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I’m going to start this article by mentioning the “F” word – no, not that one… The worst one; Feminism. Undoubtedly this four-syllable word has become somewhat taboo – a no-go for a cool man, and I have often wondered where that taboo derives from…

Well…I think I have the answer: misunderstanding.

When I was first introduced to the word ‘feminism’ which was during my secondary school years, I, along with many other young men were taught that it was, well, first of all, impossible for a man to be a feminist, but more worryingly, that feminism is a root cause to evil in society, an absolute no-go zone, that feminists are crazy loony tree-hugging, excessive-body-hair embracing, men-hating monsters; a movement that all men should be ready and trained to fight against at any cost!

Well, a decade on, I am glad to say that those misguided views are no more to me than my ex-obsession with Pokémon cards. I’m proud to say that yes, I am a feminist.

I look at my young sister, Sarah, growing up. She’s eleven years of age. The beautiful insights I have been privileged enough to have into her life since she was just a tiny girl, and witnessing her transformation into a young lady, developing in mind, consciousness and intelligence, has not only instilled me with pride at being her brother, but has proved to be a source, a constant reminder of the dangers that could lie ahead for girls her age. Dangers such as:

Violence and early forced marriage

domestic_violence1There are 3.5 billion other little girls like my sister in the world. Of those, over 1 billion have, or will experience some form of physical or sexual violence.

Over 700 million women – twice the size of the entire population of the United States of America alive today, are married off as children, and of those, 250 million – more than three times the entire population of Britain –  are married before the age of 15, leaving them with a life of little or no education, opportunity deprivation, vulnerability to sexual violence, reproductive and various other health problems and very often, a life of servitude.

Domestic violence and sexual harassment

Many of you will have young sisters, just as I do. Imagine some random horny teenage boy forcing his hand up your sister’s skirt while she’s at school, just standing in line for lunch. Your sister is now on her way home, on the bus, a thirty year old man who has just been released from prison for possession of child pornography rubs his jeans up against your sister while he has an erection.

sabbir speech bubbleNot making you angry enough?

Ok, well then imagine that your sister is older, in a relationship and married, away from the comfort and safety of home. Everyday, she is beaten brutally, and she must wear make-up to conceal her bruises. She can’t use her own debit or credit card to spend her own hard earned money, because her boyfriend or husband takes it all away and controls her money, using it for his own pleasures – alcohol, a drug habit, gambling, you name it. Yet she is afraid to leave him, for it’s “shameful”, or quite simply because he has her under such tight control that she has no way to leave without heightening the risk of being killed by him.

It is estimated, according to US statistics, that 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in state schools.

In the UK, it’s a known fact that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence.

Now, imagine that your sister is murdered brutally: this is the horrific fate for at least two women, every week, in just England and Wales at the hands of their partner.

Let’s talk FGM

Traditional surgeon holds razor blades before carrying out female genital mutilation on teenage girls in Bukwa districtGentlemen, I want you to imagine being pinned to the ground by five wrestlers at the age of six. You are now stripped naked, and a man, with no medical credential whatsoever approaches you, pulls out a pair of blunt rusty scissors and a blade. Unsterilised, and used on many other boys as well. You receive no painkiller, no anaesthetic, and this man slices the skin protecting your testicle, pulls your testicle out, twists it and castrates you. Then, pulls your skin up to the tip of your penis and stitches it together with a blunt sewing pin, he then washes it down with salty water and you can feel this on your bare exposed skin.

Not graphic enough for you? Ok, fine. Imagine holding the tip of your penis open, and inserting a fine blade inside, slitting your penis downwards, then sticking tiny drawing pins inside, and stitching your penis back together: this is how you must urinate for the rest of your life.

This is the pain that over 133 million girls and women alive today have faced, in the form of so called ‘culture and tradition’, a torture they undergo for the so-called future benefit of men and so that we may perceive them as ‘pure’. Later in life, what does Female Genital Mutilation do? Well, let’s forget about the physical pain for a moment, and for the interest of attempting to water this issue down, let’s also forget about the emotional pain that the girl endures of knowing that it is her family that put her through this nightmare. Let us imagine that the obvious dismissal of “what is done is done” is used to justify what has happened. The young lady is, regardless of the aforementioned, deprived of basic sexual pleasure and an ability to feel intimacy for life; she is left vulnerable to a number of infections, infertility, complications during pregnancy, and even death.

In every one of the above ‘categories’ of dangers, it is women who suffer and ultimately, end up dead. For no other reason than for having been born a girl. She is dead, just because she happens to have been born a female.

How unfair. “Dead, just because she happens to have been born a female.” That could be your sister. That could be your mother. It could also be you doing –  whether knowingly or not – terrible things to someone else’s sister, or someone else’s mother.

I see my sister each day, and am reminded of what each young girl in the world is capable of being. The opportunities that lie ahead and the potential of all that can be.

This is just a tiny article, but I hope I have said enough– or at the least enough for you to rethink your position on feminism. Feminism is not necessarily what you think it’s about. If, like me, you believe that all of the above is wrong, you already are a feminist.

So take a stand, look at yourself and what you could be doing, and if the answer is “nothing, I’m doing nothing wrong” – then you are wrong. You could be standing up more and giving a voice to the voiceless. The truth is, it’s not just their fight – it’s yours too. It’s the fight of all humanity.

To read more articles written by Sabbir Malik, head over to his blog page HERE.