Ground Report | New Delhi: Societies that mistreat women; As a group that supports violent malpractices taking over Afghanistan, it is worth studying how most sexist societies work. In wealthy, liberal countries, the idea of the male kinship group as the basic unit of society had long ago faded. Elsewhere it is surprisingly common, not just in Afghanistan.
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Societies that mistreat women
“A woman driving a car will be killed,” says Sheikh Hajim Muhammad al-Manshad. He says this in fact, without raising his voice. The unwritten rules of his clan, the al-Ghazi of southern Iraq, are clear. A woman driving a car can meet a man. Very likely there is a “violation of his honor”. So his male relatives would kill him with a knife or a bullet, and bury the body in a sand dune.
Shaikh is a great host. He makes his guests sit on fine rugs, in a hall that provides shade from the desert sun. He asked his son to serve him strong, bitter coffee from a shared cup. He wears a Covid face mask. Yet the code it supports is brutal. And one purpose of that cruelty is to enable men to control women’s fertility. A daughter must accept the husband chosen by her father. If she lives with another man, her male kin is honored to kill both of them.
Some Iraqi cities are quite liberal by Middle Eastern standards, but much of the countryside is patriarchal in the strictest sense of the word. The social system is built around male kinship groups. The leaders are all men. At home, women are expected to obey their husbands, fathers or brothers. They remain absent in tribal meetings. “I’ll be clear: according to tribal custom, a woman does not have freedom of expression,” says Manshad.
Sexism starts at home
The obstacles women have to face starting in the womb itself. Families that give priority to sons can abort daughters. It has been particularly common in China, India, and the post-Soviet Caucasus region.
At least 130 million girls are missing from the world’s population, by one estimate, due to gender-selective abortion and neglect of the girl child.
This means that many men are doomed to remain single; And frustrated single men can be dangerous. Lina Edlund of Columbia University and her co-authors found that in China, for every 1 percent increase in the proportion of men and women, violent and property crime increased by 3.7 percent.
There is also more violence against women in parts of India with more surplus men. The rebellion in Kashmir has political roots, but it can’t help that the state has one of the most skewed sex ratios in India.
Family norms vary widely. Perhaps the most socially destabilizing is polygamy (or, more precisely, polygamy, where one man marries more than one woman). Only 2% of people live in polygamous families. But it is pervasive in the most volatile places.
You are not my boss
Patriarchy is maintained by the rules of property in favor of men. In order to keep property within the patrilineage, many societies make it difficult for women to own or inherit property. Written laws are often fair, but customs can trample them.
Only 13 percent of the land in India is occupied by women. Several studies have shown that women who own land have greater bargaining power in the household and are less likely to be victims of domestic violence. Nyadoi tried to build a small house on the land of her dead parents, but her cousins told her she could not, as she was a woman. (Societies that mistreat women)
When Mifumi’s servants intervened in a clan meeting and determined her rights under Ugandan law, did her relatives give her a small piece of land? She now lives there away from her husband. She cries as she remembers “all the suffering for so many years… fighting, hitting, biting, being chased.”