By Gab Chaparro, Mexico Correspondent for Safe World for Women. May 2013.
Even when we are proudly saying that we are alive in the 21st century, shame on the world that we are still dealing with domestic violence, rape, gender violence, poverty, and an entire list that shows that we are not dealing with all these issues.
But worse than this, is our indifference.
What is Rape?
Definition: a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.
What is Fatmagül's Fault?
Fatmagül Ketenci is a girl who lives in a village on the Aegean coast with her brother who runs a dairy. She is engaged to marry a fisherman called Mustafa Nalçalı in a month's time and dreams of getting away from her nagging sister-in-law who hates her.
Kerim Ilgaz is a well-mannered blacksmith apprentice who lives with his aunt Meryem Aksoy known affectionately as "Ebe Nine" ("Granny Ebe") who is a healer of herbal medicine.
The big event of the season is the engagement to the area's richest and most influential businessmen Reşat Yaşaran's son Selim to the politician Turaner Alagöz's daughter, Meltem.
Kerim meets up with his old friends Vural, Erdoğan and Selim. After the engagement party, all four of them go on a drinking and drug binge to celebrate whilst Fatmagül is off to see Mustafa off on another fishing trip and accidentally comes across them.
Erdoğan, Selim and Vural gang-rape her, with Kerim passed out with no recollection of the event. A traumatized Fatmagül is later discovered the next morning by Ebe Nine while she is picking herbs. As the town go into an uproar over the rape incident, Kerim accepts the blame and agrees to marry Fatmagül as he mistakenly believes himself to be guilty and in order to protect his friends. As a result, Fatmagül and Kerim's families sell their properties and move to İstanbul to start a new life.
But things become complicated due to the machinations of the Yaşarans and their unscrupulous lawyer Münir Telci who seek to protect themselves as well as Mustafa who seeks revenge.
I am not a real fan of any kind of television series or drama; however, I was online searching for some programs and I found a Turkish drama; without noticing, it I found myself watching it without missing a second of this TV series.
I thought "WOW. Finally a drama that talk about rape in a “conservative' society" – a subject not so often talked about in some societies.
Turkey is well known to be a liberal country (compared with other Middle Eastern countries, Asia, or even with Latin America), but in the beginning of this drama, a girl from a village is engaged to the love of her life and it appears to be a pink, sweet, nice story. Suddenly, she finds herself in the middle of a brutal sexual attack by three men, doctors and support.
It’s as if the heart will go out at any moment.
Honour, Disgrace, and Other Ridiculous Stuff
Sadly, usually I see reactions of pity to the victim, but in this case, the reactions were absolutely different – like everybody’s concern for the family name, the “ruined life” of the fiancé and in all this circus, just one character with the common sense enough asked for and demanded an investigation,
Many characters in this drama talk about their families' honour, the disgrace upon the fiancé (male), and some other ridiculous stuff.
The character of Meryam (the one that find) Fatma (the protagonist) raped, tries hard to deal with this; yes, Meryam is also from the village, but with another kind of mind: the mind that we as human beings must have full of compassion, understanding and strength.
We need to change this in the whole world: to stop seeing women as objects, more than as humans.
An Open Door to Impunity
Mexico is a conservative country where the "purity" of the woman is questioned, even when society mostly tries to hide behind a mask of a liberated society.
We find that women are often killed or married to restore the family's "honour".
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) 2012 report, the regulations are not adequate to protect women and girls against domestic violence and sexual abuse, as some of the representatives who are supposed to protect us will argue about the victims “chastity” – contradicting international standards. The women who suffered violations of human rights in general don’t report to the authorities, while those that do it find themselves amid apathy, suspicion, and disrespect.
All this is an open door to impunity.
And a UNICEF 2012 report says that over one million adolescents aged 15 to 17 in upper high school across the country discussed gender equality and gender‐based violence issues through a special domain developed within the Construye‐T Adolescent Development programme, which is supported by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, UNDP, and UNESCO.
In Mexico, UNICEF – along with its UN sister agencies, designed a joint programme to prevent gender‐based violence in indigenous communities in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. UNICEF has focused on building the capacity of local actors to develop and implement inter‐institutional protocols in response to gender‐based violence and other forms of violence against children and adolescents.
Yes, tons of programmes, goals, and “education”, but still the same reality of violence toward women continues.
Who are We to Judge Others?
While I was watching the episode related to rape, the police and all the reactions around the victim, I was thinking (maybe because it's what my head and heart want to see) maybe I overreacted, but most of the time, I find that those writing about our feelings are men.
I don't know how this happens, but yes they tell us how to dress, act, whether or not to use birth control... and then the cascade of ideas started at my head: what if we tackle the misinformation related to this cultural reactions (because are cultural and too far of any kind of faith)?
We could finally start talking about the misogynistic, patriarchal roles that will do everything to crush and cover mistakes, especially if the cover-ups involve wealthy people.
Corruption, ignorance, and the consequences.
This is something that happens all around the globe.
And we need to make a common front; there are more women than men, so how it is possible that MEN and ignorance together make so many mistakes that at the end of the day and the guilty one is the victim?
And more I saw more my head started with these ideas, what if we start to demand a responsible social media?
What if we use communication tools for educate our people (wherever the country is)?
This drama shows and encourages the victim to denounce, heal, get therapy, and move on! BUT – here's the BIG BUT -- the reality is not everyone has an open mind to accept, share, and NOT judge before knowing anything; through this story, I was horrified to see how some minds work through their words and actions, and was sad.
And I remembered the mother of my son's friend, who works in human rights: I admire her a lot because she adopted a teenager who suffered sexual assault and has years to receive therapy, healing, learning between other stuff.
The shock for me was when she said, “Sadly when the school knew her past they didn't allow her to keep studying".
We demand a lot but are we really ready to accept our victims reintegration?
So what if we as women find cases like this? Will we turn our heads?
This teenager found herself barred from studying because "civilized society" didn't accept her reintegration to itself... how can that be? How can we shout freedom, equality, and education while we feel too "pure", "good", or "civilized" to accept them?
Who we think we are to judge others?
When are we going to really be a society that will start doing something instead of complaining and shouting, and ask:
What if we finally demand of our social media to educate – yes, with values, with standards that maybe will teach others something? What if we encourage to participate, denounce, but above all this, to HEAL?
What if we try to find responsible writers addressing social issues?
Femicides in Mexico
The cold statistics: 300 women have disappeared in Nuevo Leon, according to information from the General Attorney of the State, and 9, 200 women missing in only nine states in the country, according to figures from the National Citizen Femicide Observatory.
What is worse are the disappearances of women that have increased by 600% across the country, the final report of the National Commission of Human Rights states.
The femicide figures increased by 71% in 2009 – latest statistics issued by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI) with 858 thousand crimes against women, 319 of them children. Crimes have become increasingly cruel, primitive, and with a component of hatred.
However, UN Women says the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples has assisted it in scaling up a service model to respond to violence and improve sexual and reproductive health. It combines advocacy, awareness-raising, community counseling, and legal advice. The model’s proven success in expanding women’s access to health care and justice convinced the government to make it a national programme with an earmarked budget. Implemented through a network of Indigenous Women’s Houses, it now serves women in all 25 indigenous zones in Mexico, covering 871 municipalities.
In the end, we don’t have real information because during the presidential period of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, the government wasn’t allowed to show real numbers, no one really knows how many women died, nor how many femicides there were. The Mexican Republic has 32 states... if just in 9 states we had over 9,000 disappearances ..... we are saying that the number is really higher.
“Over 14,000 rapes reported in Mexico, from of which 80% remain unpunished, that without considering the numbers of cases that go unreported, which represent an alarming reality,” denounced the Equity and Gender Commission of the Chamber of Deputies.
Femicides in India
“The failure of laws aimed at reducing sex-selective abortions, a series of “honour” killings and rapes rocked the country in 2011, but there has been no effective action to prevent and effectively prosecute such violence.
The government has yet to improve health services for survivors of sexual assault, but has taken steps to provide compensation for rape survivors. At this writing, the government was revising it’s medico-legal protocols for evidence collection from rape survivors, excluding the degrading and inhuman 'finger'test that classifies many rape survivors as 'habituated to sexual intercourse', causing humiliation to victims and at times affecting the outcome of criminal trials.
Despite considerable progress on maternal health, vast disparities remain and a spate of maternal deaths continues to be reported from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states.”
Human Rights Watch Report 2012 India.
Shocking …. I wonder most of the time why this is happening to little girls and women... and I can’t find answers...
In recent months we havebeen watching how this country has some of the most brutal rapes in their history, affecting their tourism and their society. Everyone is going out shouting and demanding justice.
But what’s the real root of the problem? Unemployment? Drugs? Trafficking? I find it hard to believe that another human being can commit such atrocities. Do we need stronger laws? I can’t find solutions right now.
Some 15,423 rape cases were decided countrywide in 2011.
Of the total number of cases that made to court, the overall rate of convictions stand at 26.4%, or, 4, 072 convictions, while 11, 351 acquittals were recorded. These included cases pending from previous years; during 2010 year 14,263 cases were decided, and the accused were convicted in 3, 788 cases (26%).
These criminals are destroying lives from children... their innocence is being stolen and NOBODY does anything. This is a reason there are tons of petitions with millions of signatures, campaigns, awareness – anything that migh help out these families.
I wonder if all that money spent in statistics, studios, and meetings should be used to give the victims, survivors, family survivors the tools to keep going with their lives, but again … I guess I am wrong.
Rape in Syria
When we always think about Syria and keep holding out the hope that “This will end soon”, we find that just gets worse each time.
Quoting Lauren Wolf in her article “Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis”:
“All across the war-torn country, regime soldiers are said to be sexually violating women and men from the opposition, destroying families and, in some cases, taking lives.”
Nobel Laureate Jody Williams adds: "With every war and major conflict, as an international community we say 'never again' to mass rape,"
I can’t even remember how many times we tweeted ‘never again’ after we knew about a massacre in Syria. It’s frustrating read it.... even dare to pronounce it.
What are we waiting for?
TAKE A REAL STAND alongside our sisters; we are talking about our mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters.... where is the world? I’m not talking about anything political – I’m talking about over two years of well-known documented, barbaric, disgusting attacks against women in Syria.
How can we call ourselves civilized when the information coming out from Syria is just that “information” where there are more campaigns? Where are the funds to help them out? The humanitarian situation it’s terrible and these women don’t have the support necessary.
All kinds of articles, reports, letters, statements..it’s like the violence: words, words, words, words – where are the actions? Where are the millions of signatures? Some petitions have been online for and still haven't reached more people. How can that be? What kind of humanity are we?
We demanded transparency from the Syrian people who have been documenting each inhumane fact and none do nothing. We need more action in order to help the thousands of women and children in need.
The Culture of Silence
Through watching the Fatmagüldrama I could see how important is for some to assure that the victims keep silent – how some prefer that the truth never arrives to the light of day (in any culture and country).
With threats, bad words, and the worst kind (for me) – the famous gossip... ufff, I think some tongues are terrible and don’t perceive the power of this. Some words can mark a human being for the rest of her or his life. Mexico is not an exception; at some point of our lives we “learned” to remain silent, to not “bother”... bother whom? Don't bother the family, the father, the couple, the “friends”.
I find this terrible, such poor judgment; we can’t hide things like this.
It’s not about screaming it to the four winds no, I’m saying we need to break this chain related to shame, family, gossip, and some other stuff that are pretty hard on any person, on a daily basis. Now, to someone that is going under this traumatic experience, it should be even worse. I’m not generalizing all the victims, survivors, or societies – I’m just pointing out loud that we can’t keep accepting these things.
And we can read about this “honour killing” in any country, in articles related to the rapes in India, Syria, and some other countries; in Latin America, they say “this doesn’t happen”. Well, this is wrong; according to statistics, over 50% of women in Mexico died at the hands of a family member or her partner. Some states even don’t consider it a crime because it’s defending the “family honour”.
Once someone very close to me was beaten; I encouraged her to denounce this.
They [police] treated her like beasts: they laughed.
YES the police... there I knew that only they take the report... they did not make a restriction order, No, nothing; just a report. What kind of protection is this? Finally the victim decided to take the HUGE step to go to the authorities – any one with the "power" of help – and this just stays written on a piece of paper... that’s the law I saw in Mexico.
We must be strong in situations like this and open our minds to have the ability to respect others' pain. This year had been really hard reading about the rapes in India, Morocco, Mexico and all around the globe.
I was searching in Wikipedia about rape, and, well... I found this:
“The most common reasons given by victims for not reporting rapes are the belief that it is a personal or private matter, and that they fear reprisal from the assailant. A 2007 government report in England says ‘Estimates from research suggest that between 75 and 95 percent of rape crimes are never reported to the police.'”
The Eternal Corruption
In Mexico (since as long as I can remember) when we are joking, we say “If I see a policeman and a criminal, I will go running alongside the criminal”. Yes... we laugh, but it’s really sad and frustrating.
At the beginning of this year we had shocking news about a foreign woman in Mexico who was raped by “an armed group of men”, but worse is to know that some other cases that were committed by police officers.
So where can we go? The list keeps on going, and again, our authorities failed.
This is not exclusive of the Mexican government – this is something we often read in any rape case. These people are public servants and we must demand their correct behaviour.
We can’t allow this corruption for the benefit of our society and our women's security.
Women vs. Women
I don’t consider myself a feminist, but while the 90% make noise about a piece of clothing (the hijab) that some choose to wear, I wonder where are these women who demand liberty, equality, when all this happens. Where are the proposals, the articles, demanding justice to these cases?
Of course, some do it. But while some keep standing on an ignorant side without taking the time to read study and share with others, we won’t arrive very far.
I insist on proposals because we need solutions. The easy thing, it’s complain and shout, we need work on it, don’t give up and keep working to fix this.
We need respect we need mutual understanding. Mostly of the times I found myself between women staring at me with look of "pity" because I have a son and I'm at home. Well ladies... it's a HUGE responsibility raise to another human being. What I do, say and act that he will learn and so from me depends the kind of man he will be. Stop underestimating other women that work at home that at the end that job never ends.
We MUST stop this macho issue.
Women are human beings with a mind, heart and soul, we need to teach our young boys since are very small to behave as such individual not as beasts, not fair compare it with animals because even animals don’t make such atrocities. In Mexico the man can’t do such or show emotions because “is the man” “the macho man don’t cry” “the macho man has a lot of women” Seriously we are in a moment that it’s not possible raise more close minded men that won’t respect another human being.
The Importance of Healing
I saw cases, read, and also have seen in this drama that it take years to recover from any kind of assault; now imagine, a sexual assault will take even longer. We need programs that work with governments. We need people with the heart and the patience to help the others to heal and move on.
It’s necessary have the tools and teach our victims to use this – they deserve the transition of victims into survivors.
The mind is powerful, the heart, too. So?
What are we waiting for?
Yes, it take years, requires time, funds, and we will feel many frustrations – and a never- ending roller coaster of emotions.
Survivors need to set goals for themselves, using occupational therapy (personally I love it) to stop this chaos of misinformation at any level, and supporters need to give the time and space for others to heal.
We can't be going on like with this with nothing happening andwith attitudes like: "Ohh, yes... poor girl!” NO WAY. We must stand together and do it.
Treat each other as human beings.
Educate ourselves and then our next generation; we can't keep turning our backs on our future generations.
Yes, it’s difficult, some heal faster than others, it takes time, takes tears, heart pain, and confusion, but if we as society stand high behind all these ladies, I am sure that we will see in a few years the result.
Sexual assaults not only happen to women, but also to men, and I think it’s even worse for them to talk about it. I promise that will be better. Take the time – any of you, to heal and grow, to find yourselves and finally restart your path, your life... an entire world will wait for each of you.
We need to start using resources to stop the objectification of women in media.
We need more writers like the woman who writes the Fatmagül drama because the rape occurred in a "conservative" place (tribal area in Turkey), or for example, writers from Mexico, where more than 50% of rape cases are not reported.
What if we stop the stupidity on television and we start to use it to educate? Maybe with a drama maybe with sketches; the ideas are infinite. Envision a lot of women with PhDs, master degrees, bachelor's degrees, heart mind, soul... well, what if we use all this to EDUCATE?
In the TV drama, the one who marries Fatma is an EXCEPTIONAL guy, but what if her destiny turned out differently? Dramas can have happy endings, but most of the time, the reality is absolutely different.
And if you think we can’t do it, consider that in the end, we (consumers) demand, and the channels sell, right?
Maybe all this sounds stupid or illogical, but I found it useful. However, this is just another blog of a mom “that stays at home”...
Syria’s rape crisis: Women under siege project maps sexual violence