Yesterday I read of a 25 year old woman, five months pregnant, who was stoned to death by her relatives in Pakistan. An “Honor Killing”. It took her family over 60 minutes to kill her. A horrible death made worse by the hands of ‘family’. Her crime? She rejected the ‘arranged marriage’ and married ‘for love’ according to her father. However, this husband killed his first wife to be with this one. Apparently, women in Pakistan are disposable property. He was acquitted because his sons ‘forgave’ him. This is part of the Muslim law in this country. Again, women have no standing or safety from the violence of men.
Today I read of two young girls, cousins, aged 14 and 16 who were gang-raped and hung from a tree.
Have these two countries descended into medieval savagery? No, it seems these things are ‘business as usual’. These countries haven’t left barbaric savagery. This is not unusual behavior of men (and either condoned by police or even in the case of the Indian girls, part of the gang rape.) in these countries. It comes from the religious and political laws of one country (Pakistan) and the traditional mentality of another (India). If that sounds like an over simplification of social and religious norms in these two countries, so be it. I am sick and horrified in reading of these crimes against women and girls, and even young boys.
These two young women, more girls than women, were from a ‘lower caste’ (Untouchables) as reported by the BBC. When their fathers went to the police, they were ‘abused’ because when they were asked their caste, and reported it, the police berated them. They refused to take the fathers seriously.
This hanging of these two young girls happened in a rural village of Uttar Pradesh in the north of India. A ‘reason’ sited by Indian officials for these crimes is that ‘the absence of internal toilets makes these women have to seek outside fields to relieve themselves and they are prey for waiting gangs of men.’
Interesting. So the lack of toilets are to blame for these crimes, not the mentality of certain men in India.
What it points to, besides the mentality of men towards women in India, is the caste mentality that pervades India’s social and legal system. The caste system is ancient and is used to oppress and control and intimidate the lower “Other Backward Castes” (as defined in police logs) by the higher caste orders.
Three ‘lower caste men’ and one police official were arrested (or detained) for these murders. But if Indian laws follow suit, they will not make much progress.
For the past two years we have read of the killings, the rapes of numerous Indian women and some Europeans who have fallen into the hands of men. I recently wrote a longer entry about this, titled “On The Misogyny of Indian Men” on my blog. I see that it is still being read and I see that it is being read by people from India. It is not my task in life (or ability) to answer these enormous issues but I can’t help but be horrified that they exist in such measure today in India and other countries. This was once the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Where I can I will use my blog to make readers aware of these incidents. That is the very least I can do.
As far as what others can do I would suggest reading up on the caste and social issues of India in particular. Some educated people have expressed to me that they didn’t realize what was happening in India. And some Indian men here in my country have laughed, or shrugged their shoulders, and said “this behavior was commonplace, and it would ‘go away’ with a bribe.” That was my young Indian born dentist. He is no longer my dentist. It might be ‘commonplace’ in his country of origin, but it is nothing to smirk about or attempt to joke away. Not in my country and certainly not in my presence.
There is no excuse I believe for writers or poets, these people in my milieu, to claim such ignorance. Our existence as poets/writers goes beyond the issue of ‘art’. We are also blessed with the ability of our words reaching out and spreading knowledge, making people think and act on these enormous issues.
And internationally, we must act.
Finally, I am thankful that I know and work with Indian men who are writers and especially poets who are aware of these conditions of caste and social conditions. Though they are sometimes embarrassed, confused and silent, they do feel the horrible weight of these horrible things.
The fruit hanging from that mango tree
was a strange fruit
Barely blossoming, not yet women
two girls swayed in the breeze
and men ringed that mango tree
and blocked the road
and my eyes saw the horror,
my heart cut deeper than Hell.
I who have no daughters
would claim them for my own
would feed them butter
would decorate them with jewels
would love them to the ends
of the Earth,
would stand beneath that mango tree
with two swords and kill any man who
would hang children from these low branches.
With my own hands I would send them to Hell.
Tags: "Honor Killings", BBC, blog, caste system, Jane Kohut-Bartels, Mahatma Gandhi, medieval savagery in India and Pakistan continues and gets worse, Pakistan, stoning, The Misogyny of Indian Men, Violence Against Women in India Again