By Latifa Elogri
By Latifa Elogri
Fez – Isis Center for Women and Development organized on December 29th a workshop entitled “National Workshop on Violence against Women and Strategies Countering it,” in cooperation with the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IFA) and the International Institutes of Languages and Cultures (INLAC).
Violence against women can cause a lot of harm to women and to families at large. It is the pivotal reason behind the destruction of family relationships and the dehumanizing of women within societies.It is ironic that some people believe that women are punished by their male relatives because they do something wrong, and it is unfair to interpret gender differences as women are inferior and men as superior.
To handle the issue of violence against women, the workshop discussed fundamental themes to explore and problematize the concepts related to this issue. The major themes were as follows:
1- Educational reforms
2- Religious, Civil Society and Art
4- Psychological,political, economic and social violence
Under the leadership of Fatima Sadiqi, the Moroccan author and professor of Linguistics and Gender Studies, the workshop hosted many professors, Moroccans and non-Moroccans, from the Universities of Fes, Rabat, Casablanca, Ifrane, Kenitra, Oujda and Meknes, and also from the USA. Also, a member of the Moroccan parliament, and members of Union de l’action feminine, and of the religious affairs of Morocco were included to hold the discussion. PhD students of English Literature and sociology participated in this motivating workshop to enrich the debates.
The discussion contextualized the issue of gender equity and the importance of education. Reforming the educational system is a primary step to mainstream gender in all educational curriculums, from primary to high schools and universities, inasmuch as education is an institution where children and young people can acquire and assimilate concepts. The educational reform can raise consciousness among students toward the importance of respecting women. Mohammed Moubtassime, a professor at the University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah, emphasized the fact that the importance of adopting and implementing higher educational reforms.
The participants discussed the concept of masculinity and the way the mind of men and women are reshaped through a number of dictated norms. Society is the pivotal platform where different norms and values are transmitted; therefore, the socialization of masculinity is confirmed. Mohammed Yachoulti, a professor of English at the University of Moulay Ismail, argues that families help boys to exaggerate their masculinity in the negative perception.
Moha Ennaji, Moroccan linguist, author, political critic, and civil society activist, also argued that masculinity is encouraged in our societies as a symbol of strength, aggression, violence, power, while femininity is the opposite.
The process of interpretation of religious texts especially the Qur’an verses was discussed by Rachid El Ouardi, from the University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah. He cited some Islamic scholars like Ibn Hazm, Ibn Achour, and Ibn Hamza who represent progressive thinking, and he shows how they systematize the understanding of gender differences. As Ibn Hamza said “women and men are not similar physically and psychologically”, so that male and female are different not in terms of mental capacities but rather psychologically and physically, which differentiate the two sexes. Quoting Ibn Massoud, Rachid Elouardi mentioned that the sexes are different in service and weakness, meaning in daily tasks and physical variations that determine each sex in society, and he linked the differences to the historical context.
Added to that, the workshop’s participants’ emphasized on the importance of reinterpreting the Qur’an inasmuch as the meaning is progressive especially that Islam has become associated to Islamophobia and terrorism.
Here, the concept of Jihad was explained as a polysemic term that holds negative and positive meanings depending on the context. The negative Jihad, which is typically linked to terrorism and violence, and the positive Jihad which is linked to the daily struggles by people to accomplish prerogative peaceful aims of life like making a living, seeking success, achieving dreams. Thus, while the interpretation of Jihad is used to serve a certain ideology against Islam, it can carry a positive meaning.
The participants came to the conclusion that interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith is pivotal to the issue of gender and male-female relationships.
Fatima Sadiqi argued that “We should problematize things because we still can’t talk about certain issues like menstruation inasmuch as it’s still a taboo in our societies”. It is of a paramount importance that we have to lay hands on some taboo issues which cause damage to gender relationships because by keeping issues as taboos we contribute to silence reality, therefore increasing mechanisms of violence and normalization of women’s underestimation.
To sort out the problem of violence against women, Souad Slaoui, a professor of English at the University of Sidi Mohamed Benabdellah, stated that creating centers for gender studies is important for they help reduce the problem of violence through sensitizing both genders and helping women to find out reliable solutions… KatjaZvan, a professor at the university of Al akhawayn University, recommended the empowerment of women through a number of points including, politic, education, social development, visual literacy.
Visual literacy contributes to the decrease of violence and to the acceptance of gender differences. So that when we can read the images transmitted we can also question the problems included within the messages, therefore we would be able to accept or refuse the message.
Social media were also included among the themes of the workshop. It is just amazing to know that social media is a platform were the issue of gender can be debated among people around the globe. It is used by women and men to combat violence against women by exchanging views and cases of their daily experiences and reality. It is important to understand how social media simplify complexities and urge alternativesto all kinds of violence including psychological, political, economic, and social violence.
The participants argued that women’s economic independence is crucial for their empowerment and their protection from violence. Schools, family, civil societies, NGOs and social media should also be used to fight violence against women.