Why is it that the struggle for equal rights for women is always a journey which takes one step forward but two steps back?
Ironically, just two days before International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a Morrocan TV channel aired a tutorial – 'Camouflage traces of violence' – which taught women how to hide signs of domestic violence using make-up. After much uproar and petition by Morocco's Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle, the video was taken down but Al Jazeera English had the video posted on their Facebook page.
The news channel, however, tendered an apology for their "editorial error of judgement in view of the sensitivity and the gravity of the subject of violence against women."
Yes, it was clearly an error in judgment. Moreover, it was an error in the thinking of the show-makers to put on display that normalising violence against women is okay. Besides, women showing how to mask the bruises so that they can go about their daily chores is not only horrifying but also makes the efforts of the feminists fighting against such violence futile and meaningless. It also trivialises the enormous trauma that women subjected to domestic violence have to undergo.
In February this year, the Human Rights Watch had, in a letter to the Moroccan government, said that they should "strengthen and adopt draft laws that would improve protection for victims of domestic violence." It also talked about the 'tepid response from the Moroccan authorities'.
Rothna Begum, the Middle East and North Africa women’s rights researcher, was quoted as saying: "Many women and girls enduring domestic violence don’t get the help they need from Moroccan authorities. Adopting and enforcing a strong domestic violence law would not only help victims but also help the authorities do their jobs."
Given the video was released nine months later, it simply shows that nothing has changed.
Why are we talking only about Morocco? If we look at our own country, are there not several women still 'camouflaging traces of violence'? According to this National Family Health Survey data, nearly two in five (37 percent) married women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their husband. About 21.4 percent of married women experience spousal violence both in urban and rural Maharashtra alone.
Domestic violence is not something new and if you look at poor families it's unfortunately quite common. If you ask your domestic help who comes home with a swollen eye or cracked lip, you may get the idea.
Our past generations have been brought up with an unwritten assumption that mansplaining and male chauvinism are accepted in the society meekly and never questioned. In a way, it was good that such a video surfaced because videos like this clearly convey the message that the inherited submissive thinking has made us so emotionally indifferent towards our own selves that we don't care how we feel anymore. Why is it that it has become mundane to suffer and go about daily chores by masking the violence as if nothing happened?
"Let it be. I neither have the energy nor the money to fight that drunkard (husband). I am only living for my kids," said a 35-year-old Neeta, who works as a domestic help.
Why is it still difficult to muster the courage to stand up for ourselves and share the burden with the feminists around the world in their relentless fight for equal rights for women, which, ideally, should be a non-issue. Let alone violence against women, this make-up tutorial of making the bruises of women invisible serves as the metaphor for the invisibility of their very existence in the society. Why is it that women are still not seen in the social lens on par with men. If you disagree, look at the lack of pay parity between the two genders with same qualifications and capabilities. Be it distribution of responsibilities according to the gender or giving out promotions, it has always been a never-ending battle to break the glass ceiling.
Let me conclude with this riddle: A 15-year-old boy was caught stealing from a shop. When the police constables caught him, he said with a smirk, "You can't harm or arrest me. I am a police inspector's son." Still, the constables took him to the police station. Upon reaching the police station, the inspector recognised the child and put him behind bars. Furious with his parent, the boy said,"You can't arrest me. Let my father come, I will show you."
Why did the boy say this to the inspector when it's extremely clear that the police inspector is the parent of the boy?
After reading this piece, if it still takes you over five minutes to guess the right answer of this riddle, I rest my case.