Whatever Happened to Bringing Back Our Girls?

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. They did so in order to protest the perceived Westernization of Nigeria as well as to force the girls into sexual slavery. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau sent out a video in which he states that the girls should not have been in school, but rather married. He also asserts his belief that it was his religious right to make people into his slaves. Some of the girls were able to escape or were rescued, but it seems like most are still being held by Boko Haram. Recently, we received news that the Nigerian government had been in negotiations with Boko Haram regarding getting the girls back, but Boko Haram has engaged in a string of kidnappings since this news that dims the hope that the girls will ever be returned .

While Boko Haram’s actions seem medieval, they reflect a patriarchal ideology that is prevalent all over the world. Patriarchy says women are not as valuable as men, and we can see that in Boko Haram’s actions as well as in the actions of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. They treat women like objects on which to enact their ideology. Their actions are a form of militant patriarchy in which they seek to assert and re-assert their dominance over women and over groups deemed inferior. This Islamic militant patriarchy is not only form of militant patriarchy; various other religious groups (Christians, Hindus, and others) have also engaged in sectarian violence against women and minority for similar reasons. The actions of Boko Haram and ISIS are simply the most recent.

As we reflect on the actions of groups like Boko Haram and ISIS, we cannot think about their actions as isolated incidents. Their extremist views and actions did not spring into existence on their own. All over the world, people tolerate “milder” forms of patriarchy such as street harassment or jokes about women’s (in)abilities. People tolerate them because they think these behaviors and attitudes are unchangeable or so mild as to not cause any harm, yet I believe they create a breeding ground for more extremist attitudes which say that women are objects for men’s pleasure or that women are not worth anything except what value men give them.

This same ideology can be a part of the motivation for the demand of purchasing sex from women, men, and children in our community. Understanding these motivations is part of how we can combat demand and sex trafficking here in Cincinnati.

Author: Bhumika Patel
September 18th, 2014


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