At first, I thought the stories were pretty much a US trend. A reflection of the violence in our culture — on TV, in the streets, in movies. So many murders – over 100 in Philadelphia alone. Stories like
Girlfriend killed and grilled in Texas
Mother murdered in Michigan
Seem more common than not.
But it’s not a trend limited to the US
I recently found a new blog Meskelsquare, a blog written by a journalist in Ethiopia. One of his latest posts is about a woman severely burned by a stalker who threw acid on her face. What is astonishing (shocking?) is that this is part of a trend in Ethipia, a country that has made strides in increasing equity between men and women, of violence against women.
Dr Elaine Rocha, a professor at Addis Ababa University’s Institute of Gender Studies, said this was the first acid attack she had come across in Ethiopia, but added it fits a pattern of violence against women in the country
and more, disturbingly, a world-wide trend:
Acid attacks against women have been recorded in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, three cities in Britain and Uganda, according to the British charity Women at Risk. Some people fear they may be on the rise.
Women at Risk, by the way, is an organization dedicated to safe mohterhood and stopping violence against women.
The story is so familiar — a man stalking a woman who has broken up with him or refused to date him — We are so used to it in the US that we aren’t even shocked.
Kamilat Mehdi was walking home after dark with her two sisters when a man stepped out of the shadows and threw sulphuric acid in her face.
The acid hit the 21-year-old’s eyes, nose, mouth, forehead and chest, splashing onto the faces and backs of her sisters beside her, burning flesh wherever it touched……..
Yemenesh said Kamilat had recognised her attacker as a man who had obsessively stalked her for the past four years.
“He used to follow her around, then phone her and say ‘I can see you drinking coffee,
A clue is in both traditional and modern ways of life. THe traditional socity in which women are raised to expect domestic violence without complaint, without questioning. Where both men and women find it a normal part of relationships. From Meskelsquare:
A 2005 report by the World Health Organisation found just over 70 per cent of Ethiopian women surveyed who had ever been in a relationship had suffered some sort of physical or sexual violence. Sixty-five per cent said it was acceptable to beat a wife for not finishing her housework.
“In East Africa we are patriarchal and that means that women are more or less invisible. In many traditions a sign of love was an occasional slap to your wife. And the wives who were not slapped used to complain to their friends,” she said.
Sounds like changing social mores – women dating, choosing to start and end relationships “without asking permission” are shaking up expectations some men have. Women are not causing the problem, but rather some men may be uncomfortable with giving up the social, economic, sexual power they held, even unconsiously, over women.
Research suggests acid attacks can happen when a woman either ends a relationship or rejects a suitor, said Marren Akatsa-Bukachi, executive director of the Kampala-based East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, adding that such attacks are quite common in Uganda.
Cerrtainly, as governments make changes and cultures change, women all over Africa are changing, as this Kenyan woman makes clear:
As a woman, in accordance with the customs of my people in western Kenya, I am born the property of my father.
This means I have no voice of my own and I only do as I am told.
Mostly this involves taking care of the men in my life.
My father raises me as he deems fit and, for a while, I bear his name.
I have no apologies for living my life to the full
Yet, unlike my father’s sons, I cannot inherit his property.
I am under his care and rule until maturity when, for the highest price I can fetch, he hands me over to the care and rule of another man.
I live the rest of my life raising my husband’s children and doing his bidding.
But is this all I am? Hell no!
Kamilat Mehdi took an important step for Ethiopian women, for all women, by breaking her silence and having the courage to talk about the violence done to her, boy and soul.