JUST A stone’s throw in time ago, the country was enraged at the sorrowful demise of Andrea Bharatt and Ashanti Riley, along with countless others who lost their lives due to gender-based violence. With that rekindled burning fury, a multitude of people took to the streets and social media to voice their opinions and try to seek justice for her. Not only that, but to attempt to educate their peers about gender-based crime and to bring about some sort of resolution to this deeply ingrained issue. However, that powerful burning fury seems to have been extinguished.
The latter reveals a rather unfavourable cultural motif that often plagues our country – being reactive rather than proactive. It’s a mindset that has to be thoroughly destabilised in the general population so that we can do our best to combat gender-based violence. Instead of waiting for crimes to take place and taking shortlived action out of grief and anger, which eventually burns out, the action should be ongoing and consistent, a change of culture as it were.
A culture can be defined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and the arts. The key phrase here being “social habits.” The social habits in our culture that laugh at and ridicule our women, tear down our women, abuse and harass our women, and that ultimately kill our women, must be eradicated.
Instead, we need to build a LARFF culture. But one may ask what this LARFF culture is. Well, it stands for Love and Respect For Females, a term coined by the Fatima Youngleaders in 2017, the school of which I am a part. The aim is quite explanatory – to form a deeply ingrained culture where, collectively, we earnestly convey our love and respect for our priceless females: our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and others.
In order to form this culture, however, we as a nation have to be proactive in our efforts to change our unflattering attitudes toward women. Furthermore, we have to urge and educate others to love and respect women; again consistently, not waiting for a gruesome crime to occur, but always putting our best efforts in this regard.
Take a practical example, if you will. At times, when a gender-based crime occurs, countless individuals often ask: Why didn’t she come out earlier? Why was she out so late that night? Why was she wearing that? All questions that show the perpetuation of victim blaming, an action that is deeply entrenched in our society. And actually, according to Amy Morin (2021), a psychotherapist, victim blaming can be quite perilous.
She says, “Blaming the victim makes it more difficult for that person to come forward and report the assault. On a societal level, it means fewer crimes get reported and fewer predators get prosecuted.” She adds, “Victim blaming also reinforces predator-like attitudes.”
Finally she says, “Victim blaming can lead to increased and unnecessary suffering for the victims. They may experience ridicule – while at the same time watching their predators avoid punishment instead of getting the justice they deserve. This may increase unhelpful emotions like shame and guilt as it delays their healing. It may also add to their toxic self-blame.”
These are the plethora of adverse side effects that victim blaming brings.
Just imagine experiencing and surviving the single most traumatic thing of your life and it seems that you’re being blamed for it. How would you feel? How would you feel if it was your mother or sister?
Ergo, in this unfortunately recurrent case, a society engrossed in a LARFF culture would not only avoid participating in victim blaming but would hold our fellow citizens accountable, actively shunning and educating them, until they’re forced to learn the right behaviour.
So to anyone reading this, firstly, I urge you to share this article. Help spread this message further. Then look deep within yourself, search the depths of your being with the aim to identify if you could improve in any way in this regard. Do your own research about gender-based violence, the behaviours that contribute to it and other facets of the topic, and when you do, don’t let it be futile by forgetting about it the next day, but read with the goal for the information to penetrate your heart. More than that, share what you learn with your family, friends and peers. And if this is done consistently, resisting the fatigue to stop, slowly but surely the culture will change.
Ultimately, if a society is thoroughly charged with this LARFF culture, it would not only positively affect the latter, but every aspect of gender-based crime, and our society’s women can then feel unquestionably safe, respected and loved.
Jonathan Manzano is a Fatima College student