By: Leah Devorak | Layout Editor
Imagine waking up early one morning to cook your husband a giant breakfast from scratch, just out of love. You spend an hour trying to juggle everything and make it all just right, but in the process, the eggs slightly burn.
When the meal is done, you bring it to your husband, who is still in bed. He thanks you for your kindness, but as he sees the browned eggs, he backhands you hard across the face.
In the United States, most women would call the police. In Ethiopia, however, that would seldom be a thought.
According to a Women’s World 2015 study, approximately 68 percent of Ethiopian women say that domestic violence is acceptable in some form, with 47 percent feeling they deserve a beating simply for burning the food.
A more recent study by the United Nations found that Ethiopians are not alone in their thinking. While looking at sexual health among teens in the Asia-Pacific region, the U.N. found very high numbers of teenage girls who condone at least one form of domestic violence, anywhere from 22 percent in the Philippines to 81 percent in Timor Leste.
As a well-to-do Westerner, this conclusion is shocking. How could any woman ever feel that she deserves abuse? However, considering the conditions that exist in many of this region’s countries, the results are really no surprise.
Low levels of education and high levels of unemployment and poverty in much of this area prevent women from seeking better opportunities and treatment. Mix that with many family histories full of domestic violence, and it’s nearly impossible for these women to realize that violent behavior against them is wrong.
It also does not help that in many nations, there’s not even simple government protection against violence in the home.
Take the Middle East for example. According to The Guardian, in that part of the world, only Morocco and Jordan have specific domestic violence laws. However, these are for married couples only and do not include sexual or emotional abuse. Jordan’s laws don’t even include physical abuse.
In other words, they’re actually not laws at all.
Similarly, in Iran, there’s a specialized procedure for dealing with domestic violence, but there are no laws to keep said procedure in place.
This trend continues even in places like Eastern Europe. Ukraine’s laws are for married couples only, while Russia and Latvia have zero regulations for taking care of partner violence.
When the government isn’t even willing to acknowledge domestic violence as a crime, it’s obviously difficult for the victimized women to do so. Having no one to turn to for support makes them simply sit back and accept the brutality that occurs, almost as a way of coping. After all, if they believe they deserve the violence, then receiving it won’t be as bad.
In comparison, the United States has relevant legislation for everything but financial abuse, making it much easier for women to find their way out of a damaging relationship and not simply accept it as life.
This type of thinking needs to be carried over into still-oppressive societies so that heinous inequality can finally end. Everyone is equal in life, and no one deserves poor treatment, especially over something as stupid as burnt food. Both women and men in oppressive nations need to learn this. Only then, when both parties realize that there’s a problem, will violence against women finally stop.
This is why it’s imperative that feminists in nations which have already achieved basic equality, like the United States, step in to help more. While it’s fine to fight for more than just basic rights, such as equal workplace representation or not being catcalled, there’s still a vast majority of women elsewhere who can’t even get acknowledged as a human being and thus need all the extra support they can get.
Feminist movements need to infiltrate lagging nations and share their experiences of safe households and basic equalities in order to break down fears and help finally bring freedom.
But even without outside help, there’s still hope. According to the U.N., after referencing data from previous years, the acceptance of domestic violence from both men and women is slowly decreasing. Even in the recent Asia-Pacific study, only 25 to 51 percent of the region’s teenage boys agreed with violence in the home, a much smaller amount than their female counterparts.
So the change from condone to condemn is finally coming, and women will actually be recognized as the competent, deserving individuals they truly are.