It is tiring to always be told that girls and women are constantly violated because of how they dress. On the fifth day of #16DaysofActivism, I wanted us to discuss this crucial point. As a society, it is time we stop justifying violence by bringing up how one dresses.
What is victim blaming?
Victim blaming means shifting the blame of a crime to the victim. It is that simple. You blame the victim for the harm that they have endured instead of the one that has caused them harm. Victim blaming is a norm when it comes to gender based violence.
One of the many excuses that people have used to women that have been raped or sexually assaulted has always been their dressing.
Dressing and Gender Based Violence
Globally, there have been many times when people have justified gender based violence cases based on the victim’s choice of dressing. For example, in 2011, a Toronto police officer told university students to stop dressing like “sluts.” Thus, inserting that any sexual violence can happen due to what one wears.
Girls and women have been blamed for wearing trousers, shorts, mini skirts, bikinis etc. Reason being, what a girl wears enticing perpetrators. Such a claim has been well instilled in our minds that when a victim speaks up, subconsciously, we question what they were wearing on the day.
But that should never be the case. It is a gatekeeping mindset where we try to shelter the criminal. So, to make the injustice seem fair, we share the blame to both the perpetrator and the victim to seem fair. When in actual senses, it is the biggest injustice.
Let’s get one thing clear, anyone who sexually assaults another is not enticed by one’s dressing. Cause if they were, would we be able to explain why a 2 year old baby is raped? Or a woman in the rural area raped while wearing a chitenje?
When one chooses to sexually violate you, they want to make you feel powerless. They want to have the control over another and their body. It is not the dressing that seduces them to do it. They do it knowing that for a few moments, they will have the ultimate power over their victim.
Women and being allies
Yes, you read that right. Women are the biggest allies to such shaming. They will mostly be the first to point out how one is dressed and why they were violated.
If you live in Malawi and have ever gone through cat-calls, you will also have heard the distant chatter by women. As men cat-call, they go off discussing how you are dressed and put yourself in line of the violation. They never come to your aid. However, they will be fast to put you under the bus while rejoicing to the actions of those bringing you discomfort.
Patriarchy. But of course!
As we sit and reminisce, we ought to realise that one’s dressing is not the reason. It should never be the reason. Everyone has a right to dress however they want and wherever. No one should be scared to dress in any way without the fear of being shamed. Or that being the reason of sexual violation.
Remember to leave your comments below.