Bahrain yesterday joined the United Nations in its campaign called 16 days of activism against gender based violence that started on November 25 and ends on December 10.
In 72 hours the campaign ends and we as a country hosted this campaign under the roof of the Supreme Council for Woman, an entity whose President is the Kingdoms First Lady, Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa, wife of HM the King
Under this roof we gathered to put our hands in the hand of the United Nations and promote a campaign to fight violence against women.
As a woman I wasn’t just proud of the fact that Bahrain always collaborates with international organizations to promote peace and stability but does so on different levels including issues related to the protection of human rights.
Yesterday SCW Secretary General Hala Al Ansari briefed UN officials about what is being done here in Bahrain to protect women against violence.
And what is being done is amazing and if we as woman accept to be abused, then this stems from personal weakness in a country where our laws do protect us.
Unfortunately, in our societies it has become a taboo to speak about being abused or subjected to violence and discrimination.
In many cases some women who are harassed even at work places refuse to escalate the issue out of fear of being accused of causing the incident that had occurred.
I guess it will take many years for women to start speaking up.We hear stories every day and I myself heard one about how a young girl was molested as a child and feared to speak out because the person who molested her was a member of her own family, an uncle.
Unfortunately, laws are there and no woman whose life is threatened by an abusive husband will be sent home if she complains but many women prefer to keep quiet and we have seen years ago an incident where a woman was stabbed to death by a violent husband.
It happens in all cultures, all societies.
Now let me go back to the event yesterday where at the SCW premises in Riffa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women spoke about how the 6 days campaign to end violence against women and how sexual violence in private almost always ends up as one person’s word against another, if that word is ever spoken. Even sexual violence in public has been impossible to call out when society does not view rape as a male crime but as a woman’s failing, and views that woman as dispensable.
“We are seeing the ugly face of violence brought out into the light: the abuses of power that repress reporting and diminish the facts, and that exclude or crush opposition. “
Yesterday in Bahrain she spoke about how everyone has the right to live their life without the threat of violence, no matter what their gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity or caste, and irrespective of their income level, sexual orientation, HIV status, citizenship, where they live, or any other characteristic of their identity.
Her statement was so empowering and what I hope we can do in our country is encourage our woman to speak out. Abuse isn’t necessarily just physical but could be emotional too and women should have the courage to complain about their superiors if they are harassed and not fear any consequences. They should even speak out if discriminated against. Of course this doesn’t mean to use this as a tool and incriminate male colleagues in order to achieve personal gains because in many cases if the issue is not dealt with well, men could also become victims.
The government, the legislative authority and NGOs have succeeded in Bahrain to pass laws that protect children and women’s and violence against women and girls is not inevitable but there are laws that protect us.
What we need to do as NGOs is to monitor issues that end up in our courts or police stations. NGOs should have a more active role. Abusive men would understand that it is not just the Interior Ministry and police stations that will hold them accountable for their actions but the whole society would. Instead of just raising very powerful slogans, get seriously involved and bring an end to violence against women.
In the UK, when a woman screamed because her husband was violent and beating her up, he got arrested and was imprisoned until she decided to drop the case and signed that she would be held responsible if anything happened to her.
We need that here.
Any signs of children and women being abused should be taken seriously. Teachers have a huge responsibility and can, if trained, tell if a girl is abused or not.
The Education Ministry for instance should get teachers and counselors involved in extensive training programmes that enable them to tell if a girl is abused. Maybe even add topics in our curricula that combat stereotyping and as much as they empower women, they also make our boys in the schools aware of what a woman should mean to them, how she should be treated and how she is equal to him
These boys become future men.