x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Each of us is to blame for every act of violence against women

Who's responsible for violence against women, in India and elsewhere? Everyone not actively fighting the problem, that's who.

There is a simple motto we can all learn that will begin to reverse the scourge of violence against women: "When one of our women is hurt, we are all responsible."

Two weeks ago, when a 23-year-old student was picked by six men on a chartered bus in Dehli, forced to the floor and repeatedly brutalised before being thrown from the moving vehicle - we were all responsible.

And we were all responsible when, on Saturday, she died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.

When the police in Delhi registered 568 cases of rape in 2011, we were responsible for each and every one of those lives shattered by that most monstrous act of violence.

When the World Health Organisation reported that the first sexual encounter for 30 per cent of women in rural Bangladesh was forced - or 24 per cent in rural Peru, or 17 per cent in rural Tanzania - we were the ones responsible for those thousands.

When a finger is laid on any woman in the United Arab Emirates - whether at home fending off a violent husband or in public surrounded by abusive strangers - we are all responsible.

For the past two weeks, my inbox has been inundated with petitions calling for the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, to "do something" to stop the rapes.

What would we have him do?

Stand on India's trains all day and slap the wrist of any scallywag who tries to pinch a lady's bottom?

Go into every home and teach fathers how to raise their boys? Tell mothers to be a better example of how a woman should be treated?

Go to each classroom and tell the children why violence against women is wrong?

Or maybe stride up and down the streets lecturing men who stand on street corners salivating over girls as if they were food?

That is not Mr Singh's job. It is ours.

Whether you are in India, Iceland or here in the UAE, ensuring the protection of women around the world begins with you and no one else.

Not the government, not the police - you.

If you are a father, teach your son right from wrong. Teach him that women - the ones who carried you and raised you and nurtured you - should be respected.

Teach him respect for his mother, and then teach him that the same respect is due to all women, regardless of their circumstances, age or skin colour.

Teach him the meaning of no. Teach him he is not an animal to be controlled by every physical whim. Teach him self control.

If you are a mother, teach your boy by example. Don't tell him that some women are worth more than others. Tell him every woman deserves to be treated with dignity, regardless of who she is or what she does or how much her family is "worth".

If you are raising girls, teach them that they are more precious, more priceless than rubies. And teach them not to tolerate a man who doesn't treat them as such.

If you are a man talking among men and the conversation turns to women, and you would not be happy if what was being said were said about your daughter, wife, sister or mother… stop that talk. Don't just join in the joking and jeering without thinking.

Until you and I agree to take responsibility, the violence, the death and the rape will continue.

We cannot rely solely on governments to pass legislation that forces us to be good people. We cannot simply wait for the rapists to rape someone before the police can arrest them.

But if you stood up and said: "This is what acceptable behaviour looks like", and you taught your family the same and told your neighbours they should do so - who would be left to harm our girls?

It's one sentence, 11 words: When one of our women is hurt, we are all responsible.

 

cmercer@thenational.ae