© Copyright 2019 The Rakshin Project By Sakshi
In my daily and personal life, I do not typically use the phrase “violence” when talking about the sexual and domestic violence that follows women. I call it “terrorism”.
A layman’s definition of terrorism is the use of violence to intimidate and incite terror to further political aims or agendas. But most would not see men’s violence against women as “political” — you see, the common narrative around what constitutes as political is one that involves politicians and their fight to seek power in government. Furthermore, the word “terrorism” invokes images of religious fanatics and/or suicide bombers who are also very heavily racialised (an entirely different can of worms that I shan’t get into).
“Terrorists” are seen as the “other” — the “others” perpetrate violence against “us”, therefore allowing “us” to condemn them for “their” moral depravity. This dichotomy allows most people to create a degree of separation from terrorists. But this assumes that we are not part of the very same society that produces the people who terrorise women and children. It is why most people exercise the thought that men who commit sexual crimes against women and children are simply morally depraved, rather than it being the obvious conclusion to a society that accepts, normalises and rewards sexual violence against women and children — a society we all live and breathe in.
I use the word “reward” with great intention — the reward is the reaffirmation of male dominance at the act of subjugating women and children to their violence. What’s more, the system rewards them as well because “the legal system is designed to protect men from the superior power of the state but not to protect women or children from the superior power of men” — I’m not the one saying this, that’s Judith L. Herman from Trauma and Recovery.
It would seem that we live in a society that conveniently sees one kind of violence as permissible and the others as not. Once again, I use the word “permissive” deliberately because we do not just tolerate violence because we are helpless and bumbling bystanders — there is no evidence that shows that we are actively opposed to said terror that is inflicted upon women and children on the daily — we permit it to happen.
When we talk about terrorism, there is a clear target that is subjected to said terror. This is an act driven by the political idea of subjugating the terrorised subject in order to maintain social power. And yet, this lens is not applied to women and children who suffer from domestic and sexual violence, thus softening the discourse on violence against women and children. These acts of terror that is enacted upon women and children’s bodies is a way to make very clear of the “place” women and children hold in relation to men — it is a tactic to undermine or maintain the power and privileges afforded to men. And within the realm of the home, where the family unit continues to be a site of incredible violence against women and children, the message could not be any clearer — “I dictate your humanity.”
What is the purpose of domestic and sexual abuse against women and children? It is to maintain social norms and the institutional apparatus that preserves gender inequalities, upholds patriarchal relations and sabotages women’s rights and power via violence and terror. What’s more is that phrases like “gender-based violence” or “domestic abuse” flattens the severity, urgency and asymmetry of violence perpetrated against women. Put together, when we overlook the social, political and economic dimensions of this violence by employing the use of such neutralising phrases, we are unable to accurately determine what domestic violence and rape — and really, all forms of misogyny —truly is: it’s terrorism.
In Part Two, I shall highlight three obstacles as to why people would oppose the idea of calling misogyny “terrorism”, and I shall offer my rationale as to why it is terrorism. See you in Part Two.
(Image Source: Lauren Rebbeck)
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has given a directive to our NGO – Sakshi to design, customize and deliver Workshops on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSOA 2012) for the NSS Students of 40,000 Colleges across India. Workshops started in 2018.