An Essay by Hakima A.
In Afghan society, women often discuss how much men have influenced and changed their or other women’s lives. Many women believe that most violence and abuse against women is perpetrated by men. However, women sometimes take part in this de-humanization.
Women are often afraid of how the men in their house might react if a woman speaks out against a man. They fear being verbally or physically abused — or even killed. Women in rural areas are especially afraid of taking this risk. Even if they are not physically assaulted, they may become the subject of gossip and laughter by other women or, worst of all, they might get divorced and have to return to their fathers’ house and live with mockery and shame by other women.
A woman might agree with her husband’s actions and go along with his abusive behavior because it makes her his favorite — much like a teacher’s pet — it may make him less abusive to her later. It also gives her power over others in the family. Other members might listen to what she wants and try fulfilling her wishes, because they know that her husband is likely to take her side in any disagreement. These women like feeling in control and are at the same time, too scared to do the right thing.
Even in Kabul, our capital, fear runs through the veins of young girls. Unfortunately, in rural and even suburban areas of our country, fear is an awesome tool to manipulate others who don’t have much physical power. Girls in some families are injected with fear from the day they are born till the end of their life. And that fear stays with them, as if it were part of their identity. Imagine your sibling getting beaten up but you are afraid to do anything because you might end up just like them, and then, your sibling might not help you when you need it later. There is a lack of confidence, support and trust among the women.
Sometimes this fear prevents women from getting an education. Women in a household may have brilliant ideas but they may not be listened to — or worse, they might be mocked. This creates self-doubt. The women may no longer understand if what they are thinking of or doing is right or wrong. Even if they know for sure that a woman in the household is being treated in a wrong way, that piece of self-doubt and fear still gets in the way. It will stop them from taking action.
Jealousy, is unfortunately, quite common among all of us, but maybe more amongst women. Even in Kabul, if a woman chooses to dress in a westernized way, drive a car or ride a bike it is expected that some boys and men will harass her or stare at her, but even more surprising, some women and girls actually do the same! For-example: if your shirt or sweater is quite short, boys may notice it and say something unkind or rude, but girls will also harass or make fun. I think it might be jealousy. Maybe they want to dress the same way, but something is stopping them and seeing someone who can actually do it, might not be so pleasant.
Afghan females must help each other out. Please pass on the message to the women in your families so we can somehow spread a sense of support, co-operation and more kindness towards each other.