Gender Equality Begins With Respect

Just as a person’s status should not be dictated by whether they are rich or poor, so too should their gender be irrelevant when it comes to the respect they are afforded. 

By Admin 21 Nov 2023

Gender Equality Begins With Respect

Written by Maung Mayu (Buthidaung)

Traditionally, women have been considered the weaker sex, and inferior to men. Because of this chauvinistic view, many men tend to show little respect for women. This has inevitably resulted in violence against women.

As women’s rights activists have worked hard to highlight, women in Arakanese society are subjected to violence by men at rates that should not be tolerated. While there have been some high-profile cases, many cases have gone unreported.

Last year, a video of a husband beating his wife in public went viral on social media. He can be seen grabbing her by the hair and brutally beating her. While the man was abusing her as he pleased, the people nearby stood by and did nothing. 

Women should report if they face such violence, but people nearby must equally take it upon themselves to be reporters, if not outright interveners. If women victims or witnesses to said abuse fail to do so — the latter perhaps wrongly taking the beating to be strictly a matter between husband and wife — this will only encourage more beatings.

Authorities must also give attention to violence against women, and take harsh action against perpetrators. Only then can there be hope that the various forms of violence against women might decline in Arakanese society.

Undoubtedly related, rape and murder of women have significantly increased over the past few years.

In 2020, a young woman who made a living selling snacks was murdered at a construction site. Last year, a salesgirl at a shop near the Arakan State government offices was also killed. In March of this year, a young girl was gang-raped and killed in Sittwe. A young girl was raped in Buthidaung Township’s Kakyetbet Kanpyin village-tract as recently as September 4. 

Among the most horrifying cases in recent years is that of a schoolteacher from Rathedaung Township who was killed on September 16 of this year, with the post-mortem indicating signs of rape. She had her throat slit. 

Last year, there were reports of indecent exposure by young men who showed their private parts to women on Strand Road in Sittwe.

Those incidents are well-known due to media reports, but women’s rights activists say that there are many more cases that are not well-known, which is very worrying.

It can be said that this happens because people do not value and respect each other. If there is a big problem in the environment, most of the victims are women. Therefore, there is a real need to respect and value women around us. New local laws are needed to protect women’s lives.

Our views on women must also change. Women are not inferior to men; men and women are equal to one another. It must become a commonplace and accepted notion that there is nothing that a man can do that a woman cannot also do. We need to see women as equals.

As women, they need to live their existence boldly and confidently, not with a small mind and a weak mind. Every adult must join women’s organisations and show the power of women. They will have to work together for the safety of women’s lives.

Just as a person’s status should not be dictated by whether they are rich or poor, so too should their gender be irrelevant when it comes to the respect they are afforded. 

If only sons were born in every house, there wouldn’t be a single person left in one or two human generations. It is more necessary to have daughters than to have sons to preserve the human race. Raising and taking care of daughters is more beneficial to the world than taking care of sons. The Buddha said that King Kosala should not be weak, disappointed, or sad because the queen gave birth to a daughter.

This was the Buddha’s philosophy when it comes to daughters. We need such ideas in our society today. If young people, on balance, accord the same level of respect to women vis-a-vis men as their preceding generations have done, we are a society in trouble indeed.

In schools, there is invariably an instruction that teachers must train young students to respect and value their elders. In the same way, if we teach children that women are not inferior to men, but rather people to be valued and respected, I believe that there will be less disrespectful actions toward women in the future.