Lives of girls and women

Pam
Pam Frampton
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“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 pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Associated Press

Geographic location: South Africa, India, China Pakistan Punjab South Africa.Last Bredasdorp Western Cape Kingston Canada

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Recent comments

  • DWB
    February 19, 2013 - 11:14

    Although for me personally the idea of violence against women and girls is quite foreign, the reality was brought home to me by a friend who works with the Association for New Canadians in St. John’s. My friend, recently had an orientation visit with a highly educated mid thirties woman from an African country who managed to make her way to Canada and specifically St. John’s. Living in Pleastanville, the African woman noticed many army trucks and Canadian soldiers in the area where she lived. Her very first question to my friend in a very matter of fact manner was, “will they rape me?” That is such a sad reality. What is unheard of in Canada for soldiers to harm citizens is commonplace in other countries.

  • Doug Smith
    February 17, 2013 - 12:19

    Just a brief note: promoting a do nothing attitude or policy toward the sexual discrimination of women; which seems to be what Mr. Bob Hannaford is suggesting, only results in perpetuating the second class status of females and the violent behaviour they are subjected to. An enlightened populace needs to shine a spotlight on each and every organization that does not treat women and girls equally . The Canadian justice system must be required to right the wrongs of society regarding females and that includes the “old boys club” known as the Roman Catholic Church. Doug Smith,GFW

  • Herb Morrison
    February 16, 2013 - 19:31

    Well-said Mr. Hannaford

  • Bob Hannaford
    February 16, 2013 - 11:30

    A very sobering article, Ms. Frampton. Violence in our world is alarming, especially against females. Raging against religious organizations or other specific groups nor taking legal action will stop these atrocities against humanity. What, I believe, can work is if each and everyone of us makes up our mind to become role models for everyone to whom we interact in any way. Let each of us practice love, compassion and respect for everyone and maybe, just maybe, it will ripple out throughout the world. Let it begin with us.

  • Doug Smith
    February 16, 2013 - 09:55

    Excellent column Ms. Frampton, you made it very clear that women still have a ways to go before reaching equality with men. Your examples of atrocities committed against women in foreign countries is very chilling. Canada also has some work to do in the way women are treated . Every large town and city in the country has a women’s shelter, where they can hideout from males that have beaten the living daylights out of them and or have threatened their lives. Canada also has institutionalized discrimination against females as perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church. Women are not allowed to hold any position of authority based solely on the fact they are female. Actually, I think Catholic women should take the Church to court as this is an open and shut case of blatant sex discrimination. What message is being sent to women and girls? Well, the message is simple, males are first class and females are second class. Doug Smith, GFW

  • No Longer Silent
    February 16, 2013 - 07:41

    It is not just in China/India that baby girls are aborted for being girls. This is also very real in Canada, especially as it pertains to ethnic groups that prefers boys. In Canada a mother can abort her baby for any reason at any time. It is about time that the Canadian law is changed to prevent things like this.

  • Herb Morrison
    February 16, 2013 - 07:33

    Very effectively written column, Ms. Frampton. As long as we live in a Province where, in certain quarters, I have heard women described as being "nice pieces of gear," there is much work to be done to insure gender equality, personal dignity, and personal safety for women.

  • Stephen D Redgrave
    February 16, 2013 - 07:29

    I agree with every word Pam has written and the United Nation stand is very clear as well. Please lets not forget that Newfoundland children are also being raped with violence within family groups that often protect the offender. I know this is a fact that leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but the problem is much bigger than the average person is willing to accept. Children, for a variety of reasons , will not tell anyone when they are raped, as long as there are no visible bruises...it can go on for years undetected. Lets focus our attention right here at home...for our children's sake, don't assume it's a third world problem.