Various times in the course of human history people have been exhorted to stand up and be counted. Early Biblical times are replete with the Godhead inviting man to show me one just man and I won’t destroy you. Today of course political correctness encourages us to say person unless you presume that women are always just: silly notion!
The one that is a favourite, often used by the ‘watch out don’t be naughty brigade’ is the anecdote of Sodom and Gomorrah. ‘ Run through the city’ the godhead demands, ‘find me one just man and I will spare the whole of Sodom and Gomorrah.’ Well that story ended up with a woman being turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at her precious belongings. The pillar is still there in the desert.
The problem with these stories that end up with women being punished unjustly is that by and large the misdemeanors referred to are sexual, habits presumed, rightly or wrongly, to be aberrations from a supposed norm. For once let’s just argue against the usual. Sex, after all, is instinctual. If it weren’t there wouldn’t be the usual headlong rush by parents in some societies to get their younger generations married off: attempts to nip it all in the bud and channel it into directions approved by society.
Let’s presume that ‘society’ is a consensual concept. We all agree that this isthe thing to do and do it- one sheep follows another. It mostly works out quite well, which is why customs persist, but not always: and what then?
What has become the norm in many societies is to hide instances of violence under the carpet, especially violence against women. Not only here but also in many societies is this the case. “You made your bed and must lie on it; tolerate it for your children’s sake;” young married women were, and still are, often told. In short; don’t rock the boat.
This translates into other avenues of society. In the courts for example where women prosecuting against rape often feel pressured to prove themselves innocent, whereas they are the injured party. Amongst certain groups of men, such as the macho sporting fraternities or politically powerful, although not always, there’s a presumption that women are just dying to be ravaged by them; and this carries through into other avenues of the law.
Unless societies alter their perspectives on girl children, this attitude may well continue. Girl children are devalued wherever you look in the world today. Some societies are worse than others, which is to make a point that no society is ideal.
Some feminist authors have written novels of imaginary worlds in which women are hermaphrodite and can choose the gender of their preference: almost surreal. Ursula LeGuin is one author who comes to mind. The feminist movement of course drew the usual criticism from society. There must be something wrong with women who want fair shares and treatment across the board- are they truly women, or is there something dubious about their sexuality?
These comments still reverberate whenever a woman or women stand up to be counted. It’s amazing and commendable that they still do, not only old women but young women and girls too. African countries have many stories of young girls who sue their parents for subjecting them to the barbaric practice of female circumcision. It’s difficult to sue one’s own parents.
Years ago, as a child protection counselor, I sometimes had to take into my protective custody young girls who had been sexually abused by males in their own family, a difficult notion for the scions of ‘decent’ society to accept. For this reason family courts were established which offered protection to those who wanted to’ stand up and be counted’ but were afraid to do so.
We don’t have family courts here yet; neither do we have highly trained child protection counselors. What we do have are children who, for some reason or another, have to live on the streets and scavenge for food; preys for criminals and pedophiles. Childhood should not be like this should it?
Years ago in the ‘bad old days’ of the panchayat era, a paper was written with a proposal for a social welfare ministry which would establish family courts and a system of child protection. Through Nepal Bal Mandir assistance and training was received from the government of Israel. Young women were given a certain amount of training, but certainly not sufficient for the immense task at hand. Come our great series of ‘liberating’ revolutions and many bal mandir properties have fallen into disrepair or the unscrupulous hands of commercial interests such as momo shops that endanger themselves and all passers by cooking on the streets and subjecting foodstuff to unhygienic conditions in an already unhygienic environment!
And you know who are coerced to work for these establishments in slave-like conditions? Yes, you guessed, the very children abandoned on the streets who no longer have any hope of shelter: children of a lesser god, with nowhere to go but where they are right now: unless of course we stand up to be counted against the lamentable conditions in our society, against the exploiters par excellence who prosper through our silence. Silence is our greatest sin!