“Every 17 seconds a woman is raped in South Africa, and it is estimated that a woman born in the country has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.”
— South Africa: Follow Words with Action Against Rape, a petition on the website change.org
As with our son, we encourage our daughter to be what she wants to be. She has the freedom to make choices about her education and how she wishes to live her life. It’s too bad we don’t all live in the same world.
In an age where technology lets us connect with people all over the planet, and even interact with an astronaut in outer space, it strains credulity that we are still treating girls and women as second-class citizens in many parts of the world.
Or worse than that, as chattel — commodities to be traded or sold or as objects to be used and abused and then carelessly discarded.
Despite the strides women have made professionally and politically, in many countries and cultures girls and women are devalued solely because of their gender.
It’s disheartening, day after day, to read news stories documenting the atrocities perpetuated against girls and women, who are often viewed as liabilities by their families.
In China and India, for example female fetuses are often aborted or female infants killed because society places more worth on boys and families may be limited in how many children they can afford to have.
Men are seen as having a greater potential for contributing wealth to the family, and raising girls often means having to come up with a marriage dowry, so girls are often seen as just not making good economic sense.
Here are some stories of girls and women. They are disturbing, but when we stop being disturbed by brutality, we have lost our humanity.
On March 17, 2012, 33-year-old former dancing girl Fakhra Younus took her own life by jumping off the roof of a building.
She could no longer stand the physical and emotional pain of having been the victim of an acid attack which disfigured her face and body and required her to undergo more than three dozen surgeries over a 10-year period. Her beautiful skin had turned into a horrible leather, stretched painfully thin.
“So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn’t breathe,” her friend Tehmina Durrani said in an Associated Press (AP) article by Sebastian Abbot.
“We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together.”
Durrani became Younus’s advocate after she was attacked. Younus said her then-husband was her attacker, but he was acquitted of the crime. He was the son of the former governor of Punjab province, to whom Durrani was once married.
“Many believe he used his connections to escape the law’s grip — a common occurrence in Pakistan,” the article said.
“More than 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported in Pakistan in 2011 …”
The brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in India sparked outrage and protests last month. She later died of internal injuries as a result of being beaten and penetrated multiple times by a metal rod.
Unfortunately, gang rape is common in India, and regularly makes headlines in South Africa.
Last month in Bredasdorp, a town in South Africa’s Western Cape, 17-year-old Anene Booysen was gang-raped by five men, one of whom she identified as an ex-boyfriend before she died.
As Michelle Faul reported for AP, the girl “was mutilated — her body carved open from her stomach to her genitals — and left for dead on a construction site. … The injuries to the 17-year-old were so horrific that nurses in the operating theatre, where doctors tried in vain to save her life, are undergoing trauma counselling.”
A Feb. 8 editorial in The Johannesburg Citizen was a call to arms: “Each of us needs to ask what we can do to stop this awful trend. And then we must act accordingly.”
In June 2009, Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed drowned Hamed’s three teenage sisters and Shafia’s first wife in their car in a canal near Kingston, Ont.
The victims were Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52.
The motive? The girls had committed the crime of being teenagers — dating, skipping school and wearing clothes their parents did not approve of.
“May the devil (defecate) on their graves,” their father said in wiretapped conversations obtained by the police.
In this province, read a random sample of police news releases anytime and you will find that despite the provincial government’s high-profile anti-violence campaign, there are still those who believe that conflict with their partner is best resolved through anger, force and injury.
The incidents are referred to as “domestics,” and the victim’s injuries are often described as “non-life-threatening.” Ah, but they are life-altering.
We need to speak out against violence against women, not just here, but around the world. And perhaps when Canada considers its trading partners in future, it will give as much weight to other countries’ barbaric cultural practices as it does to the potential profits to be made.
In its editorial on Feb. 8, The Johannesburg Citizen was talking specifically about rape, but it might as well have been addressing violence in general against girls and women.
“Somehow, somewhere there must be a tipping point where society is so convulsed by a collective anger … that we begin to turn the tide against this terrible scourge.”
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.