Even Women’s Breasts Are Not Safe From Torture!

In certain parts of Africa, a number of horrifying customs are still prevalent. One such practice is that of female genital mutilation (FGM), done to ensure women cannot experience sexual pleasure. Another is breast ironing, essentially nothing but torture, to ensure breasts don’t grow and men don’t feel sexual attraction for her. The fact that such customs are still practiced in Africa is technically not new information. In fact, it is fairly common for African immigrants and people of African descent in Europe and America to make their girls undergo female genital mutilation too. However, what is new is that even in the United Kingdom, right this very moment, there are at least twelve girls who are undergoing absolute torture in the name of ‘breast ironing’. London, Yorkshire, Essex, West Midlands – news has trickled in from many such places that there have been instances of hot stones being rubbed on girls’ breasts to singe the cells and stunt their natural growth. This painful torture is brought down upon these girls every week, or at least once every fortnight. A women’s rights organisation from the United Kingdom has issued a statement that although the cases of these twelve girls are relatively recent if a proper survey was to be conducted one would discover that at least a thousand girls of African descent have gone through this torture till date.

Women’s bodies are tortured and mutilated only to make sure men cannot sexually abuse them. With breast ironing, the practice inhibits the natural growth of breasts, they never look like how they are meant to. The damage for the girl in question is both physical and psychological. Besides, these tortures are carried out by their own mothers and grandmothers, women who truly believe that these practices will protect their girls from falling prey to rapists and such people. The question that remains, however, is this – in order to prevent rape or sexual violence committed against a woman why does society not take any steps to educate men and make them aware? Why is it that women are the ones who have to undergo a series of strange, unnatural and humiliating experiences, ironically just to ensure their own safety? Men will grope, they will stare, they will pounce, they will harass and rape – women have to be wary of myriad such anxieties right from their childhood. So the moment they hit puberty their well-wishers shower and smother them with advice after advice – cover yourself, cover your breasts, cover your hair, your thighs and legs! Customs have to be followed out of fear of male violence. The fact that men are the predators and women are the prey – this logic is drilled into women even before they reach adolescence. It is indeed quite strange that those people to who young girls are the closest to in society are also their worst enemies – their rapists, their abusers, their murderers. Is such a society of any use to humanity? If this was the case with men, if they had to be always on edge that their bodies were going to be violated, that their lack of breasts was going to be a point of abuse, that their genitalia was going to be crushed and brutalised, then such a social formation would surely not have worked for them. Why are their breasts not as big as women’s, why are their genitalia so weird, why do their testicles hang, why do they have mustaches and beards – what if men were to be attacked over these things by the very people they cohabit with, the ones they trust the most? Surely, they would have termed such a society uninhabitable! Men must similarly understand the condition of women. They must understand that the society they have built up is equally uninhabitable for women.

I was born a woman. Why should I have to be ashamed or afraid of my own body? Why should the fear of a man force me to endure my breasts being flattened, have my genitals mutilated, often sewed shut to prevent me from experiencing sexual pleasure till a husband can literally cut me open and have me for the first time! Why should I have to suffer my entire life because I was born with the body of a woman! Don’t we have to pay for being women all our lives anyway? Why do you have hair on your body? Hide it! Cover your face! And why do you have breasts? Cover your breasts! And why hips! Cover it, and the butt too! Why do you have a vagina? Keep it secure! Thighs! Feet! Cover them as well! From the root of her hair to the tip of her toe, every part of a woman’s body has been put under embargo by the patriarchal society that surrounds us.

Breast ironing involves hot stones being rubbed on a pubescent girl’s breasts to arrest their rapid growth. Let more people become aware that such a thing exists, that breasts are things that can be ironed too! Despite the number of rapes men commit, their genitalia never face being melted with the hot iron as punishment. But despite not having done anything wrong with their breasts, women force women to undergo breast ironing only to prevent men from being swayed into committing a crime at the sight of them. None of this is for the sake of women, it’s all of the sake of the men. The sole objective behind practices like breast ironing and female genital mutilation is the drive to make sure that if a girl manages to escape rape or harassment when she is young, then the man who gets to marry her is promised someone chaste, a virgin body that he can be the sole consumer of. The primary function of women’s bodies is to provide sexual pleasure to men. They must keep their bodies pure to be offered up to the opposite sex. Consequently, the most primitive rituals connected with preserving the chastity of a woman are still so very prevalent everywhere, definitely in Africa, and in Asia as well. Many Africans and Asians too, no matter which end of the earth they move to and settle in, carry their customs there with them irrespective of how inhumane some of those rites might be.

Misogyny is now travelling from one end of the world to the other; it is being globalised. Practices from many backward cultures are seeping into many progressive and so-called civilised societies. On the other hand, discourses on human rights, women’s equal rights, democracy and the freedom of expression, all hallmarks of a civilised social system, are not making the reverse journey and finding their way into repressive and regressive societies. What people claim as democracy is not democracy at all, while most regular people are not even made aware about things like human rights and gender equality. When someone tries to rectify these oversights, they are invariably trapped in some circuitous legal mess and their freedom to express their opinions is taken from them. Such is the picture in much of the east. The civilised societies of the west, which men and women have built out of years of struggle over human rights and women’s rights, now face a severe crisis when practices like female genital mutilation and breast ironing find their way there, or when their social institutions find themselves stumped by the rise of things like burqas and niqabs.

Many women of the west have found their life-partners in many men who have immigrated there from other cultures. When you live in one society it’s expected that people will meet, that they will fall in love. Many women from the west have come into contact with men from the east and taken to the hijab, the burqa etc. Who can tell that one day they will not lose every last bit of reason and logic and end up advocating for terribly misogynist customs like breast ironing and genital mutilation as well! As it is the left has long been magnanimous in its proclamations that customs of all communities have to be respected, even the hijab and the burqa and suchlike. Perhaps even the ritual of genital mutilation too! Will we never accept the fact that not all cultural customs deserve to be accorded the same respect? One culture encourages music and dancing, the other propagates breast ironing – do they both deserve the same respect? Just because a handful of misogynous people continue to sustain and preserve patriarchal and misogynous customs does not make it necessary for us to adhere to them. Rather we must rise up in protest to ensure such rites are prohibited for good. We must not forget that in most communities the majority of traditions and customs are inherently laced with misogyny. In order to truly become civilised we must acknowledge the importance of equal rights of women in society. In order to truly become civilised we have no recourse other than completely delegitimising any and every misogynous tradition that we see around us.

Hope that efforts to remove women fails

Women have to fight every day, at home and outdoors. Women cannot even survive without fighting. When the environment is anti-woman, with patriarchy in control, women are on the battlefield right from birth. Men too fight to survive, but women have to fight twice as much. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat stated: “In this country, the battlefield is still not for women. Women have many problems in getting into combat situations, beginning with maternity leaves. Furthermore, Jawans are not yet quite ready to accept women as commanding officers in battlefields.”

The General wants to say that the battlefield is for men only, not for women; women need maternity leave and for that reason, it is appropriate that they are not commanding officers in a battlefield. People do need holidays during illnesses, no one has any problem with that. But not accepting women for important jobs with the excuse that they need maternity leaves is not new. Maternity leaves are long; when the leader of a unit goes on that vacation, another would be assigned to lead that unit. Introducing this provision in the army is not particularly difficult. The problem mentioned is not impossible to solve. Besides, nowadays women do not give birth every year but produce one or at the most two children. All countries give maternity leaves as a rule. In many countries, not only the mother, but arrangements have been made for both parents to get such leaves. In civilized countries, especially in North European countries, if women get to leave for six months, so do men. It has been observed that less educated parents spend their leaves together over the same period, but couples with higher education take their leaves in tandem, one after the other. The father takes his paternal leave after the mother has spent the maternal leave and joins her work. Less educated folks believe that the main responsibility of fostering a child rests on mother, the father takes his leave at the same time as if to merely help the mother in her child-rearing. But the educated believe both parents’ responsibility in rearing the child to be equally important; the responsibility of raising the child is not the mother’s alone but the father too bears equal responsibility. That is why the father’s role is not merely to help the mother raise the child but his responsibility includes raising the child. Research has shown that children, who receive equal attention and care from both parents and even equal rearing-time from both parents, grow up to be healthy and well rounded. Studies have further shown that infant death rates are the lowest in countries where mother and father both take part in fostering the child. Civilized countries believe both parents have equal responsibilities toward their children and hence paternal leaves are as important as the material. The question could then be raised that do men lose their fitness to be commanding officers in battlefields because they enjoy paternal leaves? They do not. By the same token, women do not lose their eligibility as commanding officers in battlefields just because they take maternal leaves. Anyone leaving for vacation can be replaced by another assuming her work. All the women in the army do not get pregnant at the same time. Here the real problem is not with vacation per se but with the gender needing the vacation. Men do not consider persons with female gender as human beings as if their only job is to sit home, produce children and raise them.

General Rawat has further said: “If a female officer dies on the battlefield, and she has children, just imagine the consequences her family would suffer; they would be ruined. Besides if any Jawan peeks in on a lady Officer in battlefield changing clothes that would be even more trouble. Then the female officers would have to register repeated complaints to the authorities. Denying maternity leave on grounds of duty might cause an uproar.”

Death of a female officer at war might indeed ruin the family. But a male officer dying at the battlefield might ruin his family in the same way; is that a reason not to send male officers to war front? I do not see any rationale to stop female officers from going to battle in case some Jawans peep while they are changing clothes. Men and women officers both register complaints to the authorities all the time for various reasons. One hundred and one of these reasons pose no problem, only the complaints about peeping Jawans causes all the problems. If such complaints convert boorish Jawans into civilized humans then it must be a useful one. Peeping by Jawans might also occur while male officers are changing. Even the male officers might feel uncomfortable while some female officers might not feel any discomfort due to Jawans’ peeking. As a matter of fact, feeling discomfort is not necessarily gender-based but depends on the individual. Also, peeping/prying is not the characteristics of all Jawans but of only a few. Isn’t there a system of court-martial for punishing those who commit crimes? Is the system broken?

The Chief of Staff has observed: “A majority of the army jawans come from very far remote villages near the borders. Would the Jawans agree to go into the battle on the orders of a female officer? I wanted to send women into battle, but we had to take all these different issues into consideration.”

Listening to General Bipin Rawat one gets the feeling that Indian forces are not yet fully ready to send women into battlegrounds. There is no objection to women’s presence in the army as Doctor or Engineers. But the time to combat the enemy with weapons in hand, he says, has not come yet. Time does not drop from heaven; one has to usher it in,. Have the women ever said that they do not want to be commanding officers? They have not. The General has said that the Jawans from villages do not take women’s commands seriously. In that case, rather than stopping women from taking command, educating the Jawans seems to be a priority. Jawans have to be taught the lesson that the commanding officer, male or female, has to be obeyed. In the army not willing to obey a direct order from a higher officer results in a court-martial. Disobeying a Female officer’s command should have the same consequence; if not, then there must be some kind of flaw in the application of rules in the army revealing administrative weakness. If the culprit Jawans escape punishment, Jawans are not to blame. The fault lies with that influential, misogynist inauthority who want to achieve their heinous objectives while putting the blame on the Jawans. They want to see women as housewives, not as warriors. They want to see women with children in their laps and cooking pots and utensils in their hands. They do not want to see women as equally competent to men in all fields of work. They want to see women as soft, weak, dependent on others, scared beings. The truth that they can equal men in physical and mental strengths, firmness and sharpness – is not tolerable to such men. It does not stand to reason that just because Jawans have come from villages, they would not change even with a good education. One should not treat them with such contempt just because they are villagers. How many city-boys would willingly accept commands from women? Just because they are unwilling, should we deprive women of the opportunities to work in all fields? Absolutely not. Depriving them would make the misogynists victorious and we would only prove that it is quite easy to displace women from different workplaces. We should instead try to remove the immense hatred and jealousy from the minds of women-hater misogynists. Only then an unequal society could be transformed into one of gender equality and fairness.

At a certain point in time, our society was not willing to let women even be educated and objected to their working outside the home. When women slowly progressed ignoring and disobeying the opponents, even then they were kept under control with restrictions to prevent them from this or that work. If the misogynists’ opinions were valued, women could not be Doctors or engineers even today; they would remain as school teachers or nurses. That is why I say, listening to women-haters would destroy the society – the more you defeat them, the better.

World Hijab Day!

First of February begins the “World Hijab Day”. A campaign for the freedom to wear or not wear any piece of cloth on anybody happens only when the body belongs to women. I have never found men start a movement about wearing a keffiyeh or ghutrah or take to the streets for their rights of not wearing them. When laws were being made in Iran to impose hijab on every woman, hundreds of thousands of women marched down the streets demanding their rights for not wearing them. The theocratic rulers of Iran denied women that right.

Some women want to wear hijab – they wear it. But the problem arises when some women do not want to wear hijab; they are forced to wear it. Just a few months back, quite a few Iranian women stood on a high spot on the sidewalk to make
themselves noticeable to all, took the hijabs off their heads, tied them at the ends of sticks and fluttered them in the air in full public view on the open road in broad daylight without caring for any punishment or retribution. The statement they wanted to make was: Those who wear hijab, let them; but we do not want to wear it, we want the right not to wear the hijab. As hijab is a religious garment and since religion is personal for every individual, it is reasonable to leave hijab up to an individual’s personal choice.

Pressure is created to place hijab, niqab, burqa, abaya, head-scarf etc. on the female body. The state puts pressure, or the family does, the relatives and friends do, so do the neighbours. Majority of Muslim women surrender to these pressures. My personal opinion: let the pressures cease; let women be given the total freedom in wearing their clothes. Many women are willing to wear hijab for religious reasons. Countless men would stand with hijabi women if they were prevented from wearing hijab but a similar crowd would not stand by the women unwilling to wear hijab. Here lies the ultimate discrimination.

The “World Hijab Day” starts not in any Muslim country, rather in a nation of Christian majority, in the USA. The USA does not have any law against hijab, neither is there any social policy to humiliate hijabi women. Muslims even get permissions from the non-Muslim governments for agitations on the streets of Europe and America. For those organizing “World Hijab Day”, the goal is not religion – but politics. When religion turns to politics, all its virtuous qualities are spoiled. It no longer remains limited within the bounds of personal faith. Religion then becomes a tool for occupation, an instrument for winning power, for decimating the rights of others, a weapon for beheading others. Let religion stay as religion, let it not metamorphose into politics. We have seen the undemocratic activities and inhuman achievements of Jamate Islami, Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, Boko Haram, The army of God, Eastern Lightning, Bajrang Dal or Shiv Sena already.

It is well known that in Islamic Republics people are forced to wear Islamic attires; women are specially goaded. But it is surprising to see that a similar pressure is maintained even in a People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Pictures of women wearing Salwar-Kameez and headscarf have been published in recent school textbooks with captions: Appropriate Attire for women. It has been said as an explanation that physical developments in female bodies make them stoop while walking – that is why walking with a scarf allows them to walk erect. I am afraid textbooks would soon present the picture of a woman in Burkha with “women’s appropriate attire” written underneath and many arguments in favour of wearing Burkha would be provided.

My question is: why should one feel ashamed of the developmental changes in one’s body? Why is it necessary to cover those up with extra clothes. Everyone knows about these changes in puberty. Boys go through changes in vocal cords- do they hide it with something? Hair grows on boys’ faces and chests – what is used to cover them up? Then why should the menstruation for girls be kept a secret? Why should layers upon layers of clothes be placed over girls’ bosoms – no one should see them; no one should guess that there is something like breasts under the clothes. Actually, the presence of scarves reveals that there is something. Isn’t the reason for women wearing scarves is: men are scoundrels, stare openly at women’s breasts without self-control; they don’t know how to act civilized? Whether we agree or not, it is an insult to men for women to have to wear dupatta or scarves. Barbaric men would pounce upon women not wearing scarves; some would consider pouncing. In reality, those who pounce would do so whether women wear scarves or not; scarves cannot stop them. They need something much larger than scarves to change their mentality – they need proper education to treat women as equal humans, not as sex objects.

So long as women continue to wear scarves, it’d prove that women can’t trust men, that they are uncivilized, barbarians. The solution is for women to stop wearing covers; and for men to stop being barbarians. Men or women neither are ignorant of the fact that breasts are just glands, mere fat, and flesh. Then why is seeing or showing them so troublesome? Maybe the problem is just that it concerns the female body. Men have breasts too and fat gathers on them but men are not asked to cover those – just because they concern male bodies. Anyone would realize that whole issue of wearing or not wearing scarves is there in order to create inequality between men and women.

Women are not given the right to wear clothes of their own choice while no one objects about men’s attires; they can wear whatever they like. Just for women, invisible “moral-police” have been posted all around. How can we build a society of equality until this discrimination is eliminated? Attire should not be an issue but it has been made into one. Women’s status in society can be guessed from their outfits.

Even in the Home economics textbooks of schools, I found that girls have been advised on what color clothes they should wear and what colors they should avoid. Chubby girls should wear light colors lest they look fat. That means looking fat is bad! Fat girls’ self-confidence is thus trampled into dust. In school texts, bodies of class VIII girls are being analyzed and researched for structures that look good or bad. Isn’t it more essential to instruct the girls about the discriminations in the society and family? Isn’t it necessary to help girls develop and broaden their minds? Isn’t it more urgent to inspire them in brightening the special qualities they are characteristically endowed with?

Are boys taught “Home Economics” or Home Science in school? This “science” is needed more for boys than girls. The notion that domesticity is for women, men have the world outside – has been proven wrong time and again. This idea has always created discrimination against women. Patriarchal society has locked women in homes centuries after centuries. Challenging this society, women are out today and have shown that whatever jobs men can do, women too can do. Women can be doctors, engineers, physicists, researchers, pilots, astronauts – they can be teachers, thinkers, artists, authors, politicians, sociologists – or laborers, police and military officers, ministers or heads of states. But men not yet been able to demonstrate that they can do what women can. They too can perform domestic duties and raise children. That is why I’d say that boys need to study “Home Science” more than girls do. Though girls have some grasp of this “Science”, boys are clueless.

It is worth remembering that in order to be civilized, an equal society, not a discriminatory one, has to be built. As long as men and women do not have equal rights, society will be anything but equal.

Even Women’s Breasts Are Not Safe From Torture!

In certain parts of Africa, a number of horrifying customs are still prevalent. One such practice is that of female genital mutilation (FGM), done to ensure women cannot experience sexual pleasure. Another is breast ironing, essentially nothing but torture, to ensure breasts don’t grow and men don’t feel sexual attraction for her. The fact that such customs are still practiced in Africa is technically not new information. In fact, it is fairly common for African immigrants and people of African descent in Europe and America to make their girls undergo female genital mutilation too. However, what is new is that even in the United Kingdom, right this very moment, there are at least twelve girls who are undergoing absolute torture in the name of ‘breast ironing’. London, Yorkshire, Essex, West Midlands – news has trickled in from many such places that there have been instances of hot stones being rubbed on girls’ breasts to singe the cells and stunt their natural growth. This painful torture is brought down upon these girls every week, or at least once every fortnight. A women’s rights organisation from the United Kingdom has issued a statement that although the cases of these twelve girls are relatively recent, if a proper survey was to be conducted one would discover that at least a thousand girls of African descent have gone through this torture till date.

Women’s bodies are tortured and mutilated only to make sure men cannot sexually abuse them. With breast ironing, the practice inhibits the natural growth of breasts, they never look like how they are meant to. The damage for the girl in question is both physical and psychological. Besides, these tortures are carried out by their own mothers and grandmothers, women who truly believe that these practices will protect their girls from falling prey to rapists and such people. The question that remains, however, is this – in order to prevent rape or sexual violence committed against a woman why does society not take any steps to educate men and make them aware? Why is it that women are the ones who have to undergo a series of strange, unnatural and humiliating experiences, ironically just to ensure their own safety? Men will grope, they will stare, they will pounce, they will harass and rape – women have to be wary of myriad such anxieties right from their childhood. So the moment they hit puberty their well-wishers shower and smother them with advice after advice – cover yourself, cover your breasts, cover your hair, your thighs and legs! Customs have to be followed out of fear of male violence. The fact that men are the predators and women are the prey – this logic is drilled into women even before they reach adolescence. It is indeed quite strange that those people to who young girls are the closest to in society are also their worst enemies – their rapists, their abusers, their murderers. Is such a society of any use to humanity? If this was the case with men, if they had to be always on edge that their bodies were going to be violated, that their lack of breasts was going to be a point of abuse, that their genitalia was going to be crushed and brutalised, then such a social formation would surely not have worked for them. Why are their breasts not as big as women’s, why are their genitalia so weird, why do their testicles hang, why do they have mustaches and beards – what if men were to be attacked over these things by the very people they cohabit with, the ones they trust the most? Surely, they would have termed such a society uninhabitable! Men must similarly understand the condition of women. They must understand that the society they have built up is equally uninhabitable for women.

I was born a woman. Why should I have to be ashamed or afraid of my own body? Why should the fear of a man force me to endure my breasts being flattened, have my genitals mutilated, often sewed shut to prevent me from experiencing sexual pleasure till a husband can literally cut me open and have me for the first time! Why should I have to suffer my entire life because I was born with the body of a woman! Don’t we have to pay for being women all our lives anyway? Why do you have hair on your body? Hide it! Cover your face! And why do you have breasts? Cover your breasts! And why hips! Cover it, and the butt too! Why do you have a vagina? Keep it secure! Thighs! Feet! Cover them as well! From the root of her hair to the tip of her toe, every part of a woman’s body has been put under embargo by the patriarchal society that surrounds us.

Breast ironing involves hot stones being rubbed on a pubescent girl’s breasts to arrest their rapid growth. Let more people become aware that such a thing exists, that breasts are things that can be ironed too! Despite the number of rapes men commit, their genitalia never face being melted with a hot iron as punishment. But despite not having done anything wrong with their breasts, women force women to undergo breast ironing only to prevent men from being swayed into committing a crime at the sight of them. None of this is for the sake of women, it’s all of the sake of the men. The sole objective behind practices like breast ironing and female genital mutilation is the drive to make sure that if a girl manages to escape rape or harassment when she is young, then the man who gets to marry her is promised someone chaste, a virgin body that he can be the sole consumer of. The primary function of women’s bodies is to provide sexual pleasure to men. They must keep their bodies pure to be offered up to the opposite sex. Consequently, the most primitive rituals connected with preserving the chastity of a woman are still so very prevalent everywhere, definitely in Africa, and in Asia as well. Many Africans and Asians too, no matter which end of the earth they move to and settle in, carry their customs there with them irrespective of how inhumane some of those rites might be.

Misogyny is now travelling from one end of the world to the other; it is being globalised. Practices from many backward cultures are seeping into many progressive and so-called civilised societies. On the other hand, discourses on human rights, women’s equal rights, democracy and the freedom of expression, all hallmarks of a civilised social system, are not making the reverse journey and finding their way into repressive and regressive societies. What people claim as democracy is not democracy at all, while most regular people are not even made aware of things like human rights and gender equality. When someone tries to rectify these oversights, they are invariably trapped in some circuitous legal mess and their freedom to express their opinions is taken from them. Such is the picture in much of the east. The civilised societies of the west, which men and women have built out of years of struggle over human rights and women’s rights, now face a severe crisis when practices like female genital mutilation and breast ironing find their way there, or when their social institutions find themselves stumped by the rise of things like burqas and niqabs.

Many women of the west have found their life-partners in many men who have immigrated there from other cultures. When you live in one society it’s expected that people will meet, that they will fall in love. Many women from the west have come into contact with men from the east and taken to the hijab, the burqa etc. Who can tell that one day they will not lose every last bit of reason and logic and end up advocating for terribly misogynist customs like breast ironing and genital mutilation as well! As it is the left has long been magnanimous in its proclamations that customs of all communities have to be respected, even the hijab and the burqa and suchlike. Perhaps even the ritual of genital mutilation too! Will we never accept the fact that not all cultural customs deserve to be accorded the same respect? One culture encourages music and dancing, the other propagates breast ironing – do they both deserve the same respect? Just because a handful of misogynous people continue to sustain and preserve patriarchal and misogynous customs does not make it necessary for us to adhere to them. Rather we must rise up in protest to ensure such rites are prohibited for good. We must not forget that in most communities the majority of traditions and customs are inherently laced with misogyny. In order to truly become civilised we must acknowledge the importance of equal rights of women in society. In order to truly become civilised we have no recourse other than completely delegitimising any and every misogynous tradition that we see around us.