On February 14th, the movement ‘V-Day’ has sponsored an event entitled, “One Billion Rising” that is a call to one billion women worldwide to rise up and demand an end to violence against women. According to the movement, women in around 190 countries will be organising various activities in their communities on the day to bring greater awareness and attention to the problem, including in over thirty Muslim countries. “One Billion Rising” takes its name from the UN statistic that estimates that 1 in 3 women in the world will be raped or beaten in their lifetime which is equivalent to 1 billion women and girls.
It comes in the same week as the US Senate is scheduled to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which was first passed in 1994 but expired in September 2011. VAWA was enacted to address the high levels of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assaults and rape within American society by strengthening state law enforcement against perpetrators as well as providing services to victims. If passed, the act would authorize $659 million to be spent by the federal government over 5 years to provide grants to states and local government for projects to address violence against women.
It is the nature of capitalist states to throw money at a problem or use knee-jerk legislation to address an issue rather than accepting acknowledgement of the harmful fall-out of their capitalist, liberal values and system upon societies. After almost 20 years of the VAWA and numerous other laws prohibiting violence against women, these crimes continue to be at staggering levels under the capitalist, liberal American system.
In the US today, 3 women die every day at the hands of their husband, partner, or ex-partner; 1 in 5 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape; and 1 in 4 girls have been dishonoured before the age of 18. Other capitalist liberal states are grappling with similar levels of these crimes. India for example has gained world notoriety for being one of the rape capitals of the world, while across Western Europe, 1 in 4 women have been subject to domestic violence. In the UK, its Home Office revealed shocking statistics this January that estimates that a woman is raped in the country every 6 minutes or so. And it is this capitalist, liberal ideology that unfortunately dominates states and societies in the world today.
Under capitalist liberal systems, there is a clear contradiction between legislation that seeks to establish a safe society for women, and the capitalist doctrine that promotes to men the belief that fulfilling their desires is the ultimate goal in life. There is a clear contradiction between calling for respect for women and the capitalist principle that securing profit is the determining factor for actions and policies – even if that means allowing the advertising, business, and entertainment industries to degrade women to the status of objects to satisfy the desires of men in order to increase sales.
And there is a clear contradiction between seeking the protection of women while simultaneously celebrating liberal freedoms that place individualistic whims and desires as the standard of right and wrong, nurturing a self-gratifying culture where the pursuit of selfish pleasures prevails. Alcohol and drug abuse for example are often cited as common factors that lead to violence against women. However, these problems stem from this liberal mindset of pursuing selfish desires, regardless of the consequence upon others.
All this has generated societies where women’s dignity and safety have become primary casualties. Unfortunately, while women continue to live under the shadow of capitalist liberal systems, awareness campaigns such as “One Billion Rising” will prove fruitless in stemming the tide of negative attitudes and violence against women fuelled by this detrimental system.
The belief that crimes against women can be solved by legislating a handful of laws, while simulateously implementing an ideology that systematically devalues them and undermines their safety is reckless, confused governance. Sincerely addressing violence against women requires a system that makes the protection of women’s dignity and security a key pillar at every level of state policy, rather than an empty election slogan.
Islam alone appreciates the great value and heavy responsibility ascribed to safeguarding the dignity of women, obliging men to sacrifice their life to defend their honour. And it is Allah’s system alone, the Khilafah that offers a clear strategy to protect their dignity within society through values and laws that complement each other in achieving this outcome. It is a state that rejects capitalist and liberal principles, promoting instead taqwa and the Islamic view towards women through its education, media, and political system, shaped upon the Prophet’s (saw) saying:
إنما النساء شقائق الرجال ما أكرمهن إلا كريم وما أهانهن إلا لئيم
“Women are the twin Halves of men. None but a noble man treats women in an honorable manner, and none but an ignorant treats women disgracefully.”
It prohibits any form of objectification or devaluing of women to ensure that their status is never cheapened, and implements harsh punishments against any form of abuse against women, even slander of their reputation for which the perpetrator is lashed. It is a state where women will feel safe in their homes and on the streets, allowing them to make an active contribution to the politics, education, and social life of their society, free from abuse.
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of The Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir