Severe Cases of Sexism

EssayFeminism
Jun 26, 2010

Essays are among the most commonly assigned academic projects. Students in high school, college, or even graduate school can expect these to be part of their coursework. Defined as a written work that discusses a given topic, an essay is structured into three main sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. This sample college essay discusses some of the most significant threats facing women today.

Great strides have certainly been achieved in advancing the rights and causes of women. Women around the world today can access education and employment, thus lowering their chances of being confined to the domestic sphere. Furthermore, changing gender roles have allowed women to take a more active part in politics and policy-making. This is often the case in developed countries with more advanced economies, especially those which rank high in human development indices. But despite the progress enjoyed by many women, many countries still lag behind. In many parts of the world and in many cultures, sexism still prevails. Some examples of modern sexism that targets women include the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling , and lack of representation among others. However, sexism can be more grave to the point that it goes beyond everyday sexism . The system of patriarchy prevails in many of these places, and sometimes this is manifested in long-standing practices that cause grave harm to women including young girls. Among the most severe forms of sexism that exist today include acid attacks, bride kidnapping, rape and sexual violence, and female genital mutilation.

Acid Attacks

Acid attacks can be defined as a form of violence that involves throwing acids or other corrosive substances at a victim “with the intention of maiming, torturing or killing them” (Action Aid, 2022). Acid attacks are also often used as a means to permanently scar the survivor. Acid attacks are predominantly used against women. Accurate statistical data on acid attacks are difficult to come by chiefly because many attacks go unreported. However, Acid Survivors Trust International [ASTI] (n.d.) estimates that around 1,500 attacks occur each year, and 80% of such attacks target women. ASTI further estimates that around 60% of such cases go unreported. Some of the countries where the majority of acid attacks occur include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, and the United Kingdom (ASTI, n.d.).

Motives behind acid attacks vary, but in many cases, the attacks serve as retribution for a perceived slight or insult. 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 in severe burns, scarring, and blindness. Acid attacks seek to destroy their victims’ physical appearance since many of the societies where these crimes occur place great value on the physical appearance of females (Hopkins et al., 2021). Hence, perpetrators believe that damaging women’s bodies breaks women not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. 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 (Mittal et al., 2021). Acid attacks are among the severest forms of sexism because of the grave consequences their victims suffer.

Bride Kidnapping

Bride kidnapping is another severe form of sexism that women suffer. Bride kidnapping is defined as the act of forcibly abducting a woman and coercing her into marrying her abductor (Handrahan, 2007). Bride kidnapping occurs in many societies but is more prevalent in Central Asia. It is important to note that bride kidnapping is an old tradition and that not all cases involve coercion. Some cases are staged, with the bride agreeing to be kidnapped in order to uphold the tradition. But the number of cases that involve coercion remains high. Furthermore, many victims are young women, sometimes even younger than 18 years. According to the latest data available gathered from Kyrgyzstan, as high as 1 in 3 marriages involves kidnapping. In many cases, the victim is subjected to physical violence and even rape in order to force them into agreeing to the marriage. Isolation also means that victims find little to no support from their friends and families (Adetunji, 2021). Although declared illegal for years now, bride kidnapping remains to be a prevalent and socially accepted practice. Child and forced marriage are believed to be a fundamental violation of human rights, as it is believed to affect not only the individual but the entire society. Practices such as bride kidnapping fall under this. And while many still believe in this tradition, victims now speak against it. 

Rape and Sexual Violence

Rape is defined as a type of sexual assault that involves sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration committed against a person without their consent (U.S. Department of Justice, 2012). Rape is a global problem. The prevalence of rape varies by country, but globally as high as 35% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Countries with the highest rate of rape (cases per 100,000 individuals) include Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Bermuda, and Sweden (World Population Review, 2022). In the U.S., almost 85,000 cases of rape were reported in 2022 (World Population Review, 2022). According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network [RAINN] (2022), around 464,000 women fall victim to rape and other forms of sexual violence every year. However, it is important to note that the real number of victims is likely far higher. This is because many cases of rape and sexual violence go unreported.

The prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence owes to the persistence of rape culture. 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 culture 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. 

Female Genital Mutilation

The World Health Organization [WHO] defines female genital mutilation [FGM] as comprising “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (2022). This practice is often performed based on the belief that it curbs female sexual desire. This is done so that women would remain virgins for their future husbands. The mutilation removes all the parts that stimulate and enable desire, and oftentimes vaginas are sewn shut into tiny holes, which makes intercourse painful. Scholars argue that the practice is rooted in efforts to commoditize and control the female body. It is an act described to be dangerous and heinous, especially since it is done even to young girls. Most of the victims suffer from lifelong complications and at times even die due to severe blood loss (Klein et al., 2018).

Conclusion

Though millions of women have certainly achieved a lot in terms of gender parity and women’s rights, millions of others continue to endure destructive forms of sexism. As discussed in this paper, some of the more common forms of severe sexism include acid attacks, bride kidnapping, sexual violence, and female genital mutilation. 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. Female genital mutilation happens for the benefit of men. The element these forms of sexism share is the fact that these severe forms of sexism prevail due to the system of patriarchy. These cases are just a few that women suffer from. Others include discrimination, misogyny, and domestic violence among others. The existence of these social ills are a clear indication that though women have come a long way, there is still a far longer way to go in achieving true freedom and equality.

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References

Acid Survivors Trust International. (n.d.). A worldwide problem. https://www.asti.org.uk/a-worldwide-problem.html

Action Aid. (2022, May 23). Acid attacks. https://www.actionaid.org.uk/our-work/vawg/acid-attacks

Adetunji, A. (2021, June 7). ‘Bride kidnapping’ haunts rural Kyrgyzstan, causing young women to flee their homeland . The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/bride-kidnapping-haunts-rural-kyrgyzstan-causing-young-women-to-flee-their-homeland-158404

Handrahan, L. (2007). Hunting for women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 6, 207-233. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461674042000211308

Hopkins, M., Neville, L., & Sanders, T. (2021). Acid crime: Context, motivation and prevention. Springer Nature.

Klein, E., Helzner, E., Shayowitz, M., Kohlhoff, S., & Smith-Norowitz, T. A. (2017). Female genital mutilation: Health consequences and complications—A short literature review. Obstetrics and Gynecology International, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/7365715

Mittal, S., Phil, T. S. D., Verma, & Phil, S. K. V. D. (2021). Exploring the trauma of acid attack victims: A qualitative enquiry. Women’s Studies International Forum, 88 , 102507. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2021.102507

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (2022). Victims of sexual violence: Statistics . https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). An updated definition of rape . https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/updated-definition-rape

World Health Organization. (2022, January 21). Female genital mutilation . https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation

World Population Review. (2022). Rape statistics by country 2022 . https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/rape-statistics-by-country

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