I might come across as being insufferably feminist in my perspective when I say that women are easily the buffer in every activity – be it war, politics, economics or society itself. But I’ll stick to my guns, even at the risk of being labelled a jingoistic activist. Why? Because it’s true, that women are indeed pawns in the hand of any authority that is hoping to take an authoritative decision, or emerge the authority in some sphere. Any war front could easily show you that by breaking women, the society is stripped bare of any semblance of normalcy. So women become easy and soft targets in war – sexual violence, rape, domestic violence and social stigmatization mark only the beginning of the story. Take a political battle – say, for instance, the campaign in the run up to the United States’ elections – Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cannot stop mudslinging at each other in line with the other waging a “war on women” of sorts, in America, conspicuously forgetting the war that’s being waged against Women in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
But a caveat, before I proceed. My claim is not that every woman is a toy in the hands of every man. My claim is not that men are brutes and women are victims. My claim is not that women are defenceless, weak and incapable of anything but being victimized. I am fully aware and denounce the scores of women who indulge in exploitation of a legal provision just to get the better of men. I am fully aware and disregard scores of women narcissistic personalities that are so enamoured by their status as women that they misuse the whole “victim” status. I am fully aware and abhor the malpractice of women who are already empowered indulging in making ridiculous demands by laying claims that their rights were never ensured. So my point, therefore, is not for the 100 women who do, and can speak for themselves, but for the few that do speak for themselves but are deliberately not heard.
The DR Congo’s girl is a victim of sexual assault, stigmatization and relentless war, and is pockmarked with stigma for life. Afghanistan’s girl sits in hope for a better future as threats of prostitution, domestic violence and a deprivation of basic rights such as education hold her tightly bound as if in a leash. India’s girl struggles to stay alive at birth, where there are possibilities that she might be born into families that only too glad to bump her off the cliff in her foetal stage, or throw her in a bin after she is born, because she is a girl. Nigeria’s girl struggles under the yoke of sexual slavery and sexual abuse. Somalia’s girl bleeds from the heart under the yoke of FGM. Houston’s girls lie in fear lest they be the subject of trafficking. Saudi Arabia’s girl sits inside a cage of black, enslaved, entrapped and excluded.
Why is it so easy to wage war against a woman? Why is it so easily the weapon of choice? Where is the beginning, where is the end? Or is there an end, at all? For children of today to make a niche in life as people tomorrow, their mother must be literate, and treated well. A family where mothers are ill-treated breeds children that might live cowering in fear, or wind up being bullies. If women are subjected to sexual violence, the institution of the family is broken, and society is crippled and forced on its knees. That the entire institution that “society” is comes to a grinding halt when women are targeted is not a baseless contention because women are the adhesive for the cohesive subsistence of a family or a society to exist. And until this realization dawns on the world, it will always be at war against women.
By Kirthi Gita Jayakumar