The Darker Side
Whenever we discuss about the progress and development of women, an indispensable solution of educating women comes into our mind. It is believed that if women are educated, they will acquire new perspectives and broaden their horizons, which will lead to their growth in this male-dominated society and inevitably establish equality between men and women. But what is disheartening is that even today we see instances where women are discouraged and sometimes even debarred from acquiring education. An appalling scenario is that of the group named Boko Haram in Nigeria. Founded in 2002, they claim to be people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings. They advocate a form of Islam that forbids adoption of any western practices. They took to arms in 2009 to overthrow the government and create an ‘Islamic’ state. Of late they are increasingly focusing their powers to oppose western education, especially for girls. Their name, which is in Hausa language translates to ‘western education is forbidden’, which substantiates their stand against western education.
This group strongly believes that western education ‘corrupts’ the morals and ethics of Muslims, especially those of girls. They demonstrated their stand by kidnapping about 300 girls from different boarding schools and holding them in forests. As if this did not suffice, they issued statements saying that they would handle them like slaves and marry them off and sell them, in accordance with ancient Islamic belief that women captured in conflict are parts of the ‘war booty’. Continuing with this abhorrence of theirs, they have warned people of more such kidnappings. It is hard to imagine the ordeals that these girls must be dealing with and the stigma they will have to face if they ever make it back.
What is demoralizing is that the government of Nigeria has so far been unsuccessful in providing any sort of aid to these innocent girls. It is surprising that these militants have occupied the country in such a way that they have the freedom to move freely across areas and talk to the media to issue threatening statements. The ‘United Nations’ Convention on Elimination of all forms Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) provides that “states shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education.” Nigeria having signed this convention but has dismally failed to honor the treaty, both in letter and spirit. Girls do not have access to basic education in a country, where less than 20 percent of women are literate and have attended school. In the contemporary world, education of women is being viewed as necessary to ensure their equality. As a matter of fact, right to education is being considered a fundamental right in various jurisdictions. A country like Nigeria, which has some of the highest child marriage and maternal mortality rates in the world steps must be taken to tackle the situation. Unless girls are educated, they will continue to be caught in this vicious spiral of child marriage and maternal mortality. Hence, there is a pressing need to treat women’s rights as human rights.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Kudrat Agrawal, our Intern.