Who Profits from Women’s Humiliation?
Bosnia and Herzegovina
“The worst in the chain of female degradation are the profiteers who ‘get all the gold.’”
Some time ago the notorious rape in India shook the world, and for some time it was discussed as a tragedy and horror across the globe. In Bosnia, when I read an article about an almost equally horrible rape in Zivinice, where a minor girl was raped by several men, no one talked about it. Because here, rape and humiliation is everyday practice in diverse social contexts―even at home. The article was properly named “Horror in Zivinice,” but it never got public attention beyond that. We never found out whether those who committed it were sentenced or if anything happened to them later, whether or not they were prosecuted, or what happened to the girl. The article claimed that the girl was mentally disabled, a way of blaming the victim in advance. No proof was provided to support this assertion about her mental illness. Our society in different ways approves and ‘baptizes’ violence against women, such that a lack of reaction from the public creates a sense that reports on such crimes are somehow public lies or propaganda, the fault always laying in some way with the woman.
Several months ago, while I was working on a project called Prometheus in an NGO where I am a member, one of our beneficiaries was a girl born in 1992 who ended up in a home for people with mental disabilities. When I read her medical history I could only conclude that she had been raped, though the history was written like a real satire and the doctor obviously took out, wrote, and presented the most unclear parts of her statement. It reminded me of the “Horror in Zivnice” article, among other things. We weren’t allowed to see this girl or to talk to her or to meet her doctor. The only additional information we received was that she has diabetes and that through our project she would be able to get help buying the necessary treatment for that. My doubts will never go away, that we got only a partial account of her medical history and certainly to some extent untrue information.
A long-time ago, females in Bosnia and Herzegovina started to be treated like ‘beasts’ and like ‘national’ property. When I say ‘females’ I am referring to all women, and when I say ‘treated’ I think of all treatment―social, media, politics, everything―from their representation in the publicly shown images of pornography, through the very vulgar folk culture and TV representations that still offend many representatives of our gender, to the human-like dolls in commercials that are more bearable to the eyes and (somehow) considered less offensive. Rape is often proclaimed political theatre because at the end of the chain, someone victoriously gets all the money, and all women become property that is ‘cashed in.’
The female body is constantly degraded and manipulated, but what individuals can do to resist this manipulation, is to stand outside the social hajka (an expression that best describes the hunt for an animal) and to interpret as human beings. In this context it is not strange that in war the estimates of raped women are enormous. As illustrated in the movie Whistleblower, human trafficking and forcing females into prostitution and sexual services flourished greatly in the aftermath of war, and the users of these services were both domestic men and the international community, who have immunity and therefore could not be held responsible for any of the crimes. The victims were all ‘closed files’ in the end, often killed after suffering multiple rapes and humiliations. Many of them were minor girls from Eastern European countries, including from urban areas. What is often forgotten is that the images of these women―representations of the female body―were also trafficked, therefore raising the capacity of society to support violence towards specific individuals or the female gender as a whole.
Even worse than the male chauvinists, I sincerely believe, are females who deliberately involve themselves, in different ways, with this degradation. They like ‘this stuff,’ perhaps because it gives them a feeling of greater value and potential to become mothers and wives, to be ‘decent,’ while this same opportunity is being taken away from other females by simply their circumstance in society, or as a consequence of the trap into which they have fallen and can’t get out. The worst in the chain of female degradation are the profiteers who ‘get all the gold.’
I believe that we can only save our intellect by judging, since if we ignore and approve of such phenomena, as ‘not so dangerous,’ as ‘maybe somebody else’s culture,’ we will definitely be stepping into the abyss of lies. As long as we treat women with attitudes that support their subjugation, what we will have around us will be a world of beasts. What happened to the girl in the Center for the Mentally Disabled will perhaps never be found out, but seeing the society around me, I definitely believe that it is to blame, because vulgarity is encouraged as cultural policy.
Will it be possible to hear her story coherently one day, to hear her voice? Will she ever be able to meet her legal representative, her lawyer? It is scary that this may be an empty hope. I am not sure if she is even still alive. I sincerely believe that she is a human being who was destroyed by the free will of tyrants who were consciously or subconsciously led by the ‘women are beasts’ psychology, and that we might yet expose the whole chain of social flaws and mistakes that have put her in the place where she is.
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