As I lay safely warm and dry on Tuesday’s rainy night, Ziya was falling asleep, safe in my arms. In my head, all I could think about was all the girls and women who are not safe.
Amanda Mootilal’s beaten face on a front page was too much for me, as it should have been for all of us, especially knowing she is not an isolated case.
She’s a teenager who already intimately knows powerlessness, cruelty and fear. She’s also a mother, having conceived her baby at around 15 or 16 years old with an adult man seven years older, and who should have known better, whatever her own adolescent choices.
What about her education, her ability to earn her own income, to find herself before being told who she should be? Who failed to protect her before now?
The state has stepped in, but that is no guarantee of her safety, even if her attacker husband was denied bail. Counseling provides no guarantee that she will heal the wounds to her self-confidence and spirit, though she will, like many victims of violence, figure out how to survive.
I could talk about International Day Against Violence Against Women, November 25th, and what a slap in the face this was, what a wake up call we continue to get, that girls and women do not have the right to live free from fear and harm.
I could point to the need for services that prevent rather than respond at the point of crisis, say that we need state-funded, national anti-violence campaigns that target everyone, especially primary schools, telling girls not to love anyone who is not nice to them and telling boys they have no right to control women.
I could tell my Guardian bosses, the Ansa McAl group of companies to spend less money on sexist billboards that promote women’s bodies as objects to be consumed, and to put some profits to such a national anti-violence campaign. Don’t leave it up to the women’s NGOs, step up as the elite, as men, and put some of their power toward change.
Yes, it’s definitely up to political leadership which has never tackled the perils of a culture of male domination in any serious way. We don’t have quotas for equal representation of women anywhere, and so they are not equally represented in business or in politics. We have less than a handful of women in Cabinet, like us watching men run the deck and sometimes run amok.
Religious leaders continue insist that men should be the head of women, as if that doesn’t create the exact conditions needed for violence. Preachers, imams and pundits do not insist that men’s violence against women is not God’s way, not as much as they need to given the amount that men assault and abuse. Yes, it’s also up to these men of God to insist on what will not be tolerated amongst their own. Where is the IRO’s national campaign?
Violence against women is a men’s issue. Men dominating the Cabinet, men dominating corporate wealth, men dominating the door to God, which one of you is going to step up today to prevent another Darren Mohammed from dominating another Amanda Mootilal?
In a society where women and girls are disappearing, being beaten and being raped, no woman is safe. Warm and dry, listening to the rain, I feel unsettled and I don’t feel safe.
We need a downpour of effort so that there are no more bruised teenagers, that we, the whole society, failed to protect, looking back at us from the front page.