I woke up this morning to the horrific news that two girls in India were gang-raped and then hanged. All they had done was go out to the toilet at night. Earlier, I had heard of the Pakistani woman who was killed by her own family for marrying a man against their will. In Sudan, a woman is being charged with apostasy and could face death. She was raised Christian by her mother after her Muslim father left them. She married a Christian man. She was forced to give birth to her child in prison with her legs shackled. In Nigeria, a militant Islamist group kidnapped almost 200 school girls.
There are horror stories every single day involving attacks of men on women in every single country of the world. Attacks range from rape and murder, to sexual, physical, and mental abuse, to sexual harassment at work and on the street.
This morning’s awful news from India made me think about all the measures I’ve taken on this trip to keep safe. I wrote about many of them yesterday. The attacks mentioned above all happened in less developed countries. They just happen to be where the media attention is directed nowadays. I am an independent, strong-minded, strong-willed, well-educated woman cycling alone through “civilized” Europe. Yet I am constantly aware that there is nothing civilized about the attacks that happen on women in Europe everyday. And I am insanely relieved that my husband is joining me now for the rest of the journey, not only because I really miss him, but also because of the safety I feel in his male companionship.
Why are things this way? What has gone so wrong in the minds of enough men to make the world a generally unsafe place for women? Why do some men need to exert dominance over women, whether sexually, physically, or emotionally? What scares them so much about a woman that makes them feel that they must dominate and control them?
I take all the measures I wrote about, yet I know I am relatively safe in Europe. (more…)