By Qasim Rashid
15 October 2017
Harvey Weinstein is just another case of a powerful man abusing women because we live in a society that lets him get away with it, but we can change that
If the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse revelations shocked you, then you’re dangerously ignorant to reality. According to RAINN, an American is assaulted every 98 seconds, one out of every six women will deal with rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, and 90 per cent of rape victims are women.
I’m a Muslim, and a civil rights lawyer with a special interest in advocating for women’s rights. My advocacy is informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse. Yes, the cancer of sexual abuse against women that we see in Christian majority America is just as prevalent in Muslim majority Pakistan, but also in Hindu majority India and state atheist China. This proves that men worldwide are failing in our responsibility to end sexual abuse and gender based violence.
Let’s start by understanding two facts. First, a woman’s attire, alcohol intake, marital status, and education level do not contribute to sexual abuse – abusive men do. Second, sexual abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every level of society – social norms, media, and Government – is complicit in promoting the rape culture that perpetuates sexual abuse.
Social norms demonise a woman for speaking out, victim-blaming her by asking what she was wearing, whether she gave signals inviting abuse, or asking why she didn’t speak up sooner.
The media also advances rape culture by disregarding women and their voices. Why didn’t the allegations against Weinstein gain clout when Rose McGowan screamed them from the top of her lungs years ago? Why has society advanced people like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Aisles, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and even our Commander in Chief to the pinnacle of success, despite the decade’s long testimony of sexual abuse and rape from dozens of women?
How can we rely on government when 97 per cent of rapists never see a day in prison, judges punish rape of an unconscious college woman with a measly three months in jail, award rapists with equal custody of the child born from a woman they raped, and the US Department of Education rolls back rules that protect women in college from sexual assault?
The fact is that states are not moral actors – people are. But when people let bad behaviour go unchallenged we inch closer to societal anarchy. In truth, any expectation that we can simply pass a law to stop sexual abuse is foolish.
Despite laws in France that criminalise sexual harassment, an astounding 100 per cent of French Parisian women on public transit report sexual harassment. France’s proposed response is legislation to ban cat-calling. Such legislation, if passed, will also fail because state laws only punish the actor once the act is completed, they don’t prevent the act in the first place. This scenario plays out repeatedly worldwide, whether we’re discussing “revenge porn”, gender based violence, or sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is where Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example provide a solution that no state truly can. And while there are people who don’t believe that sexual abuse is even a problem, some on the left will disagree that accountability to a higher power is a solution.