With great pride, 35- year-old Sirhan describes the way in which he shot and killed his 16-year old sister, Suzanne. Cheerful and at ease, he is completely contented to tell his story. He shot Suzanne in the head four times last March, three days after she reported to the police that she had been raped. Sirhan fully believes that the rape was Suzanne's fault - her "mistake" - regardless of the fact that it was done against her will. Although he thought he was committing a capital crime at the time, Sirhan was not deterred because he fully believes that his sister had to be killed for what happened to her in order to restore family pride. Says Sirhan ". . . it's better to have one person die than to have the whole family die from shame." The beliefs and attitudes of Sirhan are not uncommon in Jordan; unfortunately nor are they among men in North America. Women constantly have to deal with disrespect and abuse from men. Men view women as inferior, and this stifles the growth of women as a whole throughout the world. In North America, treatment and expectations of women have improved, but they are not yet at the point that women are deemed equal to men in all aspects of society. Although North American society has come a long way when compared to that of Jordan in terms of treatment and expectation of women, it still has a long way to go. The standards of our society still in many ways mirror those of Jordanian society.
We inhabit two completely opposite ends of the earth, but are our treatments and expectations of women that far removed from those of the Jordanian society? The ways that we view the roles of women in society are quite broad and unestablished. Women today still fight for equality and respect. The actions of others, especially men, towards women, and the pre-set standards for women in our society illustrate the extent to which we are not removed from the Jordanian society. Determination of the attitudes held by Jordanians about women and the application of them to North American society shows the extent to which our society mirrors that of the Jordanians.
Women in both continents are encouraged to believe that they are at fault for the sexual abuse they receive. In Jordan, men place upon women the idea that all sexual abuse or infidelity is their fault. "Rafa", a, 20-year-old Jordanian woman, languishes in prison contemplating a three day romance she had with a co-worker. She says, "With the mistake I made, I deserve to die." Rafa must deal with her situation with clouded vision. Because of her culture, she believes that she must be severely punished for her actions. Another woman, Ambia Khatun, who was blinded in an acid attack by a man she refused to marry, also holds the same mentality. "I'm better off dead" she says, "What use am I now to anyone?" Women in our North American Society share these same thoughts, perhaps to a lesser degree. Just recently in Toronto, two young girls were locked up in a room and beaten by an uncle of theirs for simply talking to older boys. Constantly, women feel they are to blame for rape and sexual abuse committed against them. Many women do not even tell anyone about what has happened to them because their attacker has led them to believe that everything was their fault. In court, a woman's story is not often believed. Women tend to refrain from making charges against their abusers because they do not want to have to deal with the anguish and embarrassment that telling their story will cause. While in court, a prosecuting attorney is allowed to drag up the sexual past of a victim. This also attributes to the fear and reluctance that victims face when contemplating whether or not to press charges against their attacker. Women in both continents constantly deal with guilt and anguish because of what men have done to them. They also share the mentality that they are the only ones to blame for rape and sexual abuse committed against them.
Both Jordanian and North American men alike seek to control women. The Arabic expression "a man's honour lies between the legs of a women" sets the stage for Jordanian men and their quest for power and dominance over women. In Jordan, men are expected to control their female relatives. If a woman strays from her man, it is commonly believed that the only way his dignity can be restored is by killing her. Jordanian men are also quite often exempt from punishment after committing an "honour killing". This results in the mentality that they have control over the lives of the women they are related to, and have the power to treat them however they wish. In North America, men constantly abuse and disrespect women. It has been proven countless times that this abuse psychologically makes a man feel powerful, and therefore in control of their lives, and the lives of the women they have relations with. North American men greatly lack respect for women because women are looked down upon in society, and it is commonly believed that a woman needs to be able to rely upon a man in order to be happy. Most women know that this belief is quite fictional, but men see it as an ally for power and abuse women because of the control they feel by believing that the woman cannot be happy without him. In both Jordan and North America, men in society quite often rely on the need to control women because of the power that they psychologically gain from it.
Women around the world feel trapped in society and cannot find a way to escape from their abusers. In Jordan, places for threatened women to go in order to find refuge are incredibly scarce. Rafa, running from her family who pledged to kill her for her actions, was locked up in an Amman prison. In Jordan, there are often up to 70 women like Rafa contained in prisons at any given time because there is no other place for these women to go. Sometimes they are released if their families pledge not to hurt them, but there are no guarantees that their promises will hold true. Suzanne's family promised not to hurt her, but when she returned home, Sirhan still killed her. In North America, resources for battered or threatened women are not as limited, but there are still very few resources for them. North American women can seek refuge in a woman's shelter, if they can find one with vacancy. The government funds allotted to such shelters are very limited, and the shelters themselves are hard to find. Quite often, women and their children are turned away from these shelters, and more often than not, they return to their abusers. In both Jordan and North America there is no sufficient place for battered women to seek refuge. Women must live with the pain and suffering that they have to endure from abusive males. There is usually nowhere for women to turn.
The North American and Jordanian societies are quite closely linked in their treatment and expectations of women. Sirhan's mentality is shared on a lesser scale with the men across North America. The attitudes of such men pose a threat for many women. Sirhan got a very minimal punishment for his crime, as do many other men. Sirhan was not deterred from committing his crime because of the pride he committed it with. Men in North America hold the same beliefs and attitudes as Sirhan, only to a lesser degree. Unfortunately, it seems as though this mentality cannot be easily changed.