By Satpal Singh
Today marks the anniversary of a tragedy that shook Buffalo five years ago. After suffering years of domestic abuse, and within a week of filing for divorce, Aasiya Hassan was stabbed and decapitated by her husband.
We were riveted by the court proceedings. Even the prosecutor could not hold her emotions during the concluding remarks. We all shared the anguish on how a helpless woman had died, and how she had lived before that.
However, for all our outrage on cases of physical and sexual violence against women, brutality against women continues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four women in America becomes a victim of “severe physical violence,” and nearly one in five are raped.
The World Health Organization reports that more than one-third of the world’s women (i.e., more than 1 billion women) become victims of physical and sexual violence. In some countries, more than 80 percent of women suffer abuse.
We in America are rightly pained that a large percentage of women in some countries are treated as worse than animals. In turn, those countries point their finger at other countries, including America. Closing our eyes to the fire in our own house because other houses are on fire helps no one.
Thousands of selfless men and women across the world are acting for the safety and protection of women, often at a risk to their own lives. They deserve our profound gratitude. In addition, we need to fight for systemic change. We must address the root cause of the problem – that most men, and ironically many women, deeply believe that women are inherently inferior to men.
The notion of inherent inequality is woven deeply into the fabric of our own society. We take great pride in having granted women (and African-Americans) the right to vote. Who are we to have “granted” such a right? The truth is that we had initially usurped this basic human right. We still do not accept that a woman should receive the same pay as a man for doing the same work.
Our subconscious, and even our conscious, mind refuses to accept the fact that we have all been created equal and that we have all been endowed with the same “unalienable rights.” We keep acting as if women belong to a different species.
No single person, nor a group, can change what has been entrenched in our cultures and our behavior for centuries. We all need to realize the dimension of evil that our society perpetrates on women and raise our voices.
It is a call to all men and women who want their daughters and granddaughters to live in a civilized society.
Satpal Singh is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and immediate past chairman of the World Sikh Council, America region.