Taboos that feminists struggle to break in the Egyptian society.. Marital Rape and polygamy on the top of the list
When Captain James Cook, the British explorer, invaded the South Pacific Islands in the eighteenth century, a new word was introduced, “a taboo”; referring to issues of societal discussion which go beyond one’s own ability to speak publicly, for the risk of offending Gods. However, this thought was articulated from tribal communities having inhabitants of primitive men performing basic animal acts of only eating, hunting and mating to ensure the continuity of their race.
In fact, great thinkers of history since the 16th century, on wards, beginning from “Rene Decartes” who declared his famous mantra “I think, therefore I exist”, followed by subsequent philosophers were strong and brave enough to break the shackles of all inherited societal taboos existing at their archaic times.
Similarly, eastern feminist figures in the early 20s and till 70s, were courageous and strong enough to articulate their thoughts of female political and dress codes freedom which were at their times a taboo, but now a common matter of thought and verbal circulation.
It is therefore understood that a taboo is something that has to be sealed from open discussion, until brave and courageous social entrepreneurs seek to deviate from the myopic twittering flocks by shedding the light on societal problems in order to create awareness about those problems.
This article will invade certain taboos pertaining to women which are still considered inferior and shamefully categorized among the minority groups of the society although, ironically and paradoxically, a woman in her womb, carries the other half of the society, or the majority.
TABOO #1: Marital Rape: A wife is her Husband’s Personal Possession:
The Nobel award winner Bertrand Russell stated about marital sex frequencies that, “the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution”.
Marital rape is defined to be when a husband sexually abuses his wife and forces her into a physical relationship without her consent to engage into the act. It became a woman’s right to legally sue her husband in most of the western world countries and Europe, in the mid 20th century with the help of the western feminists and great thinkers such as Stewart Mill and Russell.
However, in the Middle East and South East Asia, the matter is frowned upon for being a taboo, out of the societal norm that a wife is amongst her husband possessions and he is entitled to mate with her whenever he wants as long as this is under the religious bonding.
In fact, this claim is misogynistic because marriage is a family unit by which both sexes act as equal partners in the marriage bond; it is understood that no sex has the superiority over the other one, and that women are not objectified to be amongst their husbands’ possessions.
The reasons for the marital rape wide acceptance in our societies, is attributed to many reasons; firstly religious reasons because most religious figures say that there is a “hadith” stating that if “a woman disobeys her husband in bed, the angels will spend all night Cursing her for her actions”;however, there is another deliberately neglected “hadith” which insightfullly mediates the other, stating that …”a man should not sexually mate with his wife as do animals mate” or “la yalqa zawgatahoo kal-bahema”.
In fact, this neglected hadith proves that religious figures pervert religious means for their own deeds in a patriarchal society, with the silence of Al-Azhar.
Secondly, setting religion aside in the age of pragmatism, marital rape takes place for psychological reasons bbecause the man is always pampered at his mother’s house just because he is born to be a male, conditioned into the fact that a man should always be obeyed and served at whatever expense may be. As well, the actions of rape are, attributed to men who are sadistic and who are economically poor with fragile egos, having no other ways to feed their ego and superiority, except by physically abusing their wives.
Thirdly, the woman herself contributes to her own misery for having no say in her life, by engaging in the self defeating behavior of obeying her husband at all endeavors out of her threat that she might lose him in case she refuses to mate with him, for that he might seek his pleasure elsewhere.
Taboo #2: Men are encouraged to be promiscuous, while honor crimes are justified for women
Although in all conservative societies, it is encouraged to keep moral codes for both sexes prior to marriage; society condemns women who have pre-marital relationships while it is encouraged for men, and some mothers, if not wives, consider it a matter of pride when her son or husband has plenty of illicit relations associating it to manhood and physical attractiveness.
It is paradoxical indeed, that mothers who take pride in having promiscuous sons, proudly show off their daughters’ blood on a white cloth, as a sign of their virginities on their wedding days, especially in Upper Egypt and was proved to be practised in Europe as well, in earlier centuries, as was mentioned by Simone de Beauvoir in her book “the second sex” written late 30s to mid 40s.
In fact, psychologically; promiscuity is often linked to personality disorders arising from having a troubled childhood such as lacking safety and security out of the absence of a parental figure, which is reflected on such emotional immaturity during adulthood, by which the person tends to feed their fragile egos and build their non-existent confidence from having access to many partners concurrently. It is therefore an educational disaster to encourage such an emotional-disturbed act for men, rather than to seek psychological help.
On the other hand, Dr “Nawal El Sadawwy” and Dr “Samyya Satty”, declare that the society “mistakenly” places a woman’s virginity upon the existence of her hymen, or the tiny thin fleshy tissue stretching across part of the opening of her vagina.
Scientifically, a women can lose her hymen to reasons other than sexual intercourses such as performing aggressive sports, and “some women are not born with it”, as Dr Sadaawy mentions in her book. She also mentions that a “miserable father came to her once, asking for a paper proof that his daughter was a virgin”, because she lost her hymen during her sports training.”
It is therefore unjust and unscientific to associate the woman’s virginity to the “bleeding on her wedding day because some women don’t even bleed during their first intercourse”, as she states in her book “women, sex and society”.
If such a matter of “hymen-mania” had not been iincorporated in the Egyptian culture, there wouldn’t have been an industry of the Chinese- imported hymens as a retro- action, in order to superficially satisfy the ill-mannered men of our society; who seek multiple relations for their own, while strictly forbid it for his wife-to-be, and if discovered either divorce or “honor crimes” are set on the tables as his right although she might have been having biological malfunctions and not of actual sex performance, but who understands and reads deep into science!
TABOO #3: with no legal papers to prove their existence, consequently women inheritance rights are sidelined
In rural areas, particularly Upper Egypt, such as Assuit, Qena, Aswan, and the districts of Arment and Essna in Luxor, which are governed by tribal and ethnic affiliations with the power of a single family extending to many farmlands, women face the sidelining of their inheritance rights and their non-access to the freedom of land ownership, although the Inheritance Law (Law 77 of 1943) clearly provides for women’s inheritance in accordance with the Islamic Shari’a.
The reason justified for the discrepancy between the law and the reality, is deeply rooted in a pure misogynistic convention; believing that if women inherit land, fears will stand correctly of losing the land capital and dividing the family wealth leading to dispute occurrences in case the woman decides to marry “outside her family ties”, substituting women’s right to inheritance with a monetary amount (redwa), in exchange for justifying the complete denial of women’s rights.
Other reasons for the spread of such phenomenon imply the decreasing rates of the agricultural lands, the women illiteracy rates in such areas and the unemployment of the male youth.
Nevertheless, the woman is only entitled to her legal rights of the ownership of her fair share of her father’s property, only in case she agrees to abide by the “Intermarriage norm” of the society; so that her wealth will be reassured amongst the extended family members including her male cousins and close relatives, who unethically act on their wives behalf afterwards, leading to a closed and vicious circle of women rights- abuse in Upper Egypt, with authorities legally approving it, but de facto tackling this abuse with great silence.
The result is that women are deprived of their independence as a value per se, thereby being vulnerable to situations of domestic violence and her marriage to her close relatives without her consent if she does want to keep her land “literally” because technically her husband owns all her property in a society believing that women are “minor to men in their religion and in mind-capacities”.
Therefore, in Upper Egypt and rural areas, women have no economic anchor in their lives, to act as their axes within the life amongst such frozen hearts.
TABOO #4: Marital-Infidelity to both sexes… Men can kill in the name of “honor”, while woman are sentenced for “life”; the institutionalization of discrimination
The legal punishment for adultery is greatly different for both sexes making law the great enemy of women. According to men, there is mitigation when it comes to husbands killing their wives if they are caught in an act of adultery, ranging from 24 hours to 3 years only because the court considers him to be defending his “honor”, rendering the act of killing his wife as a “crime of passion”, meaning that the immediate response of killing was a result of a temporary emotional state of extreme anger, and outrage.
On the other hand, and for the same action, if a woman catches her husband cheating and killed him instantly, she is to be punished for prison of a period from 3 to 15 years or hard labor for life, according to Article 234, which nobody has found a reasonable explanation for this until now, and to make it worse for women, Article 277, stipulates that the adultery has to be practised in the “marital home”; meaning that if the act is committed in a hotel, it is not legally binding to punish the man!
Furthermore, if a woman commits adultery in or outside of the marital home, under Article 274 of the penal code, she can be punished by up to two years in prison. Also, the pardon of “crime of passion” is not considered in the woman’s case.
The Egyptian media tackled such a problem in the eternal feminist film of “Afwan Ayouha el Kanoon”, written by the late author “Hossn Shah”, when the female antagonist was sentenced in prison for 15 years after killing her husband for his “marital home adultery”, even though he personally sought her innocence and forgiveness, but the misogynic institution of the legal Egyptian law disregarded the husband’s consent to set his wife free; a matter which proves that sexual discriminatory actions are institutionalized and legally justified.
TABOO#5: Polygamy; banned in Tunisia and Morocco, & in Egypt it is legal
The Qura’n stated in one of its verses that men are allowed to marry more than wife at the same time although nations with Islamic inhabitants such as, Turkey, declared polygamy is banned since its secularism in 1929 although it is de facto practised amongst the Kurdish minorities. As well, the only Arab nation which is conscious enough to ban polygamy is Tunisia, alongside Morocco but with certain impediments.
Regarding the Religion “fiqh”; although Islam allowed polygamy, it did not encourage it, otherwise, it restricted it to almost “impossible conditions” such as the duty of the husband to be fair financially and emotionally among his wives and “if not then, one is sufficient”, based on Dr. Mostafa Mahmoud’s analysis, “it is therefore a suspended jurisdiction, due to its impossibility especially in terms of the emotional justice”.
As well, the Islamic “Sharia” further states that “the first wife is entitled to state in her own marriage contract that once the husband decides to re-marry, the marriage is considered null and void”, based on Dr. Ali Jomaa’s words.
Therefore, countries such as Morocco and Malaysia resort to bringing the first wife to court to confirm her consent to her husband’s re-marriage. On the other hand, Egyptian men resort to “orfy” or “concealed secret” marriages to hide the fact, although indeed, they are breaking their religious boundaries of publicity and first wife consent in a society which widely claims it is religious; however, only when it comes to mens’ rights but discarded when a man has duties.
Furthermore, the tribal communities of Africa and the Tibet nation in China, allowed polygamy and even polyandry on the woman’s side to marry more than a man at a time, in order to sustain their race survival across time, due to them being a minority.
Behind every successful woman is herself coz she is strong enough NOT lonely
In fact, if it is understood that Egypt is legally institutionalized to be misogynic, and the fact of banning polygamy seems to be far from the horizon due to the weak participation of “Al Azhar” in spreading awareness about women rights.
Also the societal fear from the Islamic fundamentalists who always pervert religion for their own needs following the “Wahabi Salafy” movements of the gulf area, which the latter, fully justifies if not promotes polygamy for being of tribal and kingdom heritages having a single family dominating the country’s public offices such as the cases of KSA, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. However, the element of a single family filling public posts is not a requirement in neither Egypt nor in the MENA region.
It is therefore the woman who should follow the famous motto of “behind every successful woman is herself”, not out of being a victim but out of her strength.