The views expressed in this essay do not reflect the opinions of Honor Diaries
By: Amna Butt
Perhaps the gravest effect that can result from traditions that are perpetuated to preserve honor is the systematic forfeiture of human rights. As described in the documentary film Honor Diaries, the construct of honor is unrelentingly rigid in the control of female sexuality. What becomes sacrificed along the way of these traditions that unyieldingly try to preserve honor is human dignity and the value of life itself.
What becomes embedded in the code of what counts as unacceptable behavior for females becomes the starting point from where power becomes imposed on females, often beginning at a young and tremendously vulnerable age. When female genital mutilation is performed on infants as young as a week old, their life takes a turn in which the affects will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Women who have undergone fgm can experience consequences that include severe pain during intercourse, extremely painful menstruation and infertility. When the political correctness in a culture consists of female purity and sexual submissiveness, crimes such as FGM take place.
From infancy, this culture collectively and systematically functions to mold girls into embodying a role of acceptance. A role of not questioning the power that inhibits females from pursuing their right to education and marrying who and when they want because it would go against a hierarchy perpetuating violence and misogyny. When perpetuating this honor code, the acts that are meant to mold young girls often result in a lack of self-worth and repressed spirit as they are taught to live their life not disrupting the system and pleasing others. The degree to which this happens is as much that women question the value of their life over making the decision that could cause her families honor to be questioned. This notion of honor being vested in the female body and her actions is inherently flawed because the needs and survival of the woman are not considered.
When Rubina Sanghera was taken out of school at a young age, her need for an education was not addressed. Finding herself in a marriage that was a cause for her unhappiness led her to take her own life. The case of Rubina is an example of when political correctness in a culture puts honor above needs, and essentially teaches girls and women put their needs aside and their desires and pleasure away. Thus, happiness and life itself become secondary. Rubina Sanghera deserved happiness, she deserved to live a life based on her own choices, and not ones made for her beginning from a vulnerable age.
The rate of young girls who are married off to uphold an image of honor, is disturbing to say the least. Often these marriages are consummated through rape and these girls and their babies are often subject to an early death in labor. Why is it that since birth girls are controlled and perpetually kept under strict codes of upholding this flawed sense of honor? There is a desperate need for a reformation in this honor culture and priorities need to be shifted from the effort to micromanage girls to allowing them freedom of choice. Like countless numbers of other women and girls who find themselves at the crossroads of life and death that Rubina Sanghera did, I too found myself in a place of contemplating whether life was worth living as I found it exceedingly difficult to break away from the honor code. One thing I wish I knew then and wish for everyone facing challenges that come with the backlash of breaking the code, whether that be walking away from a marriage, getting an education or working, is that you are worth it.
Reforming the honor culture needs to invest in its girls and women by empowering them through opportunity and freedom of choice. Educating one father on the effects of fgm can stop the cycle from continuing down generations and can save countless lives. Voices must continue to be raised to speak on the negative effects of the honor culture to stop the violation against female rights. For this reason, it is important to share our stories, realities and resilience.