-day America, I was being repeatedly told by men the kind of things that I would not care to repeat; and I was also being told by women that “things are not that bad” and “not all men are like that, now take my husband for example…” Women apparently need, (not just want) to believe that male violence is not a reality, and that it only exists in a feminist’ s mind. I find that to be both disturbing and understandable.
I turn here to numbers, and I leave them to tell the story. To show the grim patterns that are being formed by them. And to warn that maybe the “dystopia” is indeed already here. Unless we (both men and women) open our eyes to it.
Women and girls are being daily harmed by gender-based violence, which can take many forms. Yet, the act of simply repeating UN statistics, is seen as hostile, and it can characterise a woman as “aggressive” towards men. In fact, it is the only case when the mere reporting of a crime can cause more negative hype than the crime itself, and this should tell us a lot about our perception of gender roles, and the power of Patriarchy! If you are a Western woman, it can almost without fail, lead to threats, Internet bulling, nasty name-calling of the “you-are-a-man-hating-bitch-who-needs-to-be-raped” variety, and even to actual violence. But obviously, if you are a Moslem woman, or one coming from the developing World, it is a revolutionary act, as it can as easily lead to jail, or your grave.
Men use violence against women that is motivated by a competition for dominance, an entitlement mentality and feelings of sexual ownership, which is another way of saying, because they feel it is their right, because they are taught that it is OK, and because they like it... In fact, male aggression and violence are a real epidemic, an on going war that gets bloodier and nastier with the passing of each year. Yet, whenever the conversation about male violence is attempted, one is very likely to be faced with the usual “not-all-men” narrative, that is meant to sooth the male ego, and assure the men in our lives that this is not about them at all. And by the way, if they are not violent, that is correct: it is NOT about them. It is however very much about the great numbers of men who ARE very much that: men commit 99% of all sex crimes, 85% of all violent crimes in the Western world (and 90.5% of all murders, and 70 out 71 mass murders in the U.S. alone). The remaining perpetrators are women, though it needs to be said that a great number of these women, use violence in self-defence, their crime often being the last act after years of abuse they have suffered in the hands of the men they’ ve killed, or attempted to kill – and this is a detail that needs to be taken into account! Yet whenever the stark, cold reality of statistics reveal the ugly truth about femicide, the rape epidemic, human trafficking, sexual slavery, pedophilia, child marriages between little girls and grown men, incest, domestic violence, we are told that, “hey, women can also be violent”. And so they can. But the thing is, they mostly aren’t. The thing is, they are mostly the helpless victims of violence. Millions, and millions of them. And generations and generations of them too.
We are also predictably being reminded by women, that the men in their life are “great” and it is apparently meant to be offered as a proof that men in general are that. But again, how is that in any way related to the countless variations of hell, countless women and girls are experiencing every day in the hands of all those millions of “other” men? How can one’ s own partner being “great”, make the reality of the guys who sell their daughters into sexual slavery, or those who “exchange” them like commodities in order to get a new bride for themselves (see below), or those who believe that raping 12 year olds brings them closer to God, any less horrible? How will it make the rape rates, which are increasing with every passing year, disappear? How can it affect the countless lives of women whose lives have been destroyed by male violence? How can it disproof the fact that according to the UNIFEM report “throughout the world, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime” ? How talking about one’ s own “good” husband whenever such statistics are given, is in any way helpful or relevant to all that? And why do we think it ought to magically diminish the seriousness of such crimes? And also, how come we don't see that this is not about "hating men", but about hating violence?! Not to mention, this is not about a war on men. It is about a war on women!
And also, why do we have this need to constantly offer the reassurance to the men in our life, that when we talk about men who use domestic or sexual violence, we are not talking about them at all? Why are we so afraid that just talking about this, would turn us into man-haters in their eyes? And isn’t that a proof that things are not as “great” as we pretend them to be? What if we were talking about men who steal motorbikes? Would the mere reporting of this crime turn us into horrible, obsessive haters of motorbike thieves, but also into haters of motorbike sellers, motorbike mechanics, motorbike users and motorbikes in general? And would the news of such a crime, justify women’ s need to repeatedly assure the world that their own husband has never, EVER stolen any motorbikes? And would that offer proof that no motorbikes are being stolen, or were ever stolen in this world?
Also the fact that we tend to praise men for not having raped, assaulted or killed any women (or the fact that they truly need us to be impressed by this, and believe themselves to be “good” on account of that) is enough to indicate how low are expectations of men are, (and how low their own expectations of themselves are too), by the way.
The need to protect “traditional”, (aka aggressive) masculinity at all costs, to pretend it is not toxic, to pretend male violence doesn’ t even exist, despite statistics and solid proof, needs to be examined. That is why the “not-my-husband” / “#NotAllMen” conversation, is not just irrelevant, it is dangerous, because it takes our attention away from facing the problem, and downplays, trivializes and because of that, indirectly justifies the overwhelming realities of male violence. It also stops men from being accountable for ending gender-based violence. And that’s just tragic, because they are the only ones who can end it!
Femicide, (the murder of women based on their sex) continues to plague the world, and it is actually increasing, despite sporadic attempts to implement femicide laws. Men usually kill women because they feel they rejected, tried to leave, “dishonoured” or disobeyed them, and more often than not, after they rape them (as a form of sexual “gratification” or as a way of permanently silencing them: 81.7% of all homicides in the U.S. alone, are sex-related). It is of course a global phenomenon, yet like all other forms of gender-based crimes, they are not seen as important in the male-dominated political sphere or the media: they are just women. They are just girls. They are insignificant. Disposable. Their lives are unworthy, and so their violent deaths do not matter… According to the UNIFEM report “Not a Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women”: “Violence against women has become as much a pandemic as HIV/AIDS or malaria. But still it is downplayed by the public at large and policymakers who fail to create and fund programmes to eradicate it.”
Women are daily being killed in great numbers on account of their sex and what more, they are most commonly killed by spouses, partners, exes, or members of their family, which is to say: men they know and trust: on a global scale,38 % of all murders of women are committed by their husbands / intimate partners.
In the U.S. alone, every 16 hours, a current or former husband (who may belong in any racial, ethnic or economic background, by the way (male aggression, being one hell of an equatliser…) shoots a woman to death. This particular statistic takes into account only the women who are shot, and does not include those who are stabbed, strangled, beaten to death, or run over by vehicles on purpose! In fact, husbands (who have access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence or mental illness) are incomparably more deadly in America, than jihadist terrorists, though you wouldn’ t know that by watching the news: since the 9/11 attacks, there have been 123 murders of American citizens who were killed by terrorists, and 230,000 other murders, mostly perpetrated by husbands!
According to the “National Network to End Domestic Violence”, 6,500 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, between October 2001 and June 2012. More than 11,700 women died during the same period, in acts of domestic violence (as in they were literally beaten to death!) The deaths of those soldiers are seen as tragic, as a waste of human life and potential, and they are honoured and remembered, but the violent deaths of all those women in the hands of husbands, are trivialised (even romanticed: “he loved her too much”), and are not seen as equally significant or even newsworthy: in fact they are more often than not, seen as the “natural” result of an argument, break ups, alcohol consumption, "passion", or simply a “bad moment”, as if such reasons justify them…
One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, which is considered to be the most dangerous place in the world for women, as it has the highest gender-based violence (femicide, domestic violence and rapes) rate in the world. Women are considered to be so insignificant that 95% of their murders by men were not even investigated.
In Guatemala, a country of only 15 million inhabitants, 5,000 women and girls were violently killed from 2008 to 2015. Fewer than 2% of those murders have resulted in convictions.
In Brazil: a woman is murdered every 2 hours (and every 15 seconds a woman or girl is sexually assaulted)
In Argentina alone, in the first few months of this year, a woman is being killed every 18 hours, compared to one every 30 hours the year before.
El Salvador, the small Central American nation, registered 574 murders of women in 2015, and 446 just from January to November 2016.
Honour killings are also quite common and they can happen for the most insignificant of reasons, a man’ s honour being such a fragile delicate thing after all. More than 900-1,000 women are killed in Pakistan every year, just in the name of family honour. For Example, in 2013, a mother and her two small daughters, were killed by male members of their family, for having disgraced them, because they were caught on a video that went viral, dancing happily in the rain! In 2012, five women were also killed in Pakistan because they did the apparently utterly shameful thing of signing at a wedding, while in 2013, a girl in Pakistan was killed because she looked at a boy who was passing by her on a motorcycle! On a similar note, a woman in Pakistan, has recently been set on fire by her husband and his parents for failing to conceive after three years of marriage…
Statistics that refer to femicide, by the way, do not even take into account the 100 million girls from around the world, which according to U.N. statistics are missing. Many of them are left according to the same reports “on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins”.
Foeticide & Infanticide:
Females are also often killed in order to stop them from existing in this world, like in the case of countless baby girls who are seen as unworthy by their very families who become their murderers. Female foetuses are aborted for no other reason than they are not male (these are the justified abortions of course, and they happen daily) India, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, China, Albania are the countries with the most skewed sex-rations due to foeticide and infanticide. Between 2000 to 2014 alone, there were according to U.N. statistics 24,561,345 sex selective abortions (it goes without saying the sex that is always “selected” to be aborted is the female one) which makes it 1,670,079 a year, or 4575.5 a day, or one female every in 18 seconds!
These numbers do not even come close to recording sex discrimination after birth: millions of little girls die prematurely because of discrimination in nutrition, health-care, and medicine (which is to say that baby girls are on purpose not fed, or cared for when sick, either as a form of infanticide, or by purposely giving priority to the needs of boys whose lives are considered precious.
In India alone, fifteen million females are believed to be murdered in every generation in foeticide, infanticide, “honour killings” and for reasons of “dowry saving”. The dowry custom, which is perpetuating longstanding inequalities between men and women, is in itself a misogynistic practice that financially rewards a man for taking the “burden” of a daughter out of the hands of her father. It is also the main cause of femicide in the form of foeticide and infanticide: a man will get paid by his future wife’ s father for marrying her, he will also get to inherit his own parents’ property, but also his wife’ s parents’ wealth too! The wealthier his bride’ s family is, the bigger are the chances she will also be educated and so the bigger the dowry and the inheritance of course, and the greater the financial loss for the family. A well-educated daughter, is also more likely to become increasingly more resistent to the old traditions and possibly more “demanding” when it comes to her rights and more likely to have an opinion about her father paying a stranger in order to take her. A dead daughter on the other hand, is a far easier deal... This cold, hardless logic results in a higher rate of femicide in middle and upper class families!
In fact, it is only in the poorer 20 per cent of the population, that there is a normal sex ratio for girls and boys, again, not necessarily because girls who come from the lower strata are actually wanted by their families, but because having a daughter is a financial asset for the poorer families: girls are allowed to live, in order to do the daily chores, taking care of family members, or worse, in order to be “leased” or sold as servants or factory workers (the lucky ones), or quite commonly as underage prostitutes: little girls as young as five, are used as sex slaves by all male members of wealthy families, who may also go on to resell them to other families once they are done with them, or quite commonly,to paedophiles from Gulf countries. This is done with the blessings of the fathers, and the mullahs (religious leaders) who claim that these daughters should be “grateful” with such arrangements, as they get to help their families...
According to the organization “Arc for Hope for Children”, there are 20.9 Million victims of trafficking Worldwide as of 2012, 21 millions by 2014. In fact, there are more slaves today, than at any other time in history, and many of them are sexual slaves.
4.5 Million of trafficked persons (women, underage girls, but also boys) are being sexually exploited by men, and according to Unicef, 2 million of them are children who are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade.
An example is the case of Karla Jacinto, a girl from Mexico who at age twelve, was forced into prostitution by Mexico’ s Human Trafficking Rings, and by age 16, was raped 43,200 times, by up to 30 men a day, seven days a week, for the best part of four years! Judges, priests and policemen (the very people who were supposed to protect her) were among the many men who abused her, she told CNN. Now that she managed to escape her hell, just speaking about it, daily puts her life at risk.
What can also be said about the countless women and underage girls who were captured by ISIS for the purpose of becoming sex slaves? These women and children were taken from their families and homes for the sole purpose of being passed from soldier to soldier (which is a common enough practise in all wars one might add, and from the beginning of Time…) Sometimes they are offered as gifts / reward to ISIS fighters, or sold into sexual slavery in special bazaars! In fact the Islamic State went on to create a detailed bureaucracy in order to keep track of its increasing “merchandise”! Many theological discussions were also held to find the religious justification of rape (hint: they did find it!) and endless policy memos and even lengthy how-to-rape manuals were issued, in order to “help” men with the task at hand, giving them the “rules”, like how many times a woman should be raped by one man before being passed to the next and so on…! At least 5,270 women and girls were abducted from the Yazidi communities alone, and at least 3,144 are still being held. Thousands others, from other regions were also abducted from their homes, and subjected to all kinds of abuses, held chained in cages like animals and forced to be exposed in markets like cattle holding price tags, or displayed as merchandise on Facebook posts. The soldiers are even told that raping children and women who are unbelievers, are acts of religious devotion! The few captives who miraculously escaped this nightmare, told their rescuers that rapists would kneel and pray before and after raping 12 year old kids, telling them that by raping them, they were doing their religious duty and were “drawing closer to God”!
Each year, 15 million girls (28 girls every minute, 1 every 2 seconds!) are married before the age of 18, and are being denied a childhood, an education and a normal developement. Early pregnancy is also consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
According to the research institute ‘ICRW’: “One third of girls in the developing world, are married before the age of 18, and 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15. Child marriage often compromises a girl’ s development by resulting in social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement, and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. Child brides often show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse, marital rape and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression”.
According to the ‘United Nations Children’ s Fund’, over 700 million women alive today, were married before 18, including some 250 million who wed before 15 (some as young as seven!) and usually to a much older man.
According to the organization ‘Girls Not Brides’, in India alone, there are 26,610,000 girls who have been married as children: it is estimated that 47% of girls in India, are married before their 18th birthday, 18% married by 15. Many at even younger ages.
The African country of Niger has the highest rate of child marriage in the world. 3 in 4 girls marry before their 18th birthday. In some areas, the rates are even higher, in some regions, as many as 89%.
More than 320,000 young girls in Mexico aged between 12 and 17, are either married or co-habiting with men who are at the very least 11 years their senior. They have been called the “lost generation”…
After the Saudi-Arabian intervention in Yemen, which resulted in a horrible famine, many Yemeni families started selling off their daughters to avoid starvation. 6-year-old girls are being sold to pedophiles, so that fathers will have one less mouth to feed and on top of that, an income! It is seen as perfectly acceptable by religious leaders by the way, since it corresponds to the sharia law.
This also brings to mind the Pakistani custom of “vani” (also known as swara or sangchatti) where girls are seen as cattle, as property to be sold or given away to grown men to settle disputes: daughters are used as currency to pay up a father’s debts (or even any other male family member’s debts) Girls as young as one year old (!) are offered to grown men in arranged marriages to settle debts or vendettas. Even though such arrangements (which are approved by the powerful local council of elders known as a jirga) are supposedly illegal in Pakistan, they are very common and are rarely prosecuted.
Another custom that is quite common in conservative parts of Pakistan is that of “Watta Satta” (“give and take”)which is basically the exchanging of women, who are nothing but commodities, things that are meant to be used among men. A case that reached the news a couple of months ago, refers to 13-year old girl who was “offered” to a 36-year-old disabled man, so that he (the father - if we can call him that) would get to have that man’ s sister in return, in hope that she would give him a son, “because his first wife, the mother of his daughter solely bore him girls when all he wanted was a son”. The disable man’ s sister, was thankful that she would no longer be responsible of taking care of her brother and this duty would now be to the hands of the 13 year old-girl. The girl who was raised with the belief that she has no rights and no choices in this life, and who is clearly afraid of her father was quoted to say: “he has the right to choose when and whom I’m going to marry”, (though her sorrowful face in the photos, reveals her true feelings and can break one’s heart) In fact, it is considered a father’ s duty to exchange his daughters for other women he will get to have as his own, and whenever such exchanges are not completed, it is believed that he “failed” his religious duty! (those male lawmakers, and male religious leaders think of everything, don’t they?!)
(How many things in this piece of news are causing you to have palpitations I wonder? The fact that a girl of 13, is forced to marry a grown man of 36? That she was exchanged like a commodity? That her own father basically sold her in order to get a new wife? That he takes wives left and right as if they are things? That he considers only sons to be “proper” offspring? That women are so far gone inside the bottomless pit that is the traditional marriage that they don’ t mind if a 13-year old girl is victimised, if they are to be relieved of their own unbearable burden of taking care of ailing family members? That this girl will be forced to life-long servitude, taking care of a disable man? That she will be raped by an adult and forced to get pregnant while she is still a child? That she too will be seen as unworthy (like her own mother was) and will be discarded and exchanged if she does not do her “duty” and bear a son? That she is not even allowed to have any dreams, let alone choices? That she thinks her father is doing his “duty” by selling her? That he thinks that too? That such things are still allowed?!! That religions are so fucking misogynistic that they have tricked people into thinking this is normal? What?)
Child marriages are not unheard of, or forbidden by law in the U.S. by the way, even though interestingly, this is against U.S. foreign policy: the U.S. is officially against child and forced marriages when these happen in other parts of the world, and considers them to be a “human rights abuse”, yet most U.S. states allow children age 16 or 17 to marry,provided they have their parents’ s consent. State laws are not concerned and do not investigate whether a child is marrying willingly or whether this is a forced marriage.
About 57,800 minors in the U.S., aged 15 to 17 were married as of 2014. 91% of these are girls, who were married to adult men! According to ‘Unchained At Last’, an American organization that helps girls resist or escape forced marriage, between 2000 and 2010, in 38 states, there were 167,000 children, almost all of them girls, many as young as 10(!) who were married - mostly to men considerably older than them. When the States that don’t provide information are put in the mix, the number may be as high as 248,000!
In many cases, these child brides are young enough, and the grown men who marry them are old enough, to justify statutory-rape charges, if only there was no marriage license application involved with their parents’ signature… In Idaho, the state with the highest rate of child marriages, having sex with a child under 16, is considered a felony and can lead to 25 years in prison, but not when the adult marries the underage girl obviously! Then all is legal and good… (Marriage makes everything magically wholesome, doesn’t it?)
Child marriages and forced marriages in America, are not specific to one religious background by the way. Studies show that they can happen in Christian (particularly Catholic), Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Mormon, Unification Church or Orthodox Jewish communities equally often. The girls are often coerced to go into these marriages with adults, by the use of emotional manipulation (a girl reported that she was promised “nice clothes”) blackmail and threats of ostracism, beatings or death. The reasons that parents give for forcing their children to marry, are for controlling their sexuality or independence, protecting the “family honour” (because an underage girl became pregnant for example, or even just spoke to a boy), or for reasons relating to money and social status.
Incidentally, last week, the governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, declined to sign a measure into law to ban child marriage without exception, on the grounds that it “would conflict with religious customs”
It is interesting to note that globally, girls with higher levels of schooling are less likely to marry as children as they themselves become more resistant to coercion and manipulation, and also get to realise that there are other options out there for them. A fact that indicates towards the solution of this problem: Educate girls!
Rape of a woman (or girl) by her husband, is expressly legal in at least 10 countries: Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, though one might add that it is considered “morally” legal in most countries around the world: a husband having sex with his wife even when she is not willing, is still widely considered being a husband’ s “right” and wife’ s “duty”. That’ s what they both signed for, when they entered into the marriage… That is why the “traditional marriage” (which let us face it already, is a product of Patriarchy) in which the husband is the “provider” and the woman the “homemaker” (which is what is implied whenever the phrase “traditional family values” is used) has endured for countless generations: the woman gets to be “protected” and “cared for”, and meet her “biological destiny” (to quote The Handmaid’ s Tale) and the husband gets to have the right to