[This report was first written as a part of my Access to HE Diploma in Health & Social Care course in 2018.]

TRIGGER WARNING: MENTIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE

Disclaimer: featured image credit — ThePakistaniMarthaStewart

Why is Sexual Abuse Considered Taboo in the Asian Community and How Does this Go Against Islamic Values?

Sexual abuse within Asian communities is seen as a taboo, and therefore conversation surrounding the issue is severely low. There is a large number of under-reporting within the community. A qualitative research into why sexual abuse is seen as taboo and how it goes against religious values was conducted via interview method, which was later transcribed. Analysis of the transcript revealed sharam (embarrassment/shame), haya (modesty) and izzat (honour/reputation) were contrasting themes. These ideologies impact how many survivors and families behave and react to discussion of sexual abuse and when it is disclosed to them. Reviews of similar studies highlighted that these cultural imperatives are prevalent in families across the UK and reasoning behind why sexual abuse is not reported. It was concluded that further research must be done in order to support survivors and professionals should gain understanding into different cultures.

Introduction

This research seeks to gain an understanding of sexual abuse within Asian cultures, and the way these acts go against Islamic values.

Sexual abuse is a term used to describe non-consensual sexual contact. It is an act that can happen to both men and women, regardless of their age. Child sexual abuse, however, according to the NSPCC and Radford et al (2011) is wherein an abuser makes either physical contact with the child – this may also include penetration – or non-physical contact which may involve photographs, favours or messages.

There are two types of child sexual abuse: contact abuse and non-contact abuse. Contact abuse can happen whether or not the child is clothed and is sexually touched, and rape or penetration of body parts or objects may occur. Whereas non contact abuse is the act of showing pornography to a child, encouraging them to perform sexual acts over the internet or ‘flashing’ and encouraging a child to see or listen to sexual acts.

In the year ending March 2017, an estimated 3.1% of women (510,000) and 0.8% of men (138,000) aged 16-59 experienced sexual assault within the last year. 20% of women and 4% of men experienced a form of sexual assault since the age of 16, equal to an approximation of 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims and 5 in 6 of the victims did not report the abuse (Office of National Statistics).

As a result, the aims of this investigation is to find out why sexual abuse is considered taboo within the Asian communities and why it goes unreported. The research will be carried out via interviews. This is a vital study as it will allow people to learn about the way Asian cultures view sexual abuse, their reaction to it, the reasons of it being taboo and what can be done as a result, to help combat the stigma surrounding this abuse.

Literature Review

The 2011 consensus from the National Office of Statistics shows that there are 6.6% Indians and 2.7% Pakistanis and Bangladeshis living in London. Around 20% of Indians are predominantly Muslim, and located primarily in Newham, East London (National Office of Statistics, 2011). The vast majority of the South Asian population reside in the area of Newham and Tower Hamlets – which is home to many Sylheti Bangladeshis, whom migrated to Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, following the Liberation War in 1971. This war was the first that used rape as a war crime, which resulted in many war babies and women being kicked out of their homes and disowned by their families, due to the family’s izzat being tarnished.

Sexual violence and exploitation of many young men and women has been happening for decades, however it is a widespread phenomenon within the South Asian cultures to keep quiet. Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people assert a high level of honour and purity, more so than the Western world. The very foundation of Asian culture is set in an individual family’s honour.

Women and girls living in such communities are beholden to bear the responsibility of the family’s izzat and haya, and should their virginity be lost before marriage – even if it was through rape – the woman will have brought sharam to the family’s name, be ostracised and in some cases, there will be forced marriage and honour-based violence, and even death.

Within the Asian community, sexual abuse is shameful to speak about; rape and sexual abuse is trivialised and survivors are fearful of not being believed once having spoken up, due to the cultural ideals and norms. These attitudes and responses are deeply rooted and ingrained in cultural and religious traditions, many of which have been brought over by the elder generation (parents and grandparents) from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Despite relocation being responsible for cultural change and difference in behaviour, “there is substantial evidence stating that the British Asian communities are still imitating and maintaining the religious and cultural values of the previous generations” (Gilligan, Philip A. and Akhtar Sharmin, 2005).

Data shows that over 90% of sexually abused victims were abused by someone they knew (Radford, L. et al, 2011). Further data shows that 79% of women in India and 57% of women in Bangladesh have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public and have been groped in the streets (Actionaid, 2015). The relationship between sexual abuse and the Asian culture is one that is very traditional, and for some families, fear of shame and being ostracised from the extended family and community is weighed heavily, due to the wider conception of sharam and izzat. These principles have strong influences over the day-to-day activities of the individuals, causing mothers and survivors to feel conflicted and embarrassed about the actions they should take.

Hofstede (1980) describes “individualism-collectivism as the relationship between the individual and the collectivity that prevails in a given society.” People from individualistic cultures have an outlook of themselves which is independent (see themselves as connected to others, they are defined by their relationships), whereas people from collectivist cultures have inter-reliant relationships and take pride in their relationships or ingroups, thus lessening their personal goals in favour for the goals of their group.

Countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are collectivist cultures, whereas the UK and USA (the Western World) are individualistic. This shows that Asian cultures value the collective, more so than the individual.

However, Islam also points out the importance of both the collective society, as well as the individualistic. But despite the heavy emphasis on the community within Islam, in the Qur’an it states in Surah An-Nisa “And live with them in kindness” (4:19), speaking of women in the said verse. As the Qur’an is the book of God and has never been changed, it is vital that every commandment written be followed. Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) stated “The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character. The best of you are those who are best to their women.” (Al-Tirmidhi).  

In addition there is a famous story of when the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) was travelling with his companion, Al-Fadl. During this travel, a strikingly beautiful woman approached the Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him), seeking his advice. The Prophet  (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) looked behind her, while Al-Fadl was looking at her; due to this, the Prophet  (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) held out his hand backwards and turned Al-Fadl’s face (to the other side) so that Al-Fadl’s gaze would not fall on her (Sahih Bukhari).

The incident in which the Prophet  (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) turned away the face of his companion brings forward the point that not only he, but all men, should act on God’s orders and lower their gaze, as commanded in the Qur’an (24:27-30). The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) also turned his cousin’s face to the side for staring at the woman, instead of asking the woman to conceal her face, showing that it is on the individual to control their desire and not harm a woman or make her feel uncomfortable.

This contradicts the traditional ways in which women in Asian cultures are brought up, having been told from childhood to cover themselves, regardless of whether the men in their company is related to them by blood or not. It elucidates the impression that many families from Asian backgrounds place cultural norms over religious commandments.

In 2016, a news headline of an Imam in Tower Hamlets molesting a young girl from the age of nine up to her turning fourteen appeared all over the internet. He taught Qur’an in an East End Islamic Centre. The young girl he sexually abused was left feeling “powerless” to stop the sexual attacks, which was heard in Snaresbrook Crown Court, which resulted in the perpetrator raping and impregnating her.

The prosecutor in the case stated that the girl delayed having an abortion, in order to prove that this imam was the father. In an attempt to salvage his reputation, the Qur’an teacher claimed that she, which he later retracted after she agreed to testify against him in court, had first initiated the sexual contact.

Her father, in a victim impact statement, said the following: “What (…) has done to my daughter has broken me. In our religion, she is no longer considered a virgin and is therefore unable or unlikely to get married to have a family. I am devastated. I am so angry. I only hope and pray for her that this abuse will not have a long term affect on her.”

The actions of the rapist go against every value and guideline set out in the Qur’an and Hadith of how a woman in Islam should be treated, as it is taking away one’s rights to say no and their right to their body. Taking away one’s rights is a form of oppression, and in the Qur’an (4:34) it states “And Allah is Ever Exalted and Grand”, letting men know that if they transgress against women without justification, then Allah, the Ever Exalted and Grand, will be their Protector and He will severely punish those who wronged them (women). Furthermore Abu Hurayrah (Peace Be On Him) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) repeated “Be kind to women” thrice (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

In addition to this, it is known that the Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) himself married divorcees and widows, of whom were not virgins – thus going to show what the victim’s father (in the above statement) said about her being “unable or unlikely to get married to have a family” is false. It is not Islam stopping women from marriage and procreating, should they not be virgins. Rather, it is the culture.

Methodology

How was the study conducted?

The study was conducted via a volunteer sampling method for an interview. There was one participant of Bangladeshi origin, British born and raised, who had experienced sexual abuse before the age of sixteen. The interview was recorded on an iPhone 6S and later transcribed onto Microsoft Word.

An interview was chosen as the investigative method, due to the investigator being able to look at and analyse another individual’s perspective on the issues surrounding sexual abuse. In addition, interviews give a direct viewpoint on sexual abuse from a victim’s perception, especially as an individual raised in a South Asian community. The details given tend to be richer and more in-depth (qualitative data), rather than quantitative, thus allowing the researcher to analyse and achieve a higher reliability in the study. Sexual abuse is a topic hard to speak about, considering the sensitivity regarding it, and allows a wider understanding into the people who have experienced the abuse within their communities.

Evaluation of sampling method and questionnaire design

Despite volunteer sampling being the best way to get participants, the weakness of this method is that there is low population validity. This is because the participant was willing to take part in the study, thus the results of the research cannot be generalised to the wider population.

There was no deception in the research conducted, as the participant was aware at the beginning of the study what it would be about and signed a consent form, (thus giving her informed consent – participant was over the age of eighteen and under twenty one). Participant was also given contact details of NSPCC, Mind Organisation, and the Samaritans in case the questions asked and the discussion of sexual abuse triggered her, causing any emotional or psychological harm afterwards and she needed to speak to a professional. She was also given the right to withdraw, as was stated in the consent form. All information and personal data will be kept confidential and private; participants name and location will be kept private and withheld from public records.

Even though the participant’s demeanour was the same after the interview was finished as it was before it was conducted, there was still the concern of participant being distressed. Sexual abuse is a subject that is rarely touched upon or spoken about within the South Asian community, and for a young woman who is a survivor of the abuse, it is sensitive and often, emotionally exhausting. Due to this understanding, the investigator made sure the participant was aware of organisations she could reach for help, should it be needed and before the interview was conducted, verbally told the participant that if at any time she wanted to withdraw from the interview, she had every right to.

Results

Below will be the results obtained from the interview of how many times for each individual question the participant has said culture, religion, family, parents, sharam (embarrassment/shame), authority and izzat (reputation/honour) are responsible for sexual abuse, as well as the reasons why the participant thinks it is kept taboo.

Question 1: Do you think it is religion or culture that is responsible for not speaking about the issues surrounding sexual abuse? Why or why not?

Question 2: Do you think sexual abuse is taboo to talk about in Asian cultures?

Question 3: Where doyou think sexual abuse in culture stems from?

Question 4: What aspects of culture do you think cause sexual misconduct?

Question 5: What aspect of religion do you think causes sexual misconduct?

Question 6: What do you think is the main reason sexual abuse is not reported?

Discussion

Following the findings of the research undertaken regarding sexual abuse within the Asian communities, the results show that izzat and the implications on the family’s name is the primary reason for the lack of justice, reporting and conversation surrounding this issue. The response from the interviewee for question four shows how families put their sons before their daughters, essentially “babying” them and raising them with a superiority complex, thus embedding toxic masculinity within their very core. Due to this, the excuse of “boys will be boys” is drilled into many girls’ heads within the culture, as a way to thwart any negative attention falling upon them, should they break or not follow any Islamic rules and values. The attitude of men being coddled in Asian cultures has given them a sense of entitlement, wherein they believe women are inferior to them, owe them their bodies and their silence, as well as being at their disposal, and that to the highest order. As a result, this stance evidently leads to the concept of sharam, izzat and haya – words that are prominent in almost every Asian girl’s day-to-day life.

In question one, the result shows the participant mentioned religion more so than culture, when discussing about why sexual abuse is not made aware of. Though she did say culture is the main reason, it is also known that in Islam, it is the right of a man or a woman to want to marry one whom is a virgin (essentially untouched, or “pure”), and should a victim speak about his or her experience with sexual abuse, the wider community will find out. As a way to combat the news of sexual abuse being spread to the extended family and other people within the community, families shy away from speaking about these issues or bringing any justice for the victim and punishing the perpetrator. This is because it is viewed as shameful and a dirty topic, and therefore, brushed under the carpet.

 Results from question two and question six both support the data given in the introduction, wherein in 2017, 5 in 6 victims of sexual abuse did not report the crime. Question two shows the reasons sexual abuse is taboo to speak about is due to embarrassment, reputation, shame, culture and family. The numerical data for embarrassment and reputation is higher, thus giving the impression that they are the key factors taken into account when discussing sexual abuse. It reveals that due to these being the rationale for the topic being taboo, it will also be the reason why the crime goes unreported.

Alongside, the results from question six reveal that culture was mentioned twice as many times as religion. This illustrates the fundamental issues surrounding the lack of reporting sexual abuse is the Asian culture, and the ways reputation is valued more than a survivor’s emotional or psychological wellbeing. Due to the trauma sustained from the abuse, it will have a severe impact on their behaviour, interaction and later relationships.

The results gathered support the secondary research conducted, as it depicts many families still follow the cultural ideal norms and values of the elder generation, despite their migration to another country. The roles within the family, and men and women, within the Asian culture is unequal in a very vivid way – it goes far beyond their treatment, whether it is the men being able to do whatever they please and have no shame weighing on their shoulders. But rather because women within these communities bear the brunt of the family’s honour and reputation, a concept which can be destroyed by speaking about sexual abuse and the impact it has on one’s personal life.

Bhardwaj (2001) says, “Terms such as izzat (honour) and sharam (shame) transcend linguistic interpretation. They embody enormously powerful cultural judgements with the power to include and ostracize. Such cultural beliefs can be described as a double- edge sword, they persistently legitimize gender violence and oppression and further silence women from being able to discuss, seek support or challenge such oppressions, for in doing so it is deemed as bringing further shame and dishonour to the family and community. … … … Patriarchal power dynamics within the family and community setting serve to contain issues likely to bring dishonour, but in doing so they limit the expression and, therefore, the support of external structures including service interventions.”

Further studies by Gilbert et al (2004) show that should any one person ignore the importance of izzat, there would be severe consequences; they would also be ostracised and disowned. These researches show the vitality of izzat within Asian culture, the magnitude it has on every individual and the implications of speaking up about sexual abuse.

The conclusion, which can be drawn from this study, is that should the results remain the same, then the mindsets of the people who value izzat and sharam more than seeking to report sexual abuse or think that it is too shameful to speak about will become increasingly outdated. The longer men and women within these communities go without speaking up about sexual abuse, the harder it will be for the victims to come forward. Speaking about taboo topics within the Asian culture, and any society in itself, has something akin to a domino effect; when one person speaks up about their trauma or the act itself, it will encourage another person to do the same and so on and so forth.

However, if sexual abuse is never spoken about, it will mean that the survivor will never truly heal from their abuse and it will keep getting brushed under the carpet. The impact it will have on future generations is one that will show how their security and safety is not of value, and they need to keep quiet, not speak of their suffering because of what people might say and how it will affect the family’s name and honour. Their izzat will be ruined and it will bring sharam to the family. This is the view which causes women and men to not report the abuse they have endured. If it remains a taboo, it shows that despite everything, there has been no development within the Asian community.

  The strengths of this study is that is a clear indication many people within Asian communities merge culture and religion, when they should not. The overarching issues stems from the family and culture, especially due to the upbringing of the children. Toxic masculinity is prominent within the culture, and allows for significant inequality to take place. Furthermore, this study explains the way many British Asian Muslims alter the words of the Qur’an to suit their beliefs or needs.

It also brings awareness to the stigma surrounding sexual abuse.

On the other hand, the limitations of this research is that it cannot be generalised to the wider population as it is only one person’s perception and experience gathered. As it was a volunteer sampling method and an interview, it could also have given biased data, due to social desirability. For future research within the same study, a bigger selection of participants should be chosen, via random sampling of a select target group. There should also be males chosen, in order to gain their views on the matter at hand. The next steps should also involve questionnaires as the method design, in order to have more peoples’ angle on sexual abuse and why it is seen as a taboo within the Asian community.

The recommendations suggested to raise awareness for sexual abuse are as follows:

  • People within the community should have a gathering/meeting, as a way to lay down the issues that are prevalent within the society and surrounding their families
  • Involve people of all generations and genders and tackle it together
  • Run clubs, so everyone communicates to solve the issues at hand
  • Let everyone be aware of what sexual abuse is and what should be done to prevent it happening further
  • Have people within schools, mosques and other groups share stories regarding sexual abuse, whether its via pamphlets or small posters
  • Parents should also give importance to Sex Education and not just rely on schools to teach the children
  • Students should be encouraged to speak up and learn about the different forms of sexual abuse, even in religious schools, so they are aware
  • Organisations to reach for help should be given to everyone, whether it is in mosques, clubs, youth centres, schools or nurseries

Professionals should also be aware of particular aspects of Asian cultures, as it will help them have more understanding regarding the sensitivity of disclosing private and personal information and the concept of izzat.

Conclusion

The purpose of this research was to explicate sexual abuse within the Asian community, understanding the reasoning behind this issue being seen as a taboo and how it goes against Islamic values. It has shown how many families value izzat over apprehending the perpetrator and supporting the abuse survivor. Due to this, disclosing the trauma is extremely difficult for the people who have experienced sexual abuse. Cultural norms and traditions of the elder generation are put before the emotional and psychological wellbeing of those around them.

Many young British Asian Muslims are vocalising their abuse and the stigma surrounding the issues, however they also understand the inner workings of the community. The results illustrate how family, culture and reputation are the most prominent reasoning for the silence of many survivors and why sexual abuse goes unreported, particularly within many families. It shows there is a link between the way parents raise their children and the later actions taken place, wherein sons are given precedence over daughters, as well as more leniency and freedom.

Despite many efforts to support survivors of sexual abuse within the Asian communities, it is still a vast concern, due to the number of women and men who rarely do speak about the issue. Research by Bhardwaj (2001) highlights that sexual abuse and rape were a common experience for the women interviewed, regarding suicide attempts and history of self-harm, within Newham, East London. It is essential further research is conducted to find out how survivors would prefer to disclose their abuse, in order to recover from the trauma.

Professionals should also be aware of the sensitivity of sexual abuse and the way different cultures hold certain concepts to a higher regard, and use this as a way to ensure the appropriate form of help is available.   

Appendices

Transcript of interview

Question one – do you think it is religion or culture responsible for not speaking about the issues surrounding sexual abuse? Why or why not?

Answer: I think culture is responsible for not speaking about the issues surrounding sexual abuse, due to a lot of families wanting to, like, maintain the respect that they carry in their community. If a person gets sexually abused, like, our community doesn’t deal with the issue in the correct manner that it should actually be dealt with. [Takes a breath and drinks water] Um probably, because they just don’t know how to deal with it. It’s not something that’s spoken about a lot; it’s more something that’s brushed under the carpet. Like people might actually like, instead of like approaching the issue how it should be and like helping and supporting the victim, they just view the victim as like being untouched. That’s where religion comes in. It’s something that’s very frowned upon in our religion. And obviously when parents … when parents look for, like, a spouse for the child obviously like they want to find them the, like, perfect husband or wife. Obviously.

Because at the end of the day they would want their children to be happy, so like in Asian communities, like a lot of parents hold that importance in, like, finding that perfect spouse. However, like if someone’s been like, I don’t know, touched or whatever or committed zina – whatever it is, that’s something [pauses to think, sighs] that isn’t like … not like, it’s like a factor that like… it just be like, a strong like no. Does that make sense? Sorry [laughs], ok, ok, ok.

So yeah um, [breathes out in a huff, frowns and sighs again] sorry my mind’s gone blank. Yeah so basically yeah, in our religion and stuff, our women’s rights is like very important. And our Prophet peace be upon him (sallalahu alaihi wa’salaam) has like… he obviously married like widows, divorcees whatever, like that didn’t even matter. So like I don’t see why our communities are like that, why they put so much importance into like marrying someone that’s not like, do you know what I mean, that hasn’t been like touched. A virgin, et cetera et cetera. But like shouldn’t like change anything, that doesn’t really like ummm, [clicks fingers] what’s it called? Yeah that doesn’t like, it doesn’t really like um signify how a person actually is. Like you could be such a lovely person but like I dunno you’ve been touched, you’re not a virgin blah blah blah but that doesn’t mean you’re not like a good enough spouse. Like for someone. Do you know what I mean? So yeah

Question two – do you think sexual abuse is taboo to talk about in Asian cultures?

Answer: Yeah it is actually, because I dunno, like a lot of people just care about their reputation and sharam. Like yeah they do care about their children but a lot of people just care more about reputation like what like… the status they hold, like, in the community. They don’t want something like that would hinder that do you know what I mean? Like make them look bad. Because its just embarrassing for them. They don’t want something like that embarrass them, I don’t know – they just like view it as something shameful. I don’t know, because it’s not the victims fault at the end of the day. Like in our culture people should be supportive about it, because like the victim didn’t ask for that. And because people are not supportive about it, because people are like caring so much about their reputation, how they’re gonna be viewed, even if victims aren’t at fault, they don’t bother speaking up about it because they think oh it was my fault, no one’s going to believe me, I was at fault I caused this, I don’t wanna break up my family et cetera et cetera.

Like obviously in our communities people talk and families get torn apart like because of these issues. And like people don’t talk about it because they think it’s shameful and embarrassing, they just brush it under the carpet and pretend it never happened, they don’t wanna like do anything about it. They just suffer in silence. Because its so taboo no one wants to do anything about it, because no one talks. But if people spoke more about it then it could be dealt with like more properly. Because the more people like speak about it and bring awareness, more importance will be brought to it and people will like focus on this issue and people would actually like figure out a way to deal with it. Make sure the perpetrator gets punished properly, like how they should.

Question three – Where do you think sexual abuse in culture stems from?

Answer: Hm I think its because it’s so brushed under the carpet because like a lot of families, like in Asian cultures, are all like close knit families even like the extended families. We’re all actually like very, very close. And like even in our religion, like it says you shouldn’t cut your ties with families so obviously a lot of people try to maintain that. And like if the victim is sexually abused, they won’t like speak about because it’s so [emphasises so] brushed under the carpet and like the perpetrator knows oh they won’t say anything or speak up, their parents wont believe them, they won’t do anything about it. And because like the perpetrator knows they won’t like speak up or nothing will like get done about it, they like don’t care at all and like that makes them wanna do it more and not care at all. They don’t get the punishment they deserve so they just carry on doing it. And because they get away with it, they keep doing it and these disgusting and filthy habits gets passed down to the family or like influences others and like because no one like speaks about it, it makes it become the norm or something, do you know what I mean? So like it stems from family and the lack of talking about these important issues.

Question four – What aspects of culture do you think cause sexual misconduct?

Answer: Ok so like one thing I’ve noticed in our culture is like…like that guys are more, I dunno, yeah guys like get to do more stuff than the girls do. Like majority of the time parents are more lenient to their sons than they would be to their daughters, do you know what I mean? Like boys are allowed out late, go wherever blah blah but girls have to be home a certain time and have curfews. And like girls do more house duties like housewife material kind of stuff. Like its more common for the girls to be more so like that than the boys, but like some sons do of course, but usually its like the girls. Like in some aspects its more dangerous for girls to be out at night late and be alone. And like because guys do get that kind of treatment, and that lifestyle, they feel like they have that kinda authority. And mothers do everything for them like cooking and laundry et cetera, so like its more babying the sons. More like leniency to the sons.

So I think like because guys have that authority they think they can like act or do whatever they want. And like they have power and authority and if they’re the favourite and abuse someone, then like the victim won’t be believed. And stuff like that in our culture is scary because no one wants to go through something like that and then not even being believed, its very hurtful in itself. If like someone went through that and their kid went through it, then they’d be like oh leave it I’m here for you et cetera, but like nothing actually happens because maybe of like the personal experience itself and the fear of no like justice happening. It’ll affect them a lot in the future like with their relationships, like in all ways, socially emotionally mentally and physically, and the way they socialise with like others. It’s like a very important thing because like everyone just cares about reputation, and fear of being viewed a certain way and like the embarrassment that comes along with it. So yeah, like it’s the way they’re raised by their families and the ideas of image that cause it to happen.

Question five – what aspect of religion do you think causes sexual misconduct?

Answer: Aspects of religion…I don’t really think…to be honest I’m not really sure…erm, some people might view the religion differently. I dunno. [Long pause] I dunno to be honest. I just feel like in our religion, its important to be, you know, good to your family and family members. You know, erm, build good relationships with them. But also like depends on the person you know. Like the kinda person they are, especially if it’s a close knit family and they might take advantage of that closeness, to like do something, like when they get too comfortable, to touch them or say something to that family member. Like get through that barrier. I don’t think religion really plays a part, because stuff like that is very frowned upon. Like being sexually abused. Because it would be punished in the hereafter. Like women’s rights are very important in Islam. Like our Prophet (Sullalahu Alaihi Wa’Salaam) like yeah, he’s always been direct about that. He’s always been like to be respectful to women. Look after them, respect and cherish them and like take care of them. But religion don’t play a part, like people just twist it and take advantage of that and interpret it their own way and change it in their own sadistic, twisted ways.

Question six – what do you think is the main reason sexual abuse is not reported?

Answer: Erm, I think the main reason is probably because [clears throat] because of, like, the stuff after it. Like what affect will it have on the future, like everyone finds out about it. Especially in Asian cultures and communities, like the ideology is that everyone will know and find out, what will people say, what will they think, they’re going to say this and that to my parents, how will they face anyone, like even though I’m the victim they’ll view me in this way or in a negative way. Like people are very close minded and don’t view it as it is, but in a way like I’ve been touched. Like the girl’s not pure anymore. She can’t get married. Like everyone thinks a certain thing, like it influences everyone else, do you know what I mean? It’s hard, like… I don’t know. It’s the way the culture is and the backward minded views of like the elder generation, like they all think and like the people they influence, like, they all judge and mentally and emotionally break the victim and don’t support them. Like cause them to have depression and anxiety, and don’t support them. It’s like so taboo, and I dunno. The victim worries more about everyone else than themselves. Like in rape. In our religion, abortion is haram but in under certain circumstances, it is permissible. But that also affects everyone else, and like the position they have to be put under, and like it’s scary as well. Because of everyone’s thoughts about it and sexual abuse being brushed under the carpet, that makes people not wanna talk about it because it’s already not being talked about. They don’t like know how to approach it properly in Asian communities. Like they’re mainly at fault, like the reputation and izzat thing is the main reason – caring too much about what other people think is definitely one of the main reasons why it goes unreported.

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Elias, A. (2018). Hadith on Women: Allah created women different, so be good to them | Daily Hadith OnlineDaily Hadith Online. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2011/03/10/allah-created-women-different-from-men-so-respect-these-differences-and-be-kind-to-them/

Gilligan, P., & Akhtar, S. (2005). Cultural Barriers to the Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse in Asian Communities: Listening to What Women Say. British Journal Of Social Work36(8), 1361-1377. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bch309

Kind Treatment of Wives | islam.ru. (2018). Islam.ru. Retrieved 15 April 2018, from http://islam.ru/en/content/story/kind-treatment-wives

Meera Senthilingam, C. (2018). Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globeCNN. Retrieved 15 April 2018, from https://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/25/health/sexual-harassment-violence-abuse-global-levels/index.html

Sexual abuse. (2018). NSPCC. Retrieved 15 April 2018, from https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/child-sexual-abuse/

Sexual offences in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. (2018). Ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018, from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017

Surah An-Nur [24:27-30]. (2018). Surah An-Nur [24:27-30]. Retrieved 15 April 2018, from https://quran.com/24/27-30

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

5 thoughts on “Why is Sexual Abuse Considered Taboo in the Asian Community and How Does this Go Against Islamic Values?

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