Rape, gender and discrimination - Maldivian Patriarchal Hegemony

You wake up with half of the sleepiness still in your soul and one of the first things you do is to check your phone; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. notifications. Sometimes you tend to give a smile and go back to sleep while the other times your sleepiness escapes you - all depending on what you read on Facebook or Twitter.

Recently news of a 19 year old female being victimized by an older male at a private venue taken on rent by the suspected male, made headlines - the reasons behind the news becoming sensational is not less significant an issue to consider, but it will be stalled to ponder over a more treacherous aspect of our society with regards to rape cases.

To wake up from your slumber to some random Facebook user's insolent comment such as "that would not have happened if she was at home!" is not the first thing you wish to see in the early hours of the morning, posted to a news that read about another woman falling prey to lecherous hands of a sex-hungry individual; be it male or female.

But it is as much surprising as it is weirdly amusing to see that general Maldivian populace seem to have embraced a dangerous mentality or prejudice of placing the blame on the individual who is victimized, especially if the victim is female.

"That's just a ruse she's trying to spread now she is exposed, I am sure it was consensual!"

Definitely not something you would wish to write on the comments section if the victim was your mother, sister or daughter. But you don't let your conscience guide you when you type 'violent' sentences supporting the culprit and blaming the victim as long as the victimized soul is not blood related or involved in your inner-circle.

Sadly this is the reality and it is evident from the multitude of comments and harsh remarks posted on news articles regarding rape cases - the situation had been much the same even in the last rape case that went viral in media and on social media platforms.

What's the reason behind such a twisted prejudice?

To single out one reason is to undermine the multi-faceted notions surrounding the issue. To do so would also be an attempt to simplify a complex and cruel practice. We know that at the end of the day, we too, are to be blamed on some level whether we may like the idea or not.

First and foremost contributing factor would be the patriarchal practice in Maldivian community for centuries. Men are conceived as the natural breadwinners, the superior creatures or the leaders of a community, society or even domestically. This idea may not be so vile if the conjoining idea conceived is that of the role of females in the society is to serve men, reproduce and fulfill the carnal desires of men whenever they are called up for it. To put it short, Maldivian society had long since embraced the notion that women's role is simply to serve under men.

In a globalizing world, where these notions once fueled the essence of some of the most vastly developed and sustained countries have seemingly waned through the pages of history - albeit the practice is still not non-existent in those parts.

Hollywood is one clear example of racial and gender domination. The place is mainly controlled by white men and they dictate most of the 'rules and regulations' of the reel-life world. This was clear during the birth of super-hero comics during the late 30s and early 40s when almost all of the significant caped crusaders and masked vigilantes were Caucasian or white males.

And it is not a hidden fact that Hollywood has been somehow responsible for its guerilla marketing of gender discrimination - throughout the world, even in Maldives.

But a country at the West end of the world cannot be hardly the only culprit of condoning a vehement social misconduct.

No! Even the misuse of religion by half-baked clerics or deceptive preachers can be a common trait that lies at the heart of Maldivian conviction with regards to gender stereotyping or discrimination. Mind you, that this isn't an indirect jab specifically aimed at religious scholars or preachers but a direct finger pointed at the people running around with the facade of religious-practitioners who have constantly mislead and misinterpreted the divine law and Quranic verses.

This had led to massive confusion and conflict between the commoners when they are hesitant to believe or clarify the truth imposed by genuine religious clerics and scholars.

While it may seem off topic, it is the grim reality that many of us Maldivians associate 'lack of faith' with rape victims. But the most upsetting angle of this is that many of us are unaware to the full length of what the religious doctrine cites about women's posture and status in an Islam practicing community.

All of this had contributed to Maldives embracing a misogynistic attitude or mindset. Men dominating over women, culturally, historically and even socially has been at the heart of Maldives which still resides in some islands or in the hearts of many. Although the severity of gender discrimination has somewhat subsided over the past years, it still is a lot grieve about when a female rape victim is inadvertently labeled 'promiscuous', 'filthy' and even 'cheap.'

The ugliest bit of this is that no matter the depth or severity of sexual aggression a male had executed or is found guilty of, they are given a clean-slate by many of the commoners simply because of his gender.

It is not comprehensible that an Islam practicing country has gender discrimination rooted in its heart. To entertain and accept the ideology or notion is to deny the sacred texts of the Holy Quran which is considered a defining aspect of a practicing Muslim - thus placing us Maldivians in a self-imposed paradox.

But to place a general understanding it can be assumed that years and years of patriarchal hegemony practiced in Maldives which is strangely supported and encouraged by many females in the society could eventually be summed as the root of sexual discrimination women face in Maldives.

How do you counter this?

A man alone is only strong as how much his will and strength allows him. But a community with its members joining hands, supporting each others backs could act as a force to reckon with to counter any cog or adversity.

The simplest and most efficient approach seems to be an early education aimed at students about racial, social and gender discrimination. To create, initiate and execute awareness camps at national level to educate and spare knowledge of the consequences of victim-blaming regarding rape cases and to deliver detailed comprehensives about the societal and civic responsibilities in identifying, differentiating and raising complaint and concern towards rape and sexual aggression.

Maldivians also need to be made understand the devastating effects of siding on patriarchal hegemony and supporting male dominance.

The problem is not the disability to identify the cause of the problem, the problem is the downright disregard and ignorance to acknowledge that our society is facing the cruel practice of gender discrimination on women, especially witnessed by female rape victims.

To change the long practiced customs and culture would be difficult, but with time the human societies need to evolve and discard all the barbaric misconceptions and ill-practices that we had somehow carried with us to the 21st century.

Maldives would only witness a gender equality and responsible addressing of culprits to their crimes when the society learns to cease favoring culprits based on their sex or gender.