by Alexandra Kinias
My focus as a writer and activist has always been directed toward establishing equal rights for women, and collaborating with the Writing for Peace team is a dream come true. In this time and age, with the availability of the social media, writing has become an important weapon in fighting against the injustices that women face in many parts of the world.
In 2010, the United Nations introduced an agency dedicated to promoting the rights of women and girls, yet enormous violations are still reported on a daily basis. While you are reading this post, women around the world are being bullied, raped, oppressed, controlled and punished under the banner of culture, traditions, tribal laws and religious scripts that encourage violence, abuse and persecution. The quest for material about women’s issues always takes me on an emotional journey filled with an abundance of painful stories.
As women in the west are fighting for more rights, there are women elsewhere who are still unable to procure a passport or travel without their male guardians’ consent. Some are not allowed to drive a car, or work, or are forced against their will to cover up from head to toe. In many countries, laws favor men over women, actually giving men license to abuse girls and women. In 2010, in the United Arab Emirates, the emerging pearl that is dazzling the world with its wealth and architecture, a court ruled that a man may physically discipline his wife and daughters as long as the beatings don’t leave bruises.
When Time Magazine featured the disfigured face of Bibi Aisha on its summer 2012 cover, the world was horrified by the gruesome story of the young Afghan woman whose Taliban husband cut off her nose and ears as punishment for running away. The Taliban’s medieval practices also include execution and death by stoning. But this brutality is not restricted to Taliban extremists; in Afghanistan, a law was drafted that actually gave men the right to starve their wives if they refused to have sex with them. Bibi’s story is not unique. In fact, Afghani women have been known to burn themselves to death to escape from their husbands.
In much of the developing world, girls are trafficked for sex, subjected to female genital mutilation, denied the right of education, and sold into marriages before they reach adolescence. Every day, approximately 25,000 girls become child brides. It is estimated that one in seven girls is married before she turns 15. Brutal flogging and vitriolage, the act of throwing acid onto the person’s body to disfigure them, are still used to punish them. As such practices are embedded in the culture and traditions, and encouraged by religious clerics in these societies; it will be hard to eradicate them, unless there is a global intervention to save the lives and future of these innocent girls. It is shameful to say that in the twenty-first century, women are killed in the name of honor.
Women’s freedom, rights, health, education, social and financial independence is important for the prosperity of their communities. The future generations depend on them and so does the future of the world we are living in. Writing brings awareness to such issues, mobilizing the global community to take measures to improve the lives of women. We have one world to share, and we are all responsible for its peace and prosperity.
My novel, Black Tulips, features four Egyptian women from very diverse social and economic backgrounds that face a common adversary – a male dominant society. Sherine Radwan, the first appointed prime minister in Egypt is challenged not only by a corrupt cabinet, but by her husband as well.
In this excerpt, Sherine’s husband has just invoked the triple talaq, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you!” As prime minister, the humiliation is acute. Despite her house keeper’s comforting words, Sherine feels the powerlessness of a woman in a patriarchal culture.
Her response reflects her exasperation:
Tell me the name of one woman you know who wasn’t abused by a man simply because he could get away with it, because the law is on his side.”
“Why don’t you change the law?” asked Rashida. “You are the only one who can do it.”
“You sound like Ida. You guys don’t understand. It’s easier to start wars, negotiate treaties, invade countries or enforce sanctions on another than to issue laws to protect women’s rights. Any right given to a woman is one taken away from a man. Believe me, someone will find a line in a forgotten book written a thousand years ago to justify why women can’t do this or that. Rashida, sustaining the status quo is a guarantee to maintain the artificial power imbalance between the genders that had been dictated millennia ago. I’m tired of fighting. My whole life has been a continuous war, one battle after the other.”
About Alexandra Kinias…
Born and raised in Egypt, Alexandra Kinias is a mechanical engineer, screenwriter, photographer, and novelist. She co-wrote the internationally acclaimed movie Cairo Exit, censored in Egypt, but winner of the prize for best non-European film in the European Independent Film festival. Her articles appear in Kalimat magazine, a North American publication about the Arab region, and her blog Silenced Voices, Wasted Lives is dedicated to women’s issues in general and women in the Middle East in particular. Her novel, “Black Tulips”, reveals the hardships that women are exposed to living in male dominant societies. To purchase on Amazon, click here.
Read more about Alexandra here.
Call for Submissions: Be a part of our first issue of DoveTales. The Writing for Peace Literary Journal, DoveTales is accepting poetry, fiction, essays, photography, and art. The submission deadline is October 30th. Find Submission guidelines here.
2013 Young Writers Contest: Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction divisions, ages 13-19. Find guidelines here.
Writing for Peace is developing an online Mentor Program: Learn more and apply here.
Copyright © 2012 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.