The Honor of Rape | Hirsi Ali
This post does not seek to indict one faith or group of people over another, for the real culprits are the men of any nationality, culture, and faith who feel that women are chattel, and deserve to be treated with disrespect, physical and sexual violence, and even death. This behavior continues unabated because the perpetrators know that there will be no repercussions for their acts of violence.
In the case of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Darfur, Sudan, rape is used as a brutal weapon of war and is committed on such a grand scale that it is incomprehensible to most people. As a victim of rape, the picture below is viscerally painful and nauseating; however, I believe it is necessary for people to see the graphic horror of this crime.
Whether it is a single victim or a multitude, rape is reprehensible and its perpetrators though human, have lost all sense of humanity and what I would call a soul. In fact, rape is an honor and rite of passage for boy soldiers in these two conflicts, who are often given the choice between death or committing this heinous act.
Then, there are the women who are raped, often by relatives, and then are killed because they have “lost their honor.” In these cases, the men who rape these women and girls are either sexual deviants, such as paedophiles and molesters, or as in the case of war and domestic violence, they rape a woman as means of dishonoring her, thereby gaining the tacit support of the community to then murder her.
The illogical supposition that a woman willingly lost her honor through the act ofastounds me! And, even though I lived within a society where a woman’s honor was less about self-determination, than a male’s view of how she should be governed, I could never wrap my brain around this cultural norm, nor my father’s absolute adoption of its practices.
I was only 8 years old, but I recall vividly the first time my father tried to kill my mother. We were living in Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. My father was teaching at the university and my mother was a homemaker totally dependent upon him. As usual, my father was sullen and angry, which often resulted in verbal abuse, but my mother had become adept at defusing his ire before it reached critical mass.
This time however, my father was angry with my mother because he felt that she disrespected him by defying his rule against buying and consuming meat. My mother often bought meat to feed us during lunch when he was out of the house because she felt that our strict vegan diet was not providing her children with enough nourishment.
It was this simple act of motherhood that made my father feel that he had to restore his honor and supremacy, and thus he began to berate my mother who directed us to take refuge as the altercation erupted into. After a protracted beating the house became eerily silent.
I emerged from the hiding place where we had taken refuge, and carefully navigated down the hall of the apartment searching for my parents in every room. Finally, I arrived at the front door where I debated if I should go seek help from a neighbor or continue to look for my parents. I opted for the latter and turned to enter the kitchen.
My eyes rose to the ceiling in disbelief, as my mind tried to process the image of my mother towering above my father. She stood on a roughly hewed wooden stool, one eye swollen shut, while the open one registered defeat and resignation. Above her head dangled the empty noose that was used to hang a plantain stalk.
My mother, as do mostwomen, often bought a whole stalk of green plantains and hung them from the rafters to ripen. The stalk had been flung to the floor, and as my eyes traveled down the length of my father’s arm, past my mother’s face, I tried to understand why she was not moving.
It was then that I noticed how my father clasped my mother’s hands tightly behind her, while he used the other to try and place the noose around her neck. The shock of the encounter stretched time and immobilized me. I remained motionless for seconds that seemed much longer, until I realized I had mere moments left before he kicked the stool from under her.
I averted my gaze and began to search the kitchen for any weapon that I could use against him. My eyes alighted upon a glasson a nearby shelf and I grabbed it and with all my might I slammed it against the edge of the sink. I continue to grip the neck of the jar as I advanced toward my father with the jagged edges jutting toward his stomach. His disbelief that I had the audacity to defy him and to interfere with his prerogative as a Muslim man and titular head of our family gained my mother precious seconds.
My impulsive act caused him to redirect his attention from my mother to me. When my mother saw that he intended to harm me, she regained her desire to live and to fight and jumped on him pounding his back with her fists as she screamed for him to leave me alone. The nightmare had been interrupted and simultaneously there was a knock at the door.
My father opened the door as my mother retreated to the bathroom. An Anglican priest dressed in a long black cassock with a white collar around his neck stood at the door. He politely inquired if everything was okay. I remember hysterically telling him that my father had tried to kill my mother. My father looked at him conspiratorially and said that it was just a “little” argument.
The priest nodded and continued to speak to my father as they both ignored my entreaties for the priest to come into the house and see my mother’s condition as proof that my father was lying. It was at this point that the priest said the words that have remained with me until this day.
“It’s okay. You will understand when you grow up. This is how it is between a man and woman.”
From that day until my mother escaped with us six years later, it would never be better. Our lives as women and girls was prescribed for abuse and subjugation not only at the hands of my father, but also the society that condoned and supported this type of behavior. My mother was lucky, but so many women are not. They loose their lives in senseless violence, that goes quietly unreported or quickly dismissed so that it may slip once again beneath our collective guilty consciousness.
Honor killings, domestic violence and rape does not only occur in Muslim countries, it is happening more and more in the United States, and we are each responsible for doing our part to stop this scourge.
Update: Danielle Cangelosi wrote a piece which was featured on Fox News which claims that Amina and Sarah were secretly taped by their father prior to their murder. Read full coverage here. Although this has not been independently verified, it is still something that can give us pause. “Awareness leads to interest, which leads to desire, that leads to action.”
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali Warns of “Rising Genocide” Due to “Christophobia” in Muslim World (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Clitheroe Rape Victim, 13, Abused on Facebook by Rapist’s Friends (ibtimes.com)
- One in five American women ‘has been raped’ (independent.co.uk)
- Q&A: Gloria Steinem on ending rape in war | Women Under Siege Project (worldwright.wordpress.com)
- In Rape Culture, we understand that if the rapist was living alone, away from his native place, he could lose control over himself. (indianhomemaker.wordpress.com)
- Study Reveals Almost 20% of Women are Raped (socyberty.com)
- The cult of masculinity and sexual violence in war (bluemilk.wordpress.com)