The Sexual Violence That Occurred in Cologne Needs to Be Discussed

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We have to speak about what happened in Cologne on New Years Eve, so as not to let the right-winged extremists get another ball to play with. Plus, why silence victims of sexual violence? That is far too often the case anyways.

Here’s my view:

Sexual violence needs to be condemned whenever it happens and by whoever carries out the attack. It was supposedly men of Arab/North African decent that carried out the attacks. Unfortunately after the largest refugee crisis after the second world war. These men come from societies that are far more patriarchal than European countries. The legislation and the culture and the religious practises favours men; sexual violence can be done without any repercussions; women can be killed without anyone arrested. Not all groups nor individuals in the Middle East and North Africa follows this order. There are plenty of exceptions and there has been a rapid development in some countries and regions when it comes to human and women’s rights, many of them I have been happy to be able to portray on this site.

But there is still a patriarchal norm that lies behind this high number of sexual harassments in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. And if the men who carried out the Cologne attacks descended from these countries, we have to address the issues of men having such deep patriarchal values that they don’t respect women – no matter where they are.

What I think should happen is: we need to discuss how to make these men accept and respect women’s rights. We need to address official, cultural and religious leaders of these communities so that they bring up these issues with their community members. The perpetrators should be traced and punished. If the German legislation brings that they would be deported after the penalty, in case the men don’t get have residency in Germany, than that’s a part of the punishment. What’s most important is: we need to not shy away from the subject because these men were from a – in Europe – already targeted minority. Because what they did is a horrendous crime and if we don’t address the underlying issues of men from patriarchal societies we will let the racists run the game – again.

Now I know most of my Middle Eastern male friends will not post anything about this on their social media sites. Especially if living in the West, they constantly feel they’re objects of suspicion in the eyes of whites, assuming they’re violent and patriarchal, and they don’t want to enhance this picture. Many of these men also frequently share posts about racism and how Arabs and Muslims are mistreated in the West, which is as much of a fact, but I would like to challenge them to bring up another group that is often mistreated within their own communities – women.

Because I also know that some of my male Middle Eastern friends most likely will post something about the Cologne attacks – men who are women’s rights activists and men who are challenging the patriarchal norm in their own societies. And I wish these men will set the agenda for everyone, all men, worldwide. That is the only way forward.

Photo credit: dw.com

Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Raped in Dubai

In the Gulf and especially Dubai, prostitution is available everywhere. Online, at clubs and bars, in private parties. Young girls locked up or seemingly free; Asian, African, Eastern European. My experience is that prostitution is so common and accepted it’s hardly attached to any stigma for the buyers (“Why should I visit a whore?” a man once told me. “I get lots of women, I don’t have to pay!”). For being an Islamic country, this exception seems to exist within any moral remorses with the leadership.

So what’s the deal if you are forced to have sex against your will, if you get raped? The same legal system that overlooks the brutal sex trafficking will most likely confine you for having sex outside the institution of marriage and punish you as the victim instead. This goes for men and women, underage as well as adults.

This week the news broke that the Norwegian woman in Dubai, Marte Deborah Dalelv, who had been accused of premarital sex after reporting a rape to the authorities, was being “pardoned” and did not have to do her previously sentenced punishment in jail. Throughout the process she had been hiding in a Norwegian church in Dubai and international media had monitored the case over the past year. Now would a woman who was not white, westerner and with huge international support have been “pardoned” from the sentence? Probably not. And what else is, Marte’s rapist was pardoned at the same time.

Now many other countries have increased their legal support for victims of violence and sexual violence; in 2011 Iraqi Kurdistan passed a law that forbade domestic violence and in for example Lebanon there is a big network of women’s shelters with legal and social support for victims. Despite their financial lead, Dubai is still many years behind.