Over the past months I have been following two stories of mothers who have gone missing. In March of the year Andreen McDonald of San Antonio, Texas went missing. Her husband was charged with tampering evidence. To date her body has not been found. Her six year old child will no doubt be asking when is mommy coming home.
The other case involves a woman from Connecticut. Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five went missing three weeks ago. Her estranged husband and his girlfriend were charged with tampering of evidence. The search continues for this missing mother.
There is little hope of finding these women alive. My message to these men and others with the same thought process is that no good can come with harming others. If you are in a marriage and it is not working out, walk away, get a divorce…life goes on. Don’t leave your children to suffer.
In certain cultures women are denied the right to choose their life partners and any defiance on their part can caused them to be murdered by their own family. One of the most horrendous cases of Honor Killing took place on December 7, 2012 when 22 year-old Nilofar Bibi was publicly beheaded by her own brother in Kolkata, India.
Bibi was only fourteen years old when she left home in an arranged marriage. She alleged that she was tortured by her in-laws and returned to her parent but disappeared days later. Her brother Mehtab Alam 29 at the time found his sister living with an old boyfriend. He stormed into the house and dragged Bibi into the street in broad daylight.
On that fateful day passersby watched in horror as he cut off his sister’s head saying that she had sinned and had to be punished. He left his sister’s body lying in a pool of blood on the road and calmly walked to the police station with her head in his hand to surrender himself. At the station he placed his sister’s head and the butcher knife he had used to decapitate her on the table in front of the police officer. It was later reported that the family expressed support for Alam saying they were proud he upheld the family honor.
Years later nothing has changed and women continue to be murdered in the name of family honor.
Abuse of women is a form of human rights violation that affects women just about every where in the world. Ironically one of the thing which contributes to abuse is the lack of unity among women and the fact that in some societies women actually take part in abusing other women. In places such as India and Pakistan mother-in-laws and sister-in-laws often beat and torture a new bride if they are not satisfied with the dowry that the family receives. There is no unity among the sisterhood and they see nothing wrong with hurting one of their kind.
In countries where Female Genital Mutilation is practiced, it is often the women who carry out this gruesome operation. In the Cameroon and other places that practice breast ironing it is the women who hurt their daughters and inflict physical as well as psychological scars. Women disfigure and hurt their daughters in what they say is an attempt to protect them from rape and harassment by men. These women fail to grasp the understanding that what they are doing is just another form of abuse. It is a no win situation for many young girls; if the men don’t hurt them, their mothers will.
One of the biggest obstacle in eliminating abuse against women worldwide is the fact that in many countries women have been conditioned to accept abuse as a part of life. Women suffer abuse in forced marriages and do nothing to protect their daughters from experiencing the same fate. So the vicious cycle of abuse is allowed to continue. For many young girls there is no escape, no way out. There is no one to stand up for them and no one to protect them.
The change must start with women taking responsibility for protecting their daughters instead of hurting them. Women must unity in the fight for equal rights for women. Young girls must no longer be denied the right to an education and they should not be forced into child marriages for which they are not prepared physically, mentally or emotionally. Women must understand that abuse of any form is not acceptable.
Dowry is a payment of cash or gift from the family of the bride to the bridegroom’s family upon marriage. The 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act, makes the payment of dowry illegal in India, but the practice continues, putting great financial strain on the bride’s family. The size of the dowry is usually seen as a reflection of wealth. Because of the dowry system the birth of a girl is considered a curse and girls are considered as burdens. This has given rise to growing cases of female foeticide. Thousands of girls are killed never getting the chance to make it from their mother’s womb alive.
In 2010 there were 8391 reported cases of dowry deaths in India. Women’s right groups estimate the annual dowry killing to be around 900 in Delhi alone. A dowry killing occurs when a new bride is murdered by her husband or in-laws. When the dowry is not considered sufficient the bride is often abused, harassed and made miserable. This can get to the point where the husband or his family burn the bride alive. They often do this by pouring kerosene on her and lighting it. These killings are often reported as accidents or suicide. Driven by greed the choice to kill the bride rather than return her to her parents ensures that the in-laws will not have to return the dowry. The very sad part in all of the is that the bride is dead while the groom is free to take himself another bride.