Women all over the world have suffered all forms of violence. I was reminded of this again with the recent #ArewaMeToo hashtag that trended on Tweeter not long ago. Reading Khadijah’s devastating story of how she nearly died from being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend made me realise that women are speaking up more. But sadly, it also meant that abuse is still heartbreakingly ongoing.
The worse part of it is that tweets like the #ArewaMeToo about abuse of women are not strange. Abuse of women is a recurring conversation. I have always been particularly curious about abuse done to children. The idea of their mental disposition at the time of abuse often leaves me anxious. Case in point was with the story of Sameera Qureshi, a Muslim survivor who shared on the #MeToo panel in Scared Spaces, – of how she was molested at the age of 8 but didn’t understand she was assaulted until two decades later.
For me, the worse part of being a victim is the culture of silence that society imposes on women and their families. Young girls are literally threatened. Older women are likely blackmailed. Each time, the perpetrator plays on their fear or refuse to bring shame to their families. It is heartbreaking that in 2019, with all our social evolution and freedom movements, women are still being threatened to remain silent. Parents also stay silent because discussing or publicly castigating Uncle A or Aunty B will bring shame to the family. As women, we need to fight to tear down these walls of shame. We must become more vigilant and protect one another than ever before.
On the #ArewaMeToo Hashtag
Now, even though abuse happens across sectors and cadres of human existence, it is somehow more prominent in religious circles. This may likely due to the established trust between a worshipper and their religious leader. A trust which unfortunately gets broken.
I cannot imagine how gruesome it has been for the girls in the northern region of Nigeria, who have been constantly abused by the Almajiris, the Alfa’s and other revered Muslim men. Or even the ones happening in churches today.
Another tweet I find really disturbing is this response to a user‘s tweet;
“Why not? A thirteen-year-old can easily be sexually attractive and active. Couldn’t you remember that the Noble prophet marry Sayyada Aisha at the age of thirteen?”
This made me fearful for how long we will continue to be held bound by religious tradition even in times like this.
Time to act
If there is anything the #ArewaMeToo movement can teach us, as women, it is that there is more work to be done. And we must ALL get involved. If one person speaks up, and if one person can point the finger at his or her predator, others with similar experience who have been too afraid or ashamed to share, will more likely come forward too. Our duty is to create safe spaces for women to speak. We must use our platforms, resources and skills to help victims, and to demand justice.
#ArewaMeToo is not just another hashtag on Twitter, this is a movement that calls all abusers to account. It is a movement that is disrupting historical sexual abuse on women. And it is a movement that must educate the society and most especially, the girl-child. It is a movement we should all be willingly part of.