I am not American, but this is not only an American issue.
A couple of days ago, actress Angelina Jolie visited Capitol Hill to urge Republicans and Democrats to pass a new version of the Violence Against Women Act, since Congress hasn’t reauthorized the bill in almost a decade, and the latest version was set in 2013. She insisted that a modernized version should be issued.
In a moving speech, she raised the issue of domestic violence, of the trauma that women have to go through, of the abuse they suffer from because of the people closest to them.
And they do that alone. Absolutely alone. Believing that they had no one to protect them, or even at times—which absolutely devastates me—thinking that they are not worthy of protection or that they deserve it.
Angelina started by saying, “Standing here at the center of our nation’s power, I can think only of everyone who has been made to feel powerless by their abusers by a system that failed to protect them.”
She is obviously speaking about the government of the United States, but to me, she is speaking about the women of my country as well.
I’ve heard the stories of so many women who were killed because of “honor crimes,” because they did not abide by their society’s/family’s rules of conduct, because they became a victim to their partner’s anger or jealousy.
And what system is protecting them?
As lockdown continued to happen in Lebanon, the number of domestic abuse reports doubled. In December 2020, Lebanon reformed its sexual harassment law, but it does not include marital rape nor the freedoms given to certain religious courts to act at their own free will.
I’ve seen men on TV proudly speak about marrying their 12-year-old daughters to men in their 40s. I’ve heard stories of women who were forced to marry their rapist to avoid societal shaming. Thankfully, Lebanese lawmakers abolished this law in 2017.
I mean 2017! Isn’t that way too late?
Angelina continued to say, “The reason many people struggle to leave abusive situations is that they have been made to feel worthless. When there is silence from a Congress too busy to renew the Violence Against Women Act for a decade, it reinforces that sense of worthlessness. You think, I guess my abuser is right. I guess I’m not worth very much.”
And it takes a lot of effort to get out of a mentality that’s been instilled in women’s minds for so long. They’ve been made to think that it’s always their fault, that they are indeed unworthy of the protection of the law.
As much as I’d like to believe that only we, the people who are not in positions of power, can make the change by ourselves, this is something that requires effort on the part of each country’s government.
The power we have as the people is to come together, from each part of the world, and demand that this right be granted to women, regardless of their nationalities—the right to live in a safe environment, without worrying that they might get murdered or raped or abused or disregarded just for being women.
Angelina Jolie teared up while giving the speech and made me tear up with her.
You can watch it here: