Muslim women and human rights activists brought to light the issues of honor violence and gender apartheid at a National Press Club Newsmakers news conference Tuesday, making it clear that women all over the world are affected, not just in the Middle East and Africa.
They also promoted the passage of the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) that is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and has 51 co-sponsors.
Attendees viewed a new documentary, Honor Diaries, which examines the plight of nine diverse women who have been affected by honor violence, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages, physical abuse and disfigurement.
“I speak out because culture is no excuse for abuse,” said Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, who appears in the film. “In North America, there’s not enough awareness of honor violence. It remains largely hidden and not reported in U.S. media.”
Other speakers included Iranian political refugee Manda Zand Ervin, Kiersten Stewart of Futures Without Violence, Jaka Dukureh, the executive director of Safe Hands For Girls, and IVAWA sponsor Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
“It’s hard to picture a young girl being forced to marry a man that’s even older than her father and raped into submission,” said Schakowsky. “IVAWA will make sure the government has the tools it needs to promote fundamental rights of women and girls everywhere.”
Dukureh, a native of Gambia and an FGM survivor, contended that many fail to realize that honor violence, perpetrated by Shariah (Islamic law), has crept its way into the United States.
“No one deserves to be killed because of honor,” she said. “No religion supports harming women. If [God] didn’t want us to have a clitoris, he wouldn’t have given it to us.”
According to the U.N., more than 125 million women and girls worldwide have been victims of honor violence since 1989, and more than 1,500 forced marriages occur in the U.S. each year.