Saturday, 5 April 2008


i'm feeling pretty teary at the moment, as i've just come back from watching a film at the waikato migrant resource centre. it was called (i think) "three jewels", and was a really sweet story set in gaza. the mixture of tenderness superimposed on a violent background, of innocence in a harsh world, was really moving. this is a new project started by the WMRC: they've shown 3 films so far. this was the first one i've been to. for any hamiltonians who may be reading, the screenings are at 7pm on the first friday of the month. next month's film will be "the shape of water", which is an amazing documentary about ethnic women changing the world they live in.

i've spent the last two mornings talking to the religious studies class at sacred heart college. this is something i've been doing for the last few years, and i find it a rewarding experience. technically i'm talking about my religion, but the discussions become so much more than that. it's an opportunity to share my views on so many topics, based on the questions the girls are asking.

often there are a lot of questions around marriage and boyfriends; certainly always some about the way muslim women dress; and many about what we eat. some of the questions will be about how it is to be a muslim living in nz. when i answer them, i end up talking a lot about self-image, which i've found nearly all of these year 12 girls relate to. i talk to them about how they relate to each other and the world around them, because that is an integral component of islamic thought. i hope that i make them see the world with new eyes, that i help them to be critical of everything they're told and to re-evaluate things before accepting them as the truth.

every time, it's a different class, yet they all seem to be such lovely young women. they're very inquisitive; some are shy, others outgoing and loud. above all, what i hope to give them is a sense of self-worth; an ability of finding their strength within themselves, rather than relying on the opinion of others. i know i only have 50 minutes, and it's not nearly enough to achieve all that, but it's enough to make a difference.

a couple of items on radio nz made me think more about yesterday's topic of sexual violence. first is this piece on nine-to-noon yesterday about the dangers of sexual attack faced by female tourists in thailand. second is this piece on morning report today, reporting on research showing that "alcohol is the number 1 drug associated with date rape in this country".

there is an inherent unfairness i guess, in the fact that men can go out and get drunk yet not have to face the same consequences as women. they can be more safe when they travel (although i wouldn't recommend travelling alone through many parts of the world, even for men). in recent years, there has been a rise in the level of drinking for young women, and it's an area where it seems to me that equality is a wasted effort.

in the current environment, where there are so very few successful prosecutions for crimes of sexual violence, the use of alochol makes it almost impossible to prove that a women didn't give consent. even in a case where there was medical evidence of violence, one of our sports stars (sorry, can't and don't want to remember his name) was acquitted.

i think it's important to work hard to change legal processes to ensure more successful prosecutions. we do need to advocate for women's safety at times in all places. in the meantime, especially when it comes to heavy drinking, i would say it's more important to be safe than it is to be equal.

No comments: