The extent of sexism goes beyond gender roles – in various parts of the world, and in many cultures, severe cases of sexism exist. In more ways than one, the system of patriarchy prevails through long standing customs and traditions. These are ingrained in men and women alike since birth, from generation to generation. Women are considered inferior as soon as their life begins on earth. And as they grow old, this inferiority is furthered by men through objectification. Even in a progressive world, sexism persists in the form of violence. Acid attacks, bride kidnapping, rape, and female circumcision are some of the horrors women still go through today. Here’s a closer look on some of them:
Acid attacks are a form of violence, using acid or any other corrosive substance to throw at a victim. The victims are usually women, and the sole purpose of the action is to maim, torture, and kill. They are used as a means to permanently scar the survivor, regarded as one of the most extreme forms of violence against women. They are mostly used because so much has been placed on the physical appearance of females, and perpetrators believe that this attack breaks women not only physically, but emotionally and mentally.
There are over 1,500 acid attacks per year, but many of these crimes go unreported due to fear of retaliation. Many of the world’s acid attack cases are from Asian countries, which includes India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as acid remains freely available and inexpensive.
In countries like India, acid attacks usually occur when a woman rejects the advances of a man or turns down a marriage proposal. Acid is usually thrown at the victim’s face, which results into scars and blindness. As previously mentioned, these complications make them disadvantaged. In a patriarchal society, especially those living in traditions, destroying a woman’s appearance can destroy her access to marriage, resources, work opportunities and education. Digging further, studies show that men are the typical aggressors of acid attacks, strengthened by notions of ownership of women’s bodies and control of women’s actions.
According to the latest data available gathered from Kyrgyzstan, 8% of women aged under 24 are married through some form of coercion. Child and forced marriage is believed to be a fundamental violation of human rights, as it is believed to affect not only an individual, but the entire society. Practices such as bride kidnapping falls under this, and while many still believe in this tradition, victims now speak against it.
According to a recent study, 1 in 5 marriages in Kyrgyzstan happen through the so-called traditional bride kidnapping. This allows allows Kyrgyzstani men to choose ride whom he wants to marry and arrange her kidnapping. The chosen bride has no say in the matter, and will be forced to marry the groom no matter the circumstance. The kidnapped women are often sexually assaulted by their “husbands”, and find little to no support from their friends and families. Although declared illegal for years now, bride kidnapping remains to be a prevalent and socially accepted practice.
Rape culture is a complex set of beliefs that incites male sexual aggression and perpetuates violence against women. It transpires in a society where violence is perceived as sexy and sexuality as violent. In rape culture, women perceive an assortment of threatened violence, ranging from sexual remarks to sexual touches and to rape itself. Rape cultures condones both physical and emotional terrorism against women, keeping its image as the norm. Here, men and women begin to believe that sexual violence is merely a fact of life, inevitable as death and taxes. This violence, of course, is neither biologically nor divinely preordained. Due to the misogynistic qualities of rape culture, the safety of women is an issue faced by cultures and nations all around the world. Data shows that India is ranked third for the greatest number of reported rapes annually, right behind the United States, the Land of the Free. The U.S. reported 83,425 rape cases, with the previous year showing a rate of one rape every 6.2 minutes. India reports a rate of one every 20 minutes.
Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, is perpetuated in an attempt to curb female sexual desire. This is done so that bride-to-be’s would remain as virgins for their future husbands; wives will also have no reason to be faithful. The mutilation removes all the parts that stimulate and enable desire, and often times vaginas are sewn shot into tiny holes - this makes intercourse painful. UNICEF believes that the practice is rooted in efforts to commoditize and control the female body. It is an act described to be so dangerous and heinous, as it is done to little girls. Most of the victims suffer from lifelong complications, and at times, die due to severe blood loss.
These forms of sexism prevail due to the system of patriarchy. Acid attacks happen due to the fragility of the masculine ego. Bride kidnapping perpetuates because people believe that the male gets the final say; rape happens because of a wrong notion of ownership over women’s bodies. FGM happens for the benefit of men, and if we look closely, all of the reasons behind these heinous crimes are intertwined. The lines of the patriarchy are blurred, and we are all victims.