One-third of the girls in underdeveloped countries are married before the age of 18, and one of every nine girls are married before 15. Not to diminish the discrimination women in the U.S. face, and partially because it's been socialized in me, but I can't even begin to comprehend the toil women in third-world countries have to face. The women in underdeveloped countries are generally treated like actual objects, as if their sole purpose in life is to quench and cater to man's every need. To pleasure him, to bear him sons (and sons only), to cook for him, clean for him, to entertain him. The mindset that men are far more superior than women is so deeply set in their society that people (mothers and fathers alike) feel no empathy for the little girls they give away to older men in exchange for a service or to settle a mere feud. Female life is given little to no regard and women are only perceived valuable or are only lauded when they produce a male heir, otherwise, they’re deemed as useless.
All that little girl is ever going to know is pain, pressure, rape and sexual assault. She's going to get pregnant and be expected to give birth. But if she herself is still growing and developing, how on Earth is she going to be able to reproduce safely? What kind of life is that? How can someone be expected to live a life without any education, any goals or ambitions? Child brides have their entire futures, innocence, sense of contentment and dignity stripped away from them. It's important to educate people about internalizing gender equality. The root of the problem started from the patriarchal society and the mentality that men are superior to women has still carried centuries later and it's quite perplexing. How do we prevent the universal mistreatment of women? What will it take for society to finally accept women to be as capable or as valuable as their male counterparts? How many more female lives or generations will need to suffer before drastic change is enforced?
We need to start talking more about sexual assault and rape. We need to teach not to rape, instead of how not to get raped. We need to stop thinking that manhood is displaying machismo and power, and redefine what it means to be a man. It starts with the basis of the entire predicament: Male dominance. If only boys were raised with even half the rumination as daughters in South East Asia are subjected to. Half as much bidding, constraint and caution. But the freedoms in a boy’s upbringing are absolute, especially those in third-world countries. Since sexual assault isn’t a daily threat to boys, it isn’t even brought up. It's not something even considered worth talking about. But at the end of the day, parents raising daughters can't put an end to sexual assault or to sexist ideology. They can only issue a solid amount of warnings and hope for the best for their little girl. Parents of boys, on the other hand, have a lot of room to change the way the future generation of males treat women. Instead of parents teaching their girls caution, they should be teaching their sons about consent. Instead of teaching us trepidation or apprehension, they should be teaching their sons reverence. They should teach their sons about the significance of gender equality, and that "no" quite simply means no. And that males are not entitled to any part of a female's body, attention or time. Or that they don’t have the leisure to take whatever they please. Girls should not be taught modesty or humility, but rather boys should be taught about the concept of personal space and how to respect it. Girls shouldn't be taught to avert, preclude or shy away from gazes, but boys should be taught not to stare. Growing up, boys should be subjected/introduced to the idea of healthy relationships, romance and masculinity. Boys should be taught to be angered by rape, sexual assault and unjust crimes against women. All women. Not just women they would consider to be wives, mothers, or sisters. They should be taught that all people of all genders sanction and warrant respect. Boys need to be taught that love and care is something that is built, not coerced. That sex is agreed upon, not taken. Fathers need to set good examples for their sons, as their sons will learn to treat women the same way their father treats women, so it’s highly imperative to demonstrate respect and equality. Instead of raising girls to be wary of men, parents should raise their sons to be men who quite simply don't need to be feared. It’s time that we, men and women alike, come together to finally diminish the nefarious flame of misogyny that still burns bright in our society today.
Harleen Singh is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. Her column, "Got Rights?", runs on alternate Mondays.
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