Women are tired of being ‘reminded’ that it is always their responsibility to avoid getting harassed, raped or groped at because that isn’t true, writes Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
Rape is never about sex but it is about power. Rape is never about achieving or releasing sexual gratification but it is about causing harm and humiliating the victim.
Blaming women and how we choose to dress should never be an excuse to legitimise a criminal act. Rape is a crime and no one — no women, man or child ever “asks” for it.
It is most unfortunate that the message conveyed during a Friday sermon on 6 February (“Aurat: Antara Kebebasan dan Maruah Diri”: Between freedom and dignity) conveyed a very different message, one that had a very controversial and dangerous undertone, one that held women accountable when sickening, violent acts are committed against us, one that is immoral, thoughtless and depraved.
Organisations and institutions especially those sanctioned by the government have the responsibility to deliver messages that are positive, inoffensive and in-line with universal human values, rather than propagate hurtful stereotypes — in this case, insensitive to women and survivors of rape.
The content of the sermon perpetuated the incredibly biased and bigoted view our male-dominated social structure has towards women. It takes more than just covering the ‘aurat’ to “prevent women from physical and mental harassment, and can reduce incidents of rape, illicit sex and incest”.
Surely, a more favourable and ethical approach would have been to look into the psychological aspects that may lead a person to commit such a crime and understand that rape is not just a women’s issue — it affects everyone in society regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or religion.
According to statistics obtained through various sources such as the Malaysian Parliament and the Malaysian Health Department, there have been approximately 12,735 reports of violent acts committed against women, which includes rape, molestation, sodomy, incest and domestic violence ranging from physical to sexual abuse.
We have heard numerous reports of babies, toddlers and the elderly being victims of rape; a few years ago, a paralysed 76-year-old grandmother was raped by her own grandson and in a separate case; a nine-year-old girl was abducted, raped and murdered. Surely, society and those in power cannot blame these victims for failing to cover their ‘aurat’?
Recently, Penang DAP lawmaker Chong Eng was hauled up by the police for “insulting” Islam, and according to reports, she could be charged under Section 298 which refers to “whoever with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person.”
It is obvious that something is amiss; certain factions are trying very hard to subdue our strength and courage by intimidating women into passivity.
Threatening those who dare question the way our society views women is unbecoming, and using fear to silence us will not work. We live in an era when rape and other violent acts against women are becoming dangerously acceptable because of how patriarchy has been allowed to seep into the rational minds of human beings and cloud our logic. Modern society must never be allowed to support misleading and anti-ethical views on rape or any criminal acts, for that matter.
Judging from Chong Eng’s statement, it seems apparent that her statement had been taken out of context — there was absolutely no inkling of her insulting Islam. She had merely highlighted important facts such as the way our increasingly patriarchal social system views issues relating to violence against women. The content of the Friday sermon was a tawdry, oversimplified analysis that attempted to establish reasons as to why women provoke rape and to pardon men from any wrongdoing.
As a Malaysian Malay-Muslim woman, I am deeply saddened by how patriarchy has begun to erode the beauty of our society and our nation; and I know there are many more who feel the same. It is never easy to question a system that has completely disabled every single opportunity to hold discourse — especially when it involves religion or in this case Islam.
Stop blaming women — blame misogyny, animosity and inanity instead. It is obvious that our problem exists because of how bigotry has mutated our society’s rational and logic. It is made worse, when religion and patriarchy work hand-in-hand and are allowed to hijack every single attempt to instigate much needed intellectual discourses.
Women are tired of being ‘reminded’ that it is always our responsibility to avoid getting harassed, raped or groped at because that isn’t true. The rapes in India and Malaysia, the rapes committed in war zones, the booklet produced by IS on how to treat women — are all glaring examples of how human beings in this modern era have grown somewhat receptive to the mistreatment of women.
Teach society to respect women and not view us as mere objects. Teach compassion and instill a great sense of empathy. Put forth the message that it is wrong to blame women, and forbid society from even daring to think otherwise.
Those are the messages we should be sending out to our men and children.