Gender based violence means a violence associated to a particular gender because he or she belongs to that gender. Normally this term is used for ‘violence against women’. But it would be unfair if we ignore the other gender i:e men who too meet with the challenges of gender based violence. However we will first analyze it for women and then shift to men since the former is much happening then the later.
While women in many parts of the world have made advances in areas previously closed to them, the problem of violence against women remains pervasive. Unfortunately, this violence takes many forms and occurs across national, cultural, racial, and religious borders.
Violence against women
Violence against women has several forms like physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence including domestic and public.
Violence against men
Gender based Violence against men also does exist. For instance, men can become targets of physical or verbal attacks. Men can also become victims of violence in the family – by partners or children by means of physical and mental torture through abuses or extra pressure of earning for the family to meet their extraordinary needs. At work place their competitive female colleagues can also entrap them in “harassment at work place” case just to pave their way for self promotions. While at some other places they can be blackmailed by women to extract money or with the intention of fulfilling their selfish motives by threatening to file a case against them under different legal acts, endorsed to safeguard women and violation of it is considered as a serious offfence. Such cases usually go unreported because the man is too embarrassed to confess them.
Misunderstanding meaning of violence in Islam
The Quran says
He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who made for you pairs from your own kind, and pairs also of the cattle (from their own kind) so as to multiply you (al-Qur’an, 42:11)
“O mankind! Fear your Lord Who (initiated) your creation from a single soul, then from it created its mate, and from these two spread (the creation of) countless men and women.” (al-Qur’an, 4:1)
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (al-Qur’an, 30:21)
These verses make it clear the purpose of creating two different genders on earth is first to increase the number of each species on earth so that the world and its species including humans continue to exist till the end as planned by Allah.
And second is that they find love and tranquility in their lives through each other’s company. Hence for the fulfillment of this purpose of existence the two genders have some differences in them in physical, psychological and biological terms. Islam considers these differences for gender recognition and accordingly allots duties and rights to them which should not be misunderstood as injustice or violence on any one gender specially on woman nor it should be practiced to oppress and rule the other gender specially women.
Islam the solution for gender based violence
Islam first emphasizes on the worship of only one God, His obedience and only fulfillment of His commandments as against worshiping and obedience to any other authority created by the Creator. This helps a person to follow a straight path and not deviate under the influence of any other advice or suggestion besides the commandments of the creator to mend his life. Next is that Islam stresses on strengthening of your faith repeatedly in Quran– faith on Allah, His attributes, His powers, His control on our lives, His Prophets and Books which were time and again sent to show this straight path, judgement day as the day to present our worldly deeds and the everlasting hereafter life either showering blessings of Jannah or torturing with hell fire. All these beliefs stimulate the inner consciousness of humans for their moral upliftment. Next the quran lays down rules and regulations for every sector of society to be followed in all spheres of life with the firm warning for their violation narrating the stories of past communities which were destroyed due to this attitude. This is the manner of Quran which is presented for people to take a hid and follow the righteous path. These rules and regulations might seem to many as unconvincing but its practical implementation has proved to be the only solution to the world and its problems. Islam is so called the Practical religion which teaches “precaution before cure” and the cure beneficial to both worldly and hereafter life. The difference between Islam and other religions is that while other religions inspire their followers to control themselves to avoid sin, Islam seeks to control the environment to avoid sin. Implementation of this principle in one’s life and enforcement of this rules and regulations as a judiciary system is the only way of getting rid of social evils, injustice and violence in the society as a whole.
It is important to point out here that such discourse of Tawheed, Iman, and law in its perfect manner lacks in any other Religion or ideology other than Islam. Islam provides guidance for all aspects of life – individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, and national and international. While in other Religions and ideologies some have laid emphasis on the spiritual side of life but have ignored its material and mundane aspects thus doing injustice/ violence to themselves and others by turning away and snatching away Allah’s gifted energies, resources and rights given to them and to the society through them. On the other hand, materialistic ideologies have totally ignored the spiritual and moral side of life and have dismissed it as fictitious and imaginary giving rise to man-made laws, unjust and unfair allocation of rights and duties to two separate genders thus increasing the injustice and violence against both of them. Islam believes in the divine law for guidance which is from the creator – the one who knows His creation in the best manner and hence can give perfect solution to all aspects of both the genders considering the differences in both of them as visible to all of us.
Keeping this in mind let us see how Islam solves the problem of gender based violence erupting in the modern world of today in spite of number of organizations, NGOs, and new laws working against it.
Let us analyze this first with the context of Women and the violence against them.
While the other communities religious laws do not guide on rights of women nor the laws which will serve as precautionary measure for their safety as well as resolve their issues, Islam lays down a complete chapter in Quran “ Surah Nisa” as a guidance for reforming women’s issues who had become a play toy for the whole world.
According to the Qur’an, woman is not blamed for the “fall of man.” Pregnancy and childbirth are not seen as punishments for “eating from the forbidden tree.” On the contrary, the Qur’an considers them to be grounds for love and respect due to mothers.
“We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents: In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth.” (Qur’an 46:15)
Economic violence involves denying access of the victim to financial resources, property, healthcare, education demand for wealth and money from the woman.
While the other ideologies and religions have man-made laws for resolving economic problems of women, and violence erupting because of them, Islam lays emphasis first on sharing of economy on basis of responsibilities and then warning for snatching away others rights with following words
“O Believers, do not devour one another’s property by unlawful ways” (Quran 4:29)
Economic violence occurs mostly due to feeling of insecurity in wealth/ property matters. Hence Quran clearly mentions the shares of each inheritor and does not leave it as an option to share or donate the wealth as per one’s wish. Since Allah commands that financial responsibility of family lies solely with the men he is entitled to get greater share as the justice demands and hence the share of son is more than the daughter. This order of distribution of the wealth works as a first step towards eliminating economic violence directed against women by the men who deeply condemn the injustice done to them by giving them same share as their sisters with the burden of responsibility towards their family.
The dowry system prevailing in the society has failed to give any security to the women in their in laws house however it has increased her and her family’s worries ten folds and has resulted in more domestic violence against women. On the other hand Islam demands a mehr from the husband for the women whom he wants in wedlock and makes it mandatory for the marriage to take place. Allah then places the responsibility of women on men and orders men to protect and maintain women.
Men are Protectors and maintainers of women. Allah has made the one superior to the other and because men spend of their wealth on Women.” (Quran 3:34)
The line Allah has made the one superior to the others does not mean Islam oppresses women but indicates that there is some inherent preference of men over women, something that is built into their very natures. It refers to the natural makeup of men and women, with respect to their intellects, their different manners of thinking, and their natural strengths. It is found that men, by nature, are more hot-blooded, tending more towards strength and severity, while women’s natures are cooler, tending more towards gentleness and weakness. Hence the financial responsibility rests on men and so they are made to spend and look after the maintenance of Women. This is the preference that men have over them.
there are several strict laws enacted to tackle the menace of dowry system and has helped to reduce it to some extent but the predators have come out with new techniques of dowry system by forcing the women for working for them and their household needs with their husbands becoming completely irresponsible about their duty towards family leaving the women to handle the family as well as financial responsibilities putting extra burden on the women besides those given to her by nature like being a mother and nurturing the child in her protective care. Those women who take up the job by their own wish are also trapped in emotional web to spend a considerable amount from her earnings as per the wish of her husband and in laws. As against this Islam cuts the root cause of economic violence by burdening the male with economic affairs and relieving that pressure from females who can be tricked and misused in economic matters due to their soft and emotional nature. Career oriented women are also dragged into jobs meant for the pleasure of men wherein they are admired only for their beauty and body ignoring their real inner talent. Sad part is that they are made to do this in the name of equality and freedom and the women are hardly able to visualize what they are trapped into and by the time they realize it is too late for them to quit.
The Prophet of Allah has laid great emphasis on the education of women for the sake of learning and acquiring knowledge and not for the sake of enforcing her to make it a means of earning for the family which we find among today’s parents who want to benefit from the education granted to the daughters in the form of returns from her earnings. This has lead to many women going for late marriages at the cost of finding a better partner and pregnancy issues. This also has harmful effect of her being left as spinster all her life. To this the Prophet of Allah ( S.A.W) has given good tidings of paradise which is their reward for bringing up and educating daughters without any selfish desire.
“A man who has three daughters and brings them up and educates them to the best of his capacity shall be entitled to paradise.”
Drinking and anger are recognized as two main causes of physical violence and Islam has prohibited both.
“O Believers, wine, gambling, (ungodly) shrines and divining devices are all abominable works of Satan: therefore refrain from these so that you may attain to true success” (Quran 5:90)
“who control their rage and forgive other people,-Allah likes such good people very much” (Quran 3:133)
In pre-Islamic Arabia, it was considered a socially acceptable punishment for a man to kill his wife if he suspected her of having an affair. The Qur’an prohibited this ugly act of violence against women and introduced reforms to protect the wife and those who were accused of immoral conduct by introducing less destructive ways to address the problem. Chapter 24 of the Qur’an establishes the legal procedures for the prosecution of adultery. A man’s testimony against his wife is equivalent to her testimony in defense of herself. Even if a woman is lying, her testimony claiming innocence is enough to avert her punishment in Islam.
“But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie” (Quran, 24:8)
Furthermore, the same chapter in the Qur’an prescribes a severe punishment for men who accuse chaste women of adultery without bringing sufficient evidence (four witnesses of upright character who witnessed the act of sexual intercourse firsthand).
Further the quran mentions the treatment to woman found guilty of adultery with following verse:
“And as for those women whose ill-will (nushūz) you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then hit them (lightly) [daraba]; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most High, Great! And if you have reason to fear that a breach might occur between a [married] couple, appoint an arbiter from among his people and an arbiter from among her people; if they both want to set things aright, God may bring about their reconciliation. Behold, God is indeed All-Knowing, Aware.” (4:34- 35).
While this verse has been the subject of great controversy due to its use of the word daraba, which is mistranslated as “to beat”, this verse in no way sanctions domestic violence. In a situation like breach of trust from a partner anyone would tend to take an extreme step and voice to severe violence on his wife, quran has restricted the role of husband in such cases limiting him to admonish her, stop physical relationship with her and hit her lightly. In this situation also Quran suggests for reconciliation to set things right by appointing arbiters from both the parties.
There are number of examples from the life of the prophet wherein he has strictly condemned beating .
The Prophet said, “Never beat God’s handmaidens (female believers).” In reference to men who use violence at home, the Prophet said, “Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?” The Prophet was known to never hit a woman or a child. Aisha is reported to have said, “The Prophet never beat any of his wives or servants; in fact, he did not strike anything with his hand except if he were to struggle in the cause of God
forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection; and, female infanticide.
Islam not only prohibits female infanticide, but it forbids all types of infanticide, irrespective of whether the infant is a male or female. It is mentioned in Surah Al-Anam chapter 6, Verse 151
“Kill not your children on a plea of want. We provide sustenance for you and for them. Come not near shameful deeds, whether open or secret. Take not life which Allah has made sacred.”
The above verse gives assurance of sustenance to the parents as well as children which is a strong message to boost the will power of the men to avoid any form of forced abortion or sterilization of women .for the fear of their maintenance.
Further Quran mocks those who view the birth of a girl child with contempt.
“When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkness, and he is filled with inward grief! (Quran 16:58-59).
Psychological violence includes ‘threats, humiliation, mocking and controlling behaviours. Islam has forbidden any form of verbal attack on the other person which can disturb him/her mentally with a strong warning that the good deeds of such a person will be transferred to the victim and the abuser would taste the hell fire on the day of judgement.
The Prophet (pbuh) said,
“The bankrupt from amongst my Ummah is the one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with a good record of Salah, Sawm and Zakah. But he also had cursed someone, slandered against someone, unlawfully took the property of another, killed someone or beat someone. Then all of these abused persons will receive parts of his (abuser’s) Hasanaat. When all of his (abuser’s) Hasanaat have been removed from his record after he (abuser) pays back for what he owes, then the aggrieved persons’ sins will be transferred to and thrown on him (abuser) and he (abuser) will be thrown into the Fire.” (Related by Muslim and Tirmidhi)
Further in Qur’an, Allah forbids all types of wicked behaviors which lead to mental disturbance for other person like mocking, backbiting, calling by bad names, taunting, unwanted suspicious approach and unnecessary spying. It is noticed that the person who faces these behavior from their partners loose their inner peace and live a psychologically disturbed life. Further Allah (SWT) made it clear that defaming another person in his/her absence is like eating the flesh of one’s dead brother (49:12), which obviously, everybody hates.
O you who have believed, neither should men mock other men, it may be that these are better than they; nor should women mock other women, it may be that these are better than they. Do not taunt one another among yourselves, nor call one another by nicknames. It is an evil thing to be called by a bad name after faith. Those who fail to avoid this are wrongdoers O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are sins. Do not spy, nor should any one backbite the other. Is there any among you who would like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you yourselves abhor it. Fear Allah, for Allah is Acceptor of repentance and All-Merciful. ( Quran 49: 11-12)
Islam believes in Precaution before cure and hence orders the men first to lower their gaze so as to avoid the feelings of attraction towards women.
O Prophet, enjoin the believing men to restrain their gaze and guard their private parts (Quran 24:3)
It then orders the women to cover and veil themselves so as to avoid molestation and its aftermaths.
“O Prophet, enjoin your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they should let down over their faces a part of their outer-garments; it is expected that they will thus be recognized and not molested.” (Quran 33:59)
While in today’s modern age Hijab is considered as an atrocity towards women, Islam considers it to be the precautionary measure for violence against women who are considered as precious as jewels and are well protected against any damage by way of keeping them well covered and hidden from evil eyes. It gives them the class of modest chaste women, so that transgressors and sensual men recognize them as such and dare not tease them out of mischief
Some of the people consider “hijab to be a protection for women” as a myth. And give examples of women been attacked even in hijab. This should be understood through this simple example that following traffic laws to avoid accidents should not be considered as a myth only because some drunken driver who isn’t following the traffic laws becomes the cause of accident for others.
Islam is a religion which thinks about all dimension of human life. first it creates the fear of watchful Allah to avoid any sin to be committed and then suggests precautionary measures against various aspects which might trigger human weakness and force him to commit a crime. One such precautionary measure is that of lowering the gaze both for men and women and then suggesting women to cover themselves properly so as avoid any sexual violence against them as women fall prey to this due to their attractive nature. If someone does not abide by these rules we can’t blame Islam to be at fault. Similarly if a well covered woman too is attacked by miscreant we won’t consider it to be the fault of the women her hijab or islam or hijab should be considered as a myth for her protection but It means that these hooligans are so bad that they don’t spare any women even the one who is covered.
Islam also gives the laws for avoiding illicit relationships and forced custody of women which eliminates the sexual exploitation of women in many ways like prostitution, forced marriages etc.
“give them their fair dowries so that they may live a decent life in wedlock and not in Licentiousness nor may have secret illicit relations. (Quran 4:25)
O Believers, it is not lawful for you to become the heirs of widows by force (Quran 4:19)
Also the teaching of the beloved Prophet ( S.A.W)
“The widow shall not be married until she is consulted and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained.”
Violence during war
The victims of modern armed conflict are far more likely to be civilians than soldiers. According to UN Action against Sexual violence in Conflict, the vast majority of casualties in today’s wars are among civilians, mostly women and children. Women in particular can face devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives.
Whereas Islam at first hand considers war to be the last option against any injustice and then spares the innocent from being harmed and combats only those who are participating in the war and not those who are outside it. Also Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) classified those that Muslims are not allowed to fight and they included women, children, old people, crippled, blind, handicapped, one whose right hand is cut off, lunatic, monks in monasteries, wanderer in mountains who is not mixed with people, people who are secluded in a house or a church worshipping in a locked door. Also it is against Islamic ethical values to violet any human sanctity and transgresses the limits set for war including misbehavior towards women caught in the war. However it is lawful to set up a family with them with their consent. This also solved their issues of being left homeless and unsecured facing extra ordinary challenges in life which most of the women affected by war are facing today.
The following verse of quran makes this clear:
“O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives]” (quran 33:50)
This verse does not give the license for rape against such women but gives the men rightful ownership of the women who are caught in war similar to men having rightful ownership of their wives in wedlock with their consent. Hence Allah has mentioned the women of captives and wives in the same sentence stressing on the legality of the relationship.
Violence due to Human trafficking
Human trafficking is defined as “the movement of persons from their place of origin to elsewhere in their communities, provinces, regions, or across borders to destinations where they are ultimately exploited. This is a kind of modern day slavery. Girls, women and children are real targets in this game.
In pre- Islamic Arabia slavery was widely practiced which after the advent of Islam was slowly and gradually diminished with strict rules laid down regarding treatment to the slaves and good tidings were announced for freeing a slave from oppressors considering it to be an act equivalent to struggling in the cause of Allah.
“Why should you, then, not fight in the way of Allah for the sake of those helpless men, women and children who, being weak, have been oppressed, and are crying out, “Our Lord, deliver us from this habitation whose inhabitants are unjust oppressors, and raise a protector for us by Thy grace and a helper from Thyself.” (Quran 4:75)
Human trafficking often involves sexual exploitation. Islam prohibits any sexual relation outside of marriage and prostitution is completely forbidden.
And do not force your slave-girls into prostitution for your own worldly gains when they themselves want to keep chaste; and if anyone forces them into it, after such a compulsion Allah will be forgiving and merciful for them
Violence against men
In reality the violence against men is interconnected with violence against women. Interchanging of rights and duties of the two genders has played vital role in promotion of both the violence. Islam has clearly laid down the duties of each gender in separate environment for smooth functioning of the society.
“And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allaah is All-Mighty, All-Wise” ( Quran 2:228)
Islam has given due rights to both men and women and have made them masters in the own fields. The chief work allotted to Women i:e to be manager, guard and coordinator of her home is not as a punishment but her nature demands such work and she carries out that work better than the man. On the other hand man are allotted hard and challenging physical works outside the home environment due to his masculine nature which if burdened on women will put her to fatigue.
If this is reversed, gender based violence against men and women automatically erupts wherein we see that most of the men are denied jobs due to the demand of beautiful ladies to attract the customers for the related job. Women too have to sacrifice their main role at home sometimes even leading to sacrifice of her motherhood to match up with the men’s work outside her home environment. The changed attitude of women who have entered in every sector of work with high income has subjected men to tortures and abuses due to their incapability to earn more than the wife. This has also paved way for dominion of women over men creating disturbances in the family and leading to divorces at fast rate.
This however does not mean that women have no right to employment in Islam. The wife of prophet (S.A.W) khadija (R.A) was the most successful business woman who also fulfilled the duties of her husband with due respects to him and never let him down in any manner. It is also sunnah of the Prophet to help his wife in her household chores. Hence though the two genders are confined to different fields of work each one can help the other on humanity grounds on basis of love and not by force or by hurting each other’s feelings the basic main being attaining the pleasure of Allah for every good deed they did.
In short it is the consciousness of God the Almighty which islam teaches to be mindful of their duties which is the solution to eliminate all kind of violence on both the genders. Fear of anyone else or any laws cannot turn out to be an effective tool to guard the liability of human acts and hence we see its failure in every sector of human life. As said in Quran:
O ye who believe ! be mindful of your duty to ALLAH and let every soul look to what it sends forth for the tomorrow. And fear ALLAH, verily, ALLAH is Well-Aware of what you do. (Quran 59:19)
Thus we can be watchful of our deeds to gain a better reward in hereafter.
Whoso acts righteously, whether male or female and is a believer, WE will surely grant him a pure life; and WE will surely bestow on such their reward according to the best of their works (Quran 16:98)