40 mins - December 1999
A Journeyman Pictures Production
TC Vision Voiceover SYNC
10.00.05 In the West, women may consider themselves equal to men, but for many women in the developing world life promises domestic violence and legal discrimination. From Africa to Asia women are suffering harrowing human rights abuses, just because they are women. The cause? Tradition, religion, or just plain old prejudice.
00.30 TITLE SHACKLED WOMEN
00.54 Bangladesh wedding Farzana is getting married. For any woman in Bangladesh it’s the day of her life. The event her family’s been preparing her for since birth.
She’s the perfect bride, weak, fragile, and utterly helpless.
She mustn’t talk or even feed herself. She has to appear totally dependent.
All her life she’s belonged to her father, but from this day on, she’s no longer a member of her own family.
Now she belongs to her husband to be, a man she met just two days before.
01.42 SYNC Farzana I'm just going from this house. Marriage means I'm finishing in life and I'm starting a new life. I used to stay with my parents all these years, but now I have to stay with my husband.
01.59 The golden bracelet symbolises what they call her bondage of love. And bondage is the word that best describes the lives of many women. Starting from the day they‘re born.
02.17 Women working As more men migrate to cities in search of work, rural women work harder. They are often exploited until they have nothing left to give. The huge gap between male and female earnings continues to exist across the globe, most starkly in the third world.
02.35 And faced with no prospects, countless young girls find themselves caught up in the sex trade. Prostitution and trafficking women is now the third most lucrative trade in the world, behind drug smuggling and arms sales.
02.55 60’s archive For many women, the 1960’s were a time of liberation, hedonism and new-found equality. Life was revolutionised by the advent of birth control. Today 90 million women use the pill.
03.14 Yet the safe, low-dose version of the pill has only recently become available even in first world countries like Japan. Every one of these statues represents a life, lost. In temples across Japan stand tens of thousands of replicas of Jizo-sama, the Guardian of Dead Children. Women buy them to placate the spirits of their foetus after they have undergone an abortion.
03.44 Incredibly, many people here still believe that giving women the pill will make them more promiscuous
03.57 Throughout the southern hemisphere, abortion is only available if it is a medical necessity - a woman has little right to choose.
04.08 Most 3rd world women still go through with unwanted pregnancies and suffer the consequences later - confined to a life of almost incessant childbirth. Especially if they are unlucky enough not to be blessed with a son.
04.21 The Nural family in Bangladesh has a new baby girl. She's called Happy.
04.29 Nurul family Mother: I like the sound of it and I want her to have a happy life.
04.36 And why do they cover her with make-up?
04.39 Mother: It’s good to put makeup on girls so they’ll look beautiful and so people will love them.
05.00 But for Happy and her sister Polly it’ll be a struggle just staying alive. Many children die before the age of five, and mortality is higher among girls. Most families prefer a boy, so girls get less food, less medication and less care. From adolescence and for the rest of their lives they are virtually confined to the house, as custom and the state religion, Islam, dictate.
05.26 Happy's mother has had six children, four of whom died. She’s lucky to have lived herself. Almost half the deaths among women her age occur in maternity. But she must keep trying until she gives her husband a son.
05.41 SYNC Husband It’s a problem. If God doesn’t give me a son there’s nothing I can do. It’s very important to have a boy. The girls will get married and leave. We need a son to stay in this house after we’re gone.
06.10 The village’s conservative customs will rule every aspect of each girl’s life. They’ll marry on average at the age of eleven and a half, and bear children in their early teens. Bangladesh's Constitution forbids discrimination against women, but in practise they are forced into marriage and shunned by the legal system if they are raped or abused.
06.38 Vijaya’s coming-of-age seq. Indian Vijaya Chellapandi has come of age, and her mother wants everyone to know.
06.45 SYNC Lakshmi Chellapandi This is a very important day. Until now my daughter has been a young girl, but today she’s a big girl. All the relatives must know that we have a grown up girl, ready for marriage. That’s why we are having the ceremony.
07.12 Raising a daughter in India is an expensive business. This puberty ceremony is just one of many costly rituals punctuating a girl’s path to marriage. But the real killer – quite literally – is the dowry. Although illegal, it’s still demanded. And for the bride’s parents it often represents their entire life savings. It’s little wonder then that one daughter is considered a burden – and two, an economic impossibility.
07.45 SYNC Lakshmi Chellapandi When I had my second daughter I can’t measure the sorrow that I felt. How was I going to bring them up? The neighbours were saying we should kill them off but my mother-in-law is very good – she said: ‘Don’t do such an evil thing, there’ll be some way for them to grow up.
08.18 Today, Vijaya has every reason to smile. That she survived 18 years is no small miracle. She is, after all, the second daughter. The one the locals call ‘the girl born for the burial pit’.
08.43 Parvathi has three children. But only two are living. Her husband killed their second daughter the day she was born.
08.53 SYNC Parvathi It is difficult to bring up a daughter. You need a lot of money to raise her properly for a married life. We couldn’t have done that so we killed her.
09.07 Had she decided before her second child was born that if it was a girl, she would kill it?
09.13 SYNC Parvathi No. We never thought about it. My husband told me only after he killed her. He said we would have problems and that we didn’t have the assets or money to bring her up.
09.33 SYNC Dr Meera Kosambi, Director, Women’s Research Centre Let me make it very clear, there is no justification for this phenomenon of killing infants. It is a gruesome and a brutal murder. The point is that such a thing is very unnatural and it would not happen unless there were severe compulsions and great desperation.
09.55 Such is that desperation, that Indian women themselves have been known to murder their baby daughters. Dr Kosambi says female infanticide is just one symbol of the poverty and patriarchy which have robbed Indian women of their perceived worth.
10.11 Dr Meera Kosambi, Director, Women’s Research Centre The society is predominated by men, and this male supremacy means that women are treated not just as inferior, but also subservient. Very often as the legal or economic property of men, and definitely sexual property of men.
10.38 Child prostitutes in South Africa Women today are the sexual property of men as never before. In South East Asia prostitution accounts for 2 – 14% of countries’ Gross Domestic Product. But 20% of the world’s prostitutes are thought to have been enslaved, or forced into the trade against their will. The trafficking of Russian, Thai and other women for sex is now a booming business, worth $7 billion a year.
11.09 On the streets of Pretoria young girls wait for a passing car to stop. Over recent years child prostitution has ballooned with the development of mass tourism. There are 10 million child prostitutes across the globe. Every year another million more, most of them girls. Driven into the trade by poverty, child prostitutes are often victims of sexual abuse.
11.37 SYNC Veronica, child prostitute I’m here because of money. I don’t have money, I don’t go to school, that’s why I’m here, because I want money.
11.48 And South Africa’s AIDs epidemic will ensure that men continue to seek young girls who are less likely to infect them. This girl is fourteen years old.
11.57 Man with Veronica How do you know? Ask her. How old are you?Fourteen. I’m just talking to her. She’s under age. How would I know? Just take this away!
12.14 Along Spain’s border with Portugal smugglers are selling women to the ‘puticlubs’ or whorehouses. They have to prostitute themselves until they have repaid their ‘price’. These women are not free to leave. Their pimps keep them imprisoned with violence.
12.37 SYNC Anonymous pimp Rep: And afterwards the woman is forced to prostitute herself to pay back some money?Pimp: More than just some money. If she earns two hundred, how can she only hand over two hundred? (laughing). She has to pay them whatever they want.Reporter: and when she doesn’t make as much as they want..Pimp: She has no chance! No chance at all! From being kicked, head butted, tortured with wet towels, I don’t know, a lot of things, cigarette burns, electric shocks, they get all sorts of things.
13.14 The sad reality is that wherever there is prostitution, violence against women is not far behind.
13.21 SYNC Anonymous prostitute They burn us with cigarettes stubs, beat us with sticks, kick us, they put salt on our cut knees, put us inside the freezer, pour freezing water on us, give us electric shocks...
13.36 Anita seq. But even more common than this sort of violence is domestic violence. In countries like India it is an everyday reality. Anita ran away from her husband’s home after four years of beatings…
13.50 SYNC Anita In the beginning they were good to me but then all that started to change.They ask for more dowry: ‘why didn’t you bring a gas stove, or a fridge or a TV. Nothing.’
14.06 Having survived to adulthood, she lived in fear that her in-laws would kill her when it became obvious her parents had no more dowry to give. That way her husband would be free to marry again – and earn another dowry.
14.22 SYNC Anita They used to say your family can’t help you. Your uncle’s daughter was burnt to death, and we will burn you.
14.30 SYNC Dr Ranjana Kumari – author, “Brides Are Not For Burning” Dowry has not been a form of pressure on the family earlier, it has come now with more and more consumerism – I see a direct relationship with what is happening now and the consumerism.
14.43 Argument over dowry Man: Ask her if the TV has ever been turned on, or her cooking pots used, or her fridge used. Ask her what has been used, even the washing machine is still packed away.
14.53 Dowries are the cause of such conflict in India that special Women’s Police Units have been set up to deal with them.
15.00 Man: Now she claims that I demanded 200,000 rupees for dowry.
15.07 Inspector: Don’t claim things that aren't true.
15.09 Wife: Madam, he comes up with new things every day. He never tells the truth.
15.15 Married for six months, Om and his wife, Rajari, have spent three of them fighting over the dowry – and especially about what happened to the jewellery.
15.24 Man: I don’t have the jewellery, she took it when she left my house three or four months ago.
15.33 Wife: I don’t have the jewellery. I never had it. He took it off me on the first night of the marriage.
15.46 Dowries in South Asia have risen steadily over the last 40 years and now amount to over 50% of a household's income. Although awareness has risen, disputes can still end in death.
16.01 SYNC Old woman My daughter was a graduate. I got her married on the 4th May 1978. 16.19 All my neighbours use to say would bring luck to her husband’s home. She would bring a golden home.16.35 And on the 17th March 1979 her in laws burnt her to death.
16.44 Daughter’s photo Over 20 years later, and the killers are still unpunished. The victim was only 24. (PAUSE) More than 5,000 Indian women reportedly die like this every year.
17.05 SYNC Old woman There is talk about women's rights. What women's rights Why can't we have women's rights in our country? What's going to happen to the women of this country? Day and night there are rapes, there is incest between father and daughter. What is this!! What women's rights?
17.32 There is a resignation, an unspoken acceptance that the status quo here cannot be changed. Like many other abuses suffered by women world-wide, dowry deaths continue because women are too ashamed or afraid to report the crimes.
17.54 SYNC Dr Ranjana Kumari – author, “Brides Are Not For Burning” Nobody wants to tell people that this is what happened in my family, because of the stigma and the people who do it naturally are trying to hide it because it is a crime by law and they can be punished so they don’t want it to be known. The girls parents’ family don’t want it to be known because it’s a stigma for the other girls in the family. How will they get married and what will happen to them - that’s the thing that keeps it hidden.
18.22 In Pakistan, some of those who do dare to challenge society's dictates wind up here at the Karachi north insane asylum for women. According to those in charge here, many of these women lost their sanity as a result of cruelty and abuse from husbands or families. Women's groups report that some 70% of Pakistani women are subjected to violence in their homes and the mental health system is open to easy abuse.
18.50 The doctors said this fifteen year old was healthy. Her parents had brought her here saying she'd become uncontrollable when her arranged marriage was discussed.
19.59 Others wanted to know why they were being detained.
SYNC inmate Why are they not discharging us?
19.08 In Pakistan, female infanticide, dowry deaths and 'bride burnings' are also endemic. In 1979, Islamic Law was introduced. Since then, raped women run the risk of being charged with Zina, or fornication, if they cannot prove the absence of consent.
19.27 Many of the problems experienced by women are linked to the fact than men are allowed to marry more than once. This house is said to deal in slave girls. The buyers are mostly older, married men. Up to three thousand girls may be on sale on Karachi’s streets each day.
19.44 Many freed slaves are arrested and imprisoned, along with those fleeing arranged marriages. But more than a third of women inmates are said to have been imprisoned under the Zina law. Rape requires four male witnesses, otherwise the victim is likely to be locked up.
20.04 In private some police officers say their hands are full without enforcing the Zina law. So why do they imprison women who have been raped?
20.16 SYNC Police officer Well, under Islamic law you can be charged whether or not you did it willingly.
20.26 But in Afghanistan, women suffer a crueller fate still, under the absolute authority of the Islamic Taliban militia. These fundamentalists have banned T.V. sets, which they call 'satan boxes'. Music and kite flying are also forbidden. But it is their harsh edicts against women which have earned the Taliban international condemnation. They are not afraid to use violence against civilians caught disobeying their interpretation of Koranic law.
20.58 SYNC woman We are very unhappy that they have arrived in this city. It is not only me who feels that. A lot of others feel that. We hate them. I went to the city one day for shopping. They beat me with the rifles even though I wore my veil like this. They told me to cover my face totally.
21.20 Even conservative Islamic countries do not support the Taliban regime. And few believe their promises that when the war is over, women's lot will improve
21.31 SYNC Islamic Taliban Judge When normal conditions return the women will once more be allowed to receive religious education.
21.42 Women in Afghanistan don’t speak out about their oppression, instead they cover up in silence. And the world at large watches their plight from afar, waiting for the Taliban’s regime to come to an end.
22.01 Taslima Nasreen lights cigarette But even in the countries where women suffer the worst abuse, there are brave foot-soldiers in the battle for equality. And they don’t come much braver than Bangladeshi feminist and author Taslima Nasreen. Her books are best sellers, but she's paid the price.
22.17 SYNC Taslima Nasreen There were 20 or 25,000 people chanting 'Taslima Nasreen should be hanged’. They demanded the death sentence. They had the same things written on banners. They said 'Taslima is against religion, she should be killed and all her books banned’.
22.45 She outraged the establishment by calling for the Koran to be re-written to give women more rights. She fled Bangladesh in 1994 after death threats from Islamic groups. 'Taslima Nasreen should ber hanged.' They demanded the death sentence. they had the same things written on banners. they said 'Taslima is against the religion, she should be killed and all her books banned.
22.58 SYNC Taslima Nasreen Our religion doesn't give women any human dignity. It's said that woman was made from the rib of a man. I write against the religion because if women want to live like human beings they have to live outside the religion and Islamic law.
23.18 After several years in the West, Taslima Nasreen is back in Bangladesh, still in hiding.
23.24 SYNC Taslima Nasreen The government has done nothing. The government uses Islam politically. They think if they say anything against the fundamentalists they won't be able to stay in power and so they remain silent, and take no action.
23.53 Taslima remains a beacon for all women's groups fighting oppression in this part of the world. But it’s too easy to blame Islam alone for the lack of women’s rights in many countries.
24.13 Islam's leaders say the Koran preaches respect of women. Islamic customs are oppressively enforced in Iran, yet women have more chance of competing professionally with men than they did before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
24.30 Today, Iranian cities are still dominated by glaring Ayatollahs and black shrouded women: images of Revolutionary Islam. It is this black shroud which many women feel embodies their shackles under Islam.
24.47 SYNC Shireen Samieh, translator At the university the boys and girls are now separated, no integration of men and women anywhere is allowed, unless the women are fully dressed in the Islamic dress code.
25.06 1400 years ago the Prophet Mohammed told his followers to keep their women hidden behind a curtain. Today, 'hejab', from the Arabic word for curtain is compulsory. No woman can go out without being totally covered. Also taboo are make-up and flashy jewellery. Good hejab, women are constantly reminded, is good dignity.
25.30 SYNC Shireen Samieh, translator Hejab is only a limitation. And when you are limited in your movements you become limited in your thinking and in your mind. They go side by side.
25.45 SYNC Leila In Iran everything is for men.... even the men know it. They can go out any way they want to and they are not bothered with that as much as we are.
25.58 Leila, Roya and Rosa are well-off and well-educated. Like more than half the Iranian population, they were born after the Revolution. For them Revolutionary struggle is simply history. The struggle now is to have fun.
26.16 Girls putting on headscarves It's the beginning of the weekend. The girls may have to look Islamically modest, but they're still going out on the town, to the street where the boys are cruising.
26.34 girls walking at night and baseeji The aim of the game is to spot someone you like and give them your name on a piece of paper. The challenge is not to get stopped by the Revolutionary police known as the 'baseeji'. Once the volunteer fighters for the revolution, there are now more than 100 thousand baseeji. Their job is to enforce the rule of the mullahs.
27.05 Just south of Tehran, Qom is Iran’s holiest city, the home of the mullahs. They study here for up to thirty years to become Ayatollahs, with little time for the idea that forcing women to wear a chador, basically a black sheet, limits their freedom.
27.29 SYNC Muslim The government of justice, based on Islam tells women, ‘If you don’t wear hejab and your hair is exposed you’ll corrupt society by giving young men erections.
27.51 SYNC second Muslim Hejab is not only important for Iranians. The nature of women must be covered – not only in Iran. It is obligatory for all cultures and nations.
28.10 It’s a simple argument: hejab discourages rape and corruption. Women who are uncovered leave themselves open to abuse by men.
28.21 SYNC third Muslim Praise God. If women cover – fine – if they don’t the government has the right to force them, so as to maintain the security of society.
28.32 The fact is that Iran is a clash of cultures. Whilst many educated, middle class women feel restricted by hejab, many women are happy to sit at the back of the bus - covered and segregated. It’s Westerners, they say, who seem to be obsessed with how women dress.
28.54 SYNC Marzeah Dasjahi, gynaecologist Woman’s moral and social security is based on hejab. We think that one of the main points of security in our society, is that women are covered. Because of that the number of crimes against women is reduced.
29.20 Marzeah Dasjahi, a gynaecologist and woman MP, argues that the Islamic Revolution empowered women: 20% of Iran’s doctors are women as are nearly half of all university students. Hejab for women like her means equality, not inequality.
29.40 SYNC Marzeah Dasjahi, gynaecologist Women will never have a conflict with hejab. It makes women equal with men in society by making women compare themselves with men according to their background and ability rather than their beauty or ugliness.
30.01 Cairo University seq Across the Islamic world many women are embracing hejab with a new vigour. Twenty years ago few students at Cairo University would have worn it. Egypt has a secular government, but all feel pressure to conform to the Islamist ideal. Even girls who don’t wear hejab feel to cover up is to be a good woman.
30.24 SYNC student at Cairo university Hejab is considered a religious must. Even if no-one pressures us we feel sometimes that we must do it. Sometimes we ourselves feel sinful for not doing it. Sometimes.
30.37 The notion of a kind of original sin, this tendency to evil supposedly innate in everyone, continues to haunt women. It can make them impose customs on their own daughters which we may consider backward or misguided. One is circumcision, the fate of about 6,000 girls every day.
30.58 Here in Togo, traditional midwifes have brought along a baby girl to demonstrate the advantages of circumcision. Practised by Muslims and Christians alike, genital mutilation denies women sexual pleasure. At worst, girls bleed to death. Those who survive can die during child birth.
31.22 But women often insist on this painful practise, because they believe it will make their daughters clean. Circumcision is culturally deep-rooted and it is women who police the brutal practise.
31.40 An estimated 135 million of the world’s girls and women have suffered circumcision. It occurs in 28 African countries and the Middle east. And it is emerging across Europe and the USA, as immigrants continue the entrenched practise in their new Western homes. It is possible that circumcision would die out without the support it has from women.
32.07 The village women clap, to celebrate the baby's transition to womanhood.
32.13 SYNCAbatani Assoumanou ciltoral circumcisor The clitoris is always removed like that otherwise the girl would be abused and by the other wives.
32.23 SYNC Meminetou Tairou Traditional midwife I disagree but I'm also not against circumcision. But I have seen a lot of things during childbirth. The head of the baby is squashed because there is not enough room.
32.34 SYNC woman Why change what's been going on for hundreds of years?
32.39 SYNC Akim Banabesse, campaigner for women's rights There are women who know about the problems of circumcision and they have resolved not to do it anymore.
32.52 In rural Africa illiteracy has fortified the prejudices of generations. Rosalie and Monique are health workers for the aid agency PLAN International in Burkina Faso. They have called a public meeting to try and uproot some of the myths surrounding circumcision. Some say that a women's clitoris can make a man impotent.
33.16 SYNC Animator addressing meeting What is the subject of discussion today. It's about circumcision..
33.28 A public meeting is a big event here. Some of these villagers have walked for two hours. Among them are farmers, midwives, spiritual leaders and village chiefs. It's the first time they have discussed circumcision openly.
33.48 SYNC man in tunic If a women is not excised the baby can die in delivery.
33.54 SYNC Animator Is this true? That when the clitoris is not taken off and if it touches the baby during delivery then the baby will die?
34.05 SYNC Man in White Cap If we don't circumcise the women will want too much sex.
34.10 SYNC Young women You have to say nothing until the day arrives, then trick the girl into coming to the place of excision.
34.17 With so many women propping up the tradition, raising awareness is a problem. Circumcision is a custom born out of centuries of male domination regardless of the prevailing religion. The men of this village are being asked to give up not only an entrenched tradition , but also their power of their womenfolk.
34.42 SYNC man in Blue It's like we have already said here, it's to make women dependent , to make them weaker. So we can dominate them and make them stay at home.
34.56 The practise is so ingrained half the problem is persuading the men folk to even take the situation seriously.
35.04 SYNC Mr Damie Cutting it off makes the husband's job easier. It obstructs the hole.
35.11 SYNC Animator It has obstructed the hole - which hole is it, we want to know! Stand up
35.18 SYNC Mr Damie Well, it's hard to explain - it's not like the door of a house.
35.25 If circumcision is ever to die out, it's clear that the attitudes of both men and women need to evolve.
35.37 Female infanticide is another riddle that cannot be solved out without enlightening women themselves. Over the past decade the Indian Council for Child Welfare has been training women to earn both an income, and independence.
35.58 In that time the number of baby girls killed in the Usilampatti area has dropped from 200 to 30 a year. Aware women are less likely to poison, or suffocate their babies.
36.11 The Council also established a safe house where unwanted babies could be left anonymously to be put up for adoption. It’s saved the lives of dozens of girls, even some, like Baby Yumuna, saved by men.
36.32 But when the Child Welfare Council reported one missing baby to the police, Indian legal history was made. The mother was tried and found guilty of murdering her newly born daughter. Her sentence, of life imprisonment, sent shock waves through the community, sparking a furious debate as to whether it was a victory, or rather a defeat in the fight for women’s emancipation.
36.58 Valli Annamalai,Indian Council for Child Welfare We did want some sort of a punishment inflicted, so that it would be an added support to us to eradicate this infanticide problem. But quite frankly it hit me hard, when the judgement came it was a life sentence for the lady. But you know, a murder is a murder. All right, there are no two things about it.
37.29 Dr. Meera Kosambi,Women’s Research Centre That, I think is like victimising the victim. When you penalise the woman, because she is not voluntarily engaging in murder, or perpetrating murder.
37.41 But whatever the rights and wrongs of the verdict, the case enforced the need for women here to join together to empower themselves.
37.50 SYNC women Let's take the oath. The oath is... As a member of the Women's club... in my house, in my village, in my society, the killing of female children, directly or indirectly - will not be allowed to happen.
38. 19 While out in the coconut groves, the Council for Child Welfare is stealing their daughters for the challenge ahead.
38.27 SYNC Woman Okay, the first thing we’re going to do is to find out whether we have enough confidence in ourselves. You all know there are things you can and can’t change in this world — some things you can change, some things you can’t.
38.43 Say “I have the strength to change myself”.
38.51 Valli Annamalai,Indian Council for Child Welfare Unless we are able to create a sea change in their attitudes with these adolescent girls , who are the mothers of tomorrow, I don’t think anything that we do will be sustainable.
39.13 Changes already taking place in India and elsewhere mean many girls face a brighter future. On the other hand, the dangers for the most vulnerable grow with the widening gap between rich and poor.
39.34 Women's Rights are higher on the global agenda than they have ever been before. Economic prosperity and tough laws may prove a deterrent to abuse. But unless the patriarchal structures of many societies are also chipped away, there will be no lasting freedom for women.
Production Assistant: Helen Cassidy
Production Manager: Jennie Gardner
Author/ Editor: Keely Purdue
Executive Producer: Mark Stucke
A Journeyman Pictures production
In association with Films for the Humanities & Sciences
And ABC Australia