Obedient girls are easy victims

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With Aicha

Another case of rape has occured in The Gambia. A girl, dressed in her school uniform, was attacked and raped by two men. This is making me so furious that it’s hard to find words! What is the problem with some men, do they have a problem keeping their pants on as well as their brains? What is going on in someone’s mind when this person is thinking that it is a great idea to rape a girl or a woman? Are they too ugly or too stupid or too unappealing to get intimate with a woman? Yes, I know, The Gambia is dominantly a Muslim country and it is not allowed to have sex out of wedlock. In the best of worlds everyone follows the rules, but we all know what the reality is.

Marriage is meant to be a life-long commitment, but is it wise to get married to someone just for sex? Will that marriage be based on love, understanding and mutual respect? What happens when the couple finds that they don’t like each other anymore? They were carried away by hormones and some dream about a nice life together. Suddenly the every-day life kicks in and romance is nowhere to be found. The lack of money will be like a grey cloud over the couple’s heads. They are not able to discuss these things with each other, as they really don’t know each other on that level. The young husband has been used to spend the little money he has earned for himself. Now he is meeting demands every day, fish money, diapers, cash power, baby clothes and the list goes on. Was he prepared for that?
Does he know how to discuss his problems with his young wife? Does she have any experience of adulthood so she can give him the correct advice?

It can be rather easy to discuss other issues with people, but money issues are an embarrassing topic. You are just supposed to be able to handle a family’s economy, but how can that be possible without training? Do fathers speak about this topic with their sons? Do mothers speak to their daughters about how to manage with the little money for the family? We should look at growing up as a preparation for adulthood, like a school for the coming life.

I know that there are many young men who would love to get married, but they hesitate because of the financial burden. One does not get married to a girl, but tot he whole family.

The man is supposed to pay for this and that, not only for the expenses the couple has but for so many others. No wonder young men avoid getting married. Many young women wished to get married too, but they struggle with the modern and the traditional way of living. Sex is a very strong force and it hits us all, men as well as women. We need to discuss this matter openly and ask ourselves if it the rules are only for good as they lead to a lot of suffering too. Remember that the times were different when the rules were written. There was no birth control 1,400 years ago so it was important that the woman knew who was the father of her child.

The world looked different from today, life was very tough and love had nothing to do with whomyou get married to. The clan or the tribe was the only thing that mattered and women were seen as goods more than persons. If there had been war between two clans for a long time, this could be solved by marrying the ”right woman” from one of the clans with a man of importance in the other clan. It was a matter of honour and pride, the price of the woman could be high and as the woman was considered as a good, you didn’t want to have second-hand quality. That meant that if the woman had had sex with another man before wedlock you couldn’t be sure who was the father of the child. The bloodline was important and if there was any doubt about the child’s heritage, the outcome could be fatal.

Let us go back to modern times, let us look at the present. There are no wars or fights between tribes in The Gambia. You don’t solve the problems you have with your neighbours, or the people in the next village, by selling your daughters there. According to the Holy Qur’an, men and women are equal, we have the same value. We couldn’t do without each other, so why don’t we get along? I have been thinking about this a lot and my conclusion is that it is a matter of misunderstanding. In a society where young men and women are not supposed to participate and get to know each other on a personal level, it is hard to know how to manage a relation when people finally get married. As pious people, we believe in miracles, but unfortunately this doesn’t apply to marriage.

Being married can be wonderful, but it can also be a struggle and even awful sometimes. The lack of communication is what causes so many of our problems. Men don’t know how to speak to women on a deeper level, and vice versa. We need to practice these skills as well as any other skills. The miracle we seem to be hoping for; that after the wedding night something has happened with us and we can speak a new language- the language of marriage, will not occur. All the dreams and hopes we had before the wedding will die, one after one. Men don’t know how to speak about their emotions, and they believe that they might appear as less of a man if they do. Women speak a lot about emotions, but don’t know how to express them to their spouse. A partner hopes that the other partner can read their mind but that will never happen.

So what about my headline for this article,“Obedient girls are easy victims”?
Boys and girls are raised differently, boys are encouraged to be tough and bold. Girls are encouraged to be meek and obedient. They live in parallel worlds where they see each other but they don’t interact. Raised in a traditional home the boys are able to play much more than the girls, as the girls are expected to learn how to take care of a home from early age. There are exceptions, of course, but this is very much what it looks like. For those of you who are used to this, and never questioned it, it is normal but life can look differently. Men and women are equal, says the Holy Qur’an, but do we treat each other as equals? Boys need to learn from early age how to treat girls in a respectful way. If they learn from their fathers and other men around them to treat a woman with respect, the boys will grow up into young men who will have a sound relation with the opposite gender.

An empathetic person is someone who is able to understand how someone else will feel in a certain situation. We could call it ”emotional imagination” because you might not have experienced the same as others, but you can understand how they feel by using this skill. If we only teach our children how to act, but not to interact, they will have a rather shallow emotional life. They know what they are feeling, but not the reasons for it. They can notice what others are feeling, but don’t have a clue of the reason for it. Empathy is something we teach our children from early age by speaking with them and also reason with them. Boys are allowed to be tough, but how will they know how girls feel about their actions if no one is telling them and making them understand?

Girls are taught to be meek and obedient – how will they be able to stand up for themselves if we don’t teach them their value? If we don’t teach our girls that they are allowed to defend themselves they will freeze in a situation where they get sexually assaulted. The girls are even in an early age able to sense when a situation is bad for them, even if they can’t express that in words. We can’t blame them for not avoiding a situation that can end up badly, we have taught them to be obedient and not question orders. If we instead would raise our girls to be independent, give them a high sense of self esteem, we would get confident girls who grow up into confident women who would never accept to be treated badly.

The girl who was raped, the one I write about at the beginning of this article, is full of shame and is worried about other people’s reactions. She is afraid that people will speak behind her back, accusing her of acting in a certain way that she even deserved to be raped. When you see this in writing; can you see how awful it is? People say these things daily and get away with it! Where is the empathy? Where is the rage against the perpetrator or perpetrators?

The smallest and oldest part of the human brain, the ”reptile-brain” is the part that has saved our lives through its reflexes. Here we have the ”fight or flight reflex” that kicks in whenever we feel threatened somehow. Now you wonder why this reflex didn’t help the girl in question, why didn’t she run away? Girls are taught not to fight and defend themselves, this is in a way how we have “brainwashed” them from early age.

Girls are taught that if someone tells you to stop, or to come, or to enter a room, they will do it because good girls do as they are told. When they suddenly find themselves in a situation they can’t handle another reflex kicks in and we can call that the “play dead reflex”. We can see this reflex among animals, when they feel threatened and can’t flee or defend themselves they instead play dead.

This reflex makes the muscles stiff, the tongue dry so you can’t speak. The breathing is getting more shallow because you don’t want to show your attacker that you are still alive. If we are not trained to let this “play dead reflex” take over our minds and control our actions we get easy preys.

We must teach our girls that they are allowed to defend themselves. No one is allowed to touch the girl inappropriately. Teach the girls to say NO if they feel uncomfortable in a situation. Don’t let your daughter sit on the lap of an unknown man just because you want to save some dalasi on the tanka-tanka. Teach your girls that they are not to blame for something an adult has done against them. Remember that most of the sexual assaults are done by someone in the close family or family friends. Be careful with who you trust, it can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.