Tahmena Bokhari on the story of Aasiya Hassan: Domestic Violence is the Silent Leading Killer of Women

Tahmena Bokhari speaking at the Think Tank held by the Gender Analysis Committee of the VPCC of Durham Region.
July 2003

Tahmena Bokhari on the story of Aasiya Hassan: Domestic Violence is the Silent Leading Killer of Women

On Feb 13th 2009, Aasiya Hassan was beheaded and brutally killed by her husband, the owner of "Bridges", a Muslim television station in Buffalo, NY (his name need not be mentioned here). I am deeply saddened by this story. I have worked in the area of violence against women for over 10years in Canada and abroad, with South Asians and various communities, and strongly condemn any act of violence. There are so many various myths in the media and in the public, and these associated comments due a disservice to the plight of women’s group who have struggled for decades to raise awareness. There have been so many cases, of South Asians, Muslims and Christians and North Americans and more of men abusing women. The stories in the media of Gillian Hadley, Laci Peterson, Evelyn Hernandez, Rihanna, Aqsa Pervez, Farrah Khan, Amandeep Dhillion, and countless other women who have been badly beaten and killed and even more who are abused every day with out any mention. Violence against women happens in every culture and has been happening for hundreds of years, this is not a new phenomenon, a Western phenomenon nor a direct product of a particular faith or ethnic-culture. This has to do with global and historical male dominance in which religion, family, finances are all used as weapons to justify or excuse violence.

I am also surprised when people are shocked at these stories, because these are usually cases in which women have been beaten for years and years without anyone ever taking action or offering support. We know that women are living through the cycle of violence many many times over silently in their homes before any intervention and until, in some cases, where it leads to death. We think it is ok, it’s none of our business, it’s a private family affair or between the couple, until of course it makes national headlines and then everyone has something to say. We know the many reasons women stay and even come back into violent relationships, financial need, family pressure, family reputation, children, lack of opportunities and options, and so much more. During economic downtimes, we know that women are the first to lose their jobs and at increased risk of poverty. Right here in North America, known around the world for women’s liberation, 1/3 women will be assaulted at some point in their lives and every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted, often by someone who claims to love and protect them. Human rights are being violated right here on North American soil every day, every two minutes in fact, yet some choose to spend their energy blaming Sharia law. Most of the men commenting on this issue in the media have never worked in this field, have not had the lived experience of the daily fear of assault as women do, and nor have they studied this topic indepthly. Why do these men continuously get airtime and published space on violence against women, while on all other matters the media seeks experts to provide awareness and education on the matter? I would like to hear more from women on this issue, women and men who have worked on these issues, and women in general who can speak to their lived experiences.

So, what is the average person prepared to do about this enormous figure of women who are assaulted? There are things you can do everyday, even as simple as examining the jokes you make or laugh at, the language you use and the subtle ways in which you may be supporting the subordinance of women. There are many structural, political, cultural (note when I say cultural I am not referring to ethnic-culture, but culture at large, we need to change patriarchal culture right here in North America) and policy issues that we can work on, to ensure women have equitable access to jobs, equal pay, political voice and so much more so that women are not forced to live in unsafe circumstances. We must take a multifaceted approach and everyone all men and women of all faiths and identities need to work together.

Let's awaken our consciousness!

Thank you for reading my very candid thoughts,
Tahmena Bokhari

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has” Margaret Meed

You may also check out one of my former projects, collectively written by a team of advocates following the murder of Gillian Hadley in Durham region: http://www.crvawc.ca/documents/overcomingthebacklash.pdf (p.86 my article)

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