Illustration by Anastasiia Zubareva

Movement Against Femicide Comes to Abu Dhabi

Gender-based violence is targeted; it uses power to crush rather than build. It equates masculinity to brutality and femininity to weakness.

Nov 26, 2016

Nov. 25 commemorates a day of fighting back. It is the anniversary of the assassination of the Mirabal sisters — also known as Las Mariposas or The Butterflies — who were assassinated by the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo because of their fight for civil rights. That day, tainted with the blood of freedom, is the perfect one to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. Thus, it is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which received its official UN recognition on December 17, 1999. It’s the day to talk about violence that punishes womanhood, disgraces femininity and grants humanity to only one gender.
It’s the day we wear orange to forgo all gender divisions. We reflect on how lucky we are to walk around the streets feeling safe, to voice our opinions, to have our lives within our control and to enjoy the freedom we were born into. That reflection saddens us, because safety should not be a privilege, and neither should one’s control over her own life. However, the world we live in grants rights based on region, race, religion, gender and social class. It skips humanity. It overlooks equality. But we fight back, not only on Nov. 25 but on every other day as well.
At NYU Abu Dhabi, junior Deemah Omari handed out orange t-shirts on Nov. 24 to raise awareness of this day and the dining hall buzzed with words of support marked on boards. People voiced their feelings. They had a conversation. They spoke out about their refusal to promote gender-based violence in every language. They were there, across races and genders, raw human beings rejecting injustice.
We observe so many special occasions on this campus, from cultural events to religious holidays and days for raising awareness. Omari thinks that because we celebrate a new year on some calendar every few months, mourn humanity’s losses and stand together against disease and injustice, there’s no better place than NYUAD to talk about gender-based violence. Omari met Cecilia Palmeiro, a social activist for Ni Una Menos in Buenos Aires, during her semester away. Palmeiro suggested a collaboration across continents that helps raise awareness about this issue within the context of each region, and Omari agreed.
“I thought that a conversation between people from different backgrounds would be productive,” said Omari. She also organized a conversation with the Women’s Leadership Network, and invited the NYUAD community to attend and share what they know — and don’t know— about this issue. Inside that room, we exchanged depressing stories that have become cultural norms in some regions. We discussed the gaps in a law that was written by an oppressing hand. We talked about the minds that can’t see anything but a subordinate creature in anyone who does not identify with masculinity. For some of us, it hit close to home. For others, it was a window to a harsh reality they never perceived to be this bad. But for all of us, it was a realization that more needs to be done.
The stories were horrible, but the statistics are even worse. Chills ran down our spines as we talked about the different types of violence. We discussed laws that award a rapist by allowing him to marry his victim and shaming the victim to do so, households where domestic violence is part of the daily routine and little girls who know abuse before they can even understand it. We talked about allies of suppressed calls of anguish from gang-raped women, demeaning words and insults behind closed doors and constant fear.
“Violence is not the human answer. Violence based on gender is a hundred times worse,” one student wrote on the board. Yes, violence is not human nature. People learn it, just like they learn to hate and discriminate. Many of us are given lenses at birth — lenses of gender, race and beliefs — through which we are told to view people. But it’s up to us to refuse to define humans that way because we refuse that definition for ourselves. We are proud of our genders, races, beliefs and experiences, but we don’t want to be seen only within them.
Gender-based violence is targeted; it uses power to crush rather than build. It equates masculinity to brutality and femininity to weakness. It defies nature. It makes a gender a curse of fear, abuse and injustice. It makes some mothers pray not to have daughters, so that they do not have to relive that anguish once again through their children. It makes little girls dream of being boys and living life to the fullest, without fear and with pure freedom. It makes decent men responsible for clearing their name and proving they are not one of those abusers, that they do not support this. It is wrong, and we should do more than refuse it. We should eliminate it.
*Dana Abu Ali is a contributing writer. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org. *
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