As we all know, Libya is undergoing vast socio-political landscape changes. Women want to continue the momentum of freedom from oppression and extend it to their every day lives: The World Today – Libyan women signal time to end domestic violence 28/09/2011. Excerpts:
Traditional taboos were set aside because the movement was desperate for volunteers.
Now that most of the conflict is over some Libyan women are working to make sure those gains are not lost.
ALAA MURABIT: You got beat in your dad’s house, you’ll get beat in your husband’s house, and then your daughters will be beat by your husband.
Like that was what it was.
Your brother is in charge of you. Even boys on the street will call you ridiculous names – and when you go home if you are one of those people who’s brave enough to tell your family that you were, you know, cat-called in the street, your brother will probably say, well why are you walking in the street?
It’s never anybody’s fault except for the girls here.
She says the revolution has given her the opportunity to start fighting for women’s rights again.
She says violence towards women has become so ingrained in society they can no longer recognise when they’re being abused.
ALAA MURABIT: When we had a seminar about a week ago, we’re like, ‘How many of you are abused?’ And about three girls raised their hand out of 20 girls.
And I said, ‘Okay, let me rephrase this: how many of you have been hit?’ Every single girl but one raised her hand.
So for them abuse isn’t classified in the traditional way because they don’t even know what abuse is anymore.
Like if a man slaps his wife because she didn’t cook him lunch on time it’s not even seen as abuse. It’s kind of like ‘Well, she should have listened’.
I think at this point it would be wise to realize how similar that is to our own culture. So often when discussing the plights of women in other countries we fall into a trap of believing they have it “worse” so we have it okay (why do so many people believe the women’s lib movement is over? or unnecessary?). It’s all relative. While we don’t live in a society where overt oppression and violence against women is condoned, it is still absolutely perpetuated in most of our social landscapes. As a generalization, we still believe that men should be in charge; many of us have a hard time recognizing coercion or control in relationships because it’s been normalized. When a woman is victimized many people wonder what she did to deserve it, why she wasn’t smarter, etc. – we still place blame on victims and don’t question why people believe they have the right to harm others nearly enough. But back to the article:
ALAA MURABIT: By educating and communicating with these women we can lead to the prevention and the understanding of what violence is.
Because you have to understand, for most Libyan women they don’t understand date rape, they don’t understand the idea of their husband actually is capable of raping them. They don’t understand these things.
They don’t understand that it’s wrong for a guy to say insulting things to her on the street. They don’t think they have those rights to go.
And I’m not saying that, you know, we’re demanding rights for women only. We also demand responsibilities.
We’re telling women – Invest in yourself, get a job, go to school, do well, be successful, and you might actually come up with a result where instead of being kind of the second-class citizen you can literally create the society that you want.
CONNIE AGIUS: But Alaa Murabit warns it’s important to find a balance between religion and women’s rights.
She says that certain Islamic practices should be respected.
ALAA MURABIT: I believe in women’s rights. I also believe that within the boundaries of Islam this needs to be approached in the most sensitive way.
Because if you go too strong with women’s rights men will go to their wives and be ‘Like pick religion or pick your rights’.
And every single woman, every single Islamic, Muslim woman will pick her religion and then it’s- so it’s a lose-lose situation for us.