The murder of Sarah Everard has shocked the country and galvanised women’s rights campaigners. The gruesome murder sent a shockwave, a tsunami of anger and anxiety all around. People came out to show grief for the cruel killing of an innocent woman. The floods of tears and sorrowful laments are a wake-up call for the authorities to do something.
The statistics show a gloomy picture of our households, a rotten reflection on the democratic, liberal and affluent society. Violence against women is a problem for society, not just individuals. It will only end when social attitudes change and we all take responsibility for speaking out against it. The demands for a nationally coordinated programme is long overdue, a programme that provides:
- Preventative strategies including training for professionals, like teachers, GPs, healthcare staff and judges. To educate men to respect women and develop moral values of kindness, justice and patience.
- A public awareness programme particularly for children and young people to show respect for women is fundamental.
- Give the police and the criminal justice system more power to catch and punish the abuser.
What can religious leaders do to tackle violence against women?
Here is a six-point strategy, I think we can all adopt to fight this scourge:
- Teach young men to be kind and grow loving families; the theology of gender equality in Islam, the rights and responsibilities of husbands and wives, how to overcome marital conflict.
- Develop strong character by being kind, patient and just. Become people who can control greed, jealousy, anger and arrogance, which usually causes domestic violence.
- Speak up against domestic violence, show it is abhorrent, disliked, and a serious crime.
- Become protectors and supporters of each other, The Majestic Quran outlines the relationship between men and women as each other’s protectors. The concept of wilaya establishes that men have no superiority over women. “Men and women are protectors of one another: They enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers, give charity and obey Allah and His Messenger, they’ll get Allah’s blessings” (Al-Anfal: 71).
- Men are responsible for maintaining and providing financial security. ‘Qawama’ imposes the financial responsibility on men so, that women are free to take care of the family by being nurturers, without having to be wage earners. The Quran states, “Men are maintainers of women because God has given one more than the other, and because of the sustenance they provide from their own means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient” (Al-Nisa: 34-35).
- Men ought to provide for women in the context of childbearing and rearing. It does not necessarily mean that women cannot provide for themselves. The term ‘Qawwamun’ is not an unconditional statement of male authority and superiority over all women for all time. This does not negate the principle of equality; rather it is a sign of social complementarity and solidarity of the family, a mutual contract in marriage. Each gender has special qualities that, in general, lead each gender to be better qualified for a particular role. As women have the exclusive ability for the continuation of humanity’s existence; men must fulfil the financial responsibility to maintain stability and balance in the family and society.
How can we stop it?
Violence against women is a controlling behaviour that some men use to get power over women, mostly it’s physical violence but can be emotional and sexual abuse too. Abused women live in fear, isolation and unfortunately denying that it’s taking place. Hoping that the husband she loves will change. Muslim scholars long ago established that the objectives of Islamic law are to protect life, mind, religion, property and family. These are fundamental human rights, God-given, they are absolute. Allah, says: “The evildoers will have no one to help them” (Al-Hajj: 71).
Jabir bin ‘Abdullah reported: The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Beware of injustice, for it will be darkness on the Day of Judgment; and beware of greed because it destroyed those who were before you, it led them to shed blood and treat others unlawfully.”
Every life is precious, the murder of Sarah Everard demands that we all take action, by embracing equality, overcoming hatred and prejudice and show respect to women who are either our beloved mothers, sisters, darling wives or loving daughters.