The Right to be a WOMAN

I dedicate this piece to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign which runs from November 25th to December 10th,2012

Published at WLUML

We are people around the world that have different backgrounds, speak different languages, hold different nationalities but unfortunately as women we suffer from the same gender inequality and gender based-violence anywhere in the world. The violence starts when we were floating in our moms' womb because the dad, the family and community want a Boy till we grow up and find ourselves judged and punished by the society for the only reason we are “women”.

Three days ago, I watched a documentary entitled “Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan”. It shows that even when people try to make women happy, they terrorize them! They call it funny tradition but it is not funny at all. In fact, Kyrgyzstan is a country that I’ve never visited and never met someone originally form there. However, as in Kyrgyzstan, a tiny country in central Asia, women around the world suffer from different forms of violence either under the name of traditions and culture or under the pretext of religious teachings or during and following conflicts, wars or political and economic crises.

As a woman, I heard all kind of sexist statements even when I’ve been to the supposed first democracies of the world that guarantee women’s rights.  An American friend was joking with me some time ago when I was asking about the driving licenses “you’re a girl, you can’t drive!”. Another friend of mine has once told me,when we were talking about American women's fight for their rights in the 20s, “because we’ve been leaders since the creation of earth, this is why you had to fight for your rights”.  The same sexism I face in my home country Tunisia, when my ex would ask me once our relationship got to engagement: “do you know how to cook?”. I suppose that most girls have been asked this question by their boyfriends sooner or later but it wouldn’t sound an ordinary question if we ask them the same; why? Is that women’s role in life? I still call them friends though because our role as women not to be depressed from Manhood patriotic attitude but to try to change their perspectives and understanding of who we are and what is our role in society.
However, this gender inequality we face and challenge every day in school, at home or at the workplace for only asking for work as equal to men, or drive like men, or lead our business, or choose our partners as men do, can be solved through dialogue and debate but what about physical and sexual gender based violence?

In Tunisia, we didn’t have a revolution for religious reasons but we only asked for dignity and freedom side by side with men for the same cause. However, as in any conflict, women are the victims at last.

During Tunisia’s revolution, I’ve seen all kinds of violence that women might be subjected to. Woman’s body has become a threat to her life. Following the ex-President Flee of the country, the first outcome was girls' kidnapping and raping. Guys had even joked about it on Facebook and said :" the girls that will not be kidnapped today means they're not beautiful". It is certainly funny for them because they've never experienced what raping is about and how much it can affect the psyche beside the body. The Police, indeed, was taking advantage of the chaos to use any moment to sexually harass women from looking to staring to touching to raping to beating,  whenever the opportunity is best to do one of these behaviors or more. I can’t call these attitudes but animalistic ones. Police might even share their violence to the victim as it happened this last September, when a Tunisian woman has been arrested and charged with public indecency because she has been raped by two police officers! The saddest part is that both law and society would always take the side of the violator. Even before the revolution, I wouldn't walk by myself securely in the street at 3am, for instance, without been afraid of been insulted or raped. During last year unrest, I would be lucky not to be beaten or raped on day!

Nevertheless, I am proud to say that Tunisian women were and still actively participating in the revolution. Women were among the first who rise up high revolutionary slogans and have been part of all crucial moments. We have been the protesters, the journalists, the photographers, the volunteers, the elections observers, the bloggers, the campaigners… despite the violence we go through from the bus station till arriving to the demonstration square.

This has been said, we should not remain the victims anymore. It is also our role as active women to raise awareness, protect women and help them understand that they are born with unreliable rights and freedoms. I’ve been asked once by a Yemeni friend “If you were born again will you be a man or a woman?”. I answered then “I would be a WOMAN” and I would always hold this vision of being proud to be a woman that proves herself every day and change her community. YOU also should be proud of being a woman. It is not your sex that you should change but the society you’re living in.



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