Abuse and Violence Against Women Are There Any Solutions?
Breaking News: Harvey Weinstein arrested for alleged rape.
We are all aware of the “Me Too” movement. Basically, women are coming forward to report sexual abuse by men in authority or power. For each one woman who accuses a famous person, there are thousands more who were abused by ordinary men in their workplace, universities or homes. Here are some numbers provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in the USA:
► One in five women will be raped at some point in her life.
(The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence
Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control)
► Each rape costs approximately $151,423, more than any other crime. The total cost of rape in the US is $127 billion more than murder, assault or drunk driving by far.
(Victim costs and consequences: A new look (NCJ 155282). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice)
► 81% of women report significant short term or long–term impact such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing sexual violence.
There are many harrowing statistics which highlight the plight of women. There is no safe place for them. It happens at the workplace, in the military, in the churches, in the educational institutions and even at home.
I will just quote one paragraph from an article published in Huffington Post in April of 2017 to highlight the problem:
Every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. That means every single day more than 570 people experience sexual violence in this country.
Sexual violence permeates our culture, from violent rape scenes on hit TV shows to sexist dress codes that reinforce rape culture; from famous athletes telling young girls they’re ‘supposed to be silent,’ to near-daily stories of sexual assaults on college campuses; from a former Olympic doctor accused of sexually abusing more than 100 women, to a President of The United States who has been publicly accused of sexually assaulting more than 15 women and was recorded boasting that he grabs women ‘by the pussy.’
All of these examples create a culture that reinforces the normalization of sexual violence.
Many factors have been identified in this paragraph which increase the likelihood of sexual violence. These are based on studies conducted to identify such risk.
National Institute of Justice reports that the most common cause of sexual assault on campus of a university is alcohol.
This study also reported that the women with multiple sexual partners were more likely to experience sexual assault.
Women who were at parties, especially off campus parties were more likely to experience sexual assault. Most sexual assaults on campus occurred after midnight.
And then there is pornography. CDC reports that men who are exposed to sexually explicit media are more likely to perpetrate sexual violence.
It is obvious that there is an epidemic of sexual violence against women. The problem is how to address it and make it better and safer for the women.
There are many steps we can take to address this problem. I will try to address some of them from Islamic point of view. I believe Islam has given excellent guidance in this matter to ensure the safety and dignity of the women.
Research shows that alcohol, intoxicants, and drug use by man and/or woman increase the likelihood of sexual assault. So, Islam has prohibited the use of alcohol and intoxicants. This alone can cut the number of sexual assaults into half. The immense societal damage done by alcohol is well documented. It does more damage in terms of health, crime and economic loss than all other illicit drugs combined. Based upon the teachings of Islam Muslims around the world generally avoid alcohol. Those who don’t are subject to all the damages done by this “mother of all evil.”
Islam also teaches chastity to both men and women. Having boyfriends or girlfriends is against the teachings of Islam. Islam only recognizes four relationships between a man and woman. 1) Mother 2) Sister 3) Wife and 4) Daughter. (concept of “mehram”) Opposite genders cannot be friends and cannot socialize with each other particularly in isolation. They can work together but only as colleagues. As far as possible the genders should be separated and free mixing is not permitted. Where ever there is a man and woman alone there is always Satan there. So, men and women should follow these instructions and chances of sexual assault will be reduced.
In the US army soldiers cannot have affairs with other soldiers. Adultery is punishable by dishonorable discharge from your job. It is recommended that when examining the patients of the opposite gender, doctors should have a nurse present in the room. Similar instructions exist everywhere in the society because experience has shown that whenever two people of opposite gender are alone, third is Satan!
Islamic concept of hijab is for both genders. Muslim men are instructed to guard their eyes and protect their modesty. This means that they should not be looking at women with lust nor have illicit relations with them. Similarly, women are instructed to cover their beauty and protect their chastity. This means women should not flaunt their bodies in public for all to see and cover themselves appropriately. This will reduce the temptation and provide them security from the wandering eye and ultimately be of benefit for them. There are many who object to modest dress of the women under the guise of freedom. They say that the perpetrators should be stopped and punished rather than women instructed to cover themselves. This naïve and illogical line of argument is nothing but misguided. If you go in public and flaunt your cash it is only a matter of time that you will get robbed. You might get killed too. So, we don’t see anyone doing this. We protect our material possessions and guard them. Locks, banks, walls, guards, weapons and safes are all for this purpose. How could we expose our daughters to the beasts in the society? We need to protect them. Just for the nay sayers, I remind that one in five women will face sexual assault in their life time. The most common time for sexual assault is between the ages of 18 and 34. So if you want to protect your money but expose your daughters you must have lost your mind. You are irresponsible and incapable of taking care of the most prized and valuable person in your life. The women who refuse to cover themselves in public should know their risk and not complain if they experience sexual violence. Some might say it is blaming the victim. No!! If your behavior is inviting all the bad people then you asked for it. Obviously, the perpetrator should still be punished but this does not absolve your responsibility. You still need education and learn how to protect yourself. A person who is flaunting his cash in public and gets robbed will have very few sympathizers even when the robbers are being punished. And his loss will not be covered by jailing the robber.
Another factor that incites sexual violence is hostility towards women. Even as Muslims are blamed in the media for mistreating the woman, it is only a deception. The facts are against it. The problems in third world Muslim countries are rooted in poverty and illiteracy not religion. The religion of Islam gives women equal rights compared to men. It provides them security and protects their dignity. In the Western societies which are primarily Christian or practically Atheist the dire situation of women is now becoming clear. They are mistreated, discriminated against, physically and sexually abused. They are looked upon as objects for sexual gratification of men and not as descent and equal human beings. The society encourages them to dress provocatively and display their physical attributes but when it comes to hiring and paying them for their work, we see the hypocrisy. In the Islamic teaching women have been given extraordinary honor and respect. Just as an example, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that the paradise lies under the feet of your mother. It is the age of 18 to 34 when most women will become mothers. Respect and honor of a woman who is also a mother can lead you to Paradise. No other person in the society has been awarded this level of respect in Islam.
There is a storm of pornography flooding and overwhelming the young men. In the guise of free speech, the government permits unrestricted production and access to pornography. In fact, pornographic movies are a bigger business than all the Hollywood movies combined. In Islam looking at women lustfully is a sin. Men have been ordered to lower their gaze and not look at the women lustfully. So, it closes the door of lust right there. Islam also prescribes severe punishment for those who make such images. Anyone who performs sex acts in front of five people is committing a crime punishable by 80 lashes in public. Additional punishments and restrictions can also be applied. But Islam wants to keep the society pure and clean and protect our young men and children from these corrupting images and movies.
In this age of lies and deception, media constantly provides a false narrative about the teachings of Islam. It portrays the worst cases in the most destitute and war-torn places on earth and blames it on Islam. It fails to present the proper context and teachings of Islam. It does not allow any Muslim to come and present the correct view and true teachings of Islam. Public is deceived and led to the wrong conclusions. Islam protects the rights of women. It recognizes the vulnerability of the women in the society and prescribes measures for their protection. Sex crimes are taken very seriously and severe punishments are prescribed to discourage them.
Allah says in the Holy Quran, “Do they seek a religion other than Allah’s, while to Him submits whosoever is in the Heavens and the Earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him shall they be returned.” (3:84) It means that people look to ways other than prescribed by Allah, but they should know that everything in this universe is following the principals made by Allah. So, after trial and error they will all come to realize the truth of the Word of God, willingly or unwillingly. This is not just a statement of fact but also a prophecy. We see this coming true in the advice and directions of the US army, medical profession and many other places in the American society. More and more people are recognizing that the nature of man cannot be changed and it is incumbent upon women to take measures to protect themselves. The commonsense measures provided by God to the human beings 1400 years ago still stand true. After all the education and civility, the society is discovering that the underlying nature of man does not change. Sexual predators come from all sections of our society. They can be young men studying in the schools and universities, or men serving in the military, or physicians from the respectable and highly educated profession of healing, or leaders and politicians of our nation, or athletes and coaches, or religious leaders, or iconic figures such as Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein!