At Scottish Women’s Aid we regularly see domestic abuse blamed on a lot of things: football, alcohol, hot weather, cold weather, long evenings and, of course we can’t forget, short evenings. Now? Burkas.
And as we see people piling on to be outraged at the wearing of the burka because ‘it hides the bruises from abusers’, there are some things that we, as Scotland’s leading domestic abuse organisation, want to clear up.
So here’s 6 things to remember if you are thinking of taking to Twitter to take part in this conversation:
Domestic abuse is an ongoing pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour that can – but does not always – include physical violence. Reducing domestic abuse to bruises ignores the majority of women’s experiences and prevents women from seeking support.
Abusive men telling women what to wear is something we hear about A LOT from survivors. Abusers regularly control their partners’ clothes, movements, access to food, drink, contraception, friends, family, employment, healthcare, money… the list goes on. The common denominator here is not the type of clothing victim-survivors are told to wear (be it shorts, jeans, shirts, shoes or a burka) but the abuse of power by the perpetrator.
Most abusers are pretty smart. Domestic abuse is not a loss of control but an exercise of control. When abusers do leave bruises, they rarely are somewhere visible, no matter what the victim is wearing.
The idea that religious clothing is somehow facilitating domestic abuse conveniently ignores the fact that domestic abuse is happening in every single community across Scotland and beyond. Abuse is perpetrated and experienced by people of all faiths and none, in rural and urban areas, by people who love football and people who hate it, in the heat and the cold, the winter and the summer. The biggest risk factor and the thing most likely to increase your chances of experiencing domestic abuse is being a woman. This is about gender, not headwear.
This is a question of choice. We firmly believe that no woman should be forced to do or wear anything that she does not want to. Those who claim that the Government should force women not to wear the burka in the name of freedom are hypocrites. What an irony it is that those who claim they want to liberate women from the control of others plan to do so by imposing their own idea of what women should wear.
When Islamophobia and racism surge in our communities, all those with a voice and a platform must stand in solidarity with those targeted. The tactics abusive men use to perpetrate domestic abuse do vary based on community, on family patterns, on cultural pressures, on all kinds of personal circumstances. These same circumstances influence women’s perceptions of whether they will get the right response if they seek help. Blaming domestic abuse on burkas does nothing to support women who are experiencing domestic abuse and nothing to hold abusive men to account for their behaviour.
This is a conversation so often aimed at Muslim women, women who are so consistently silenced by racism and sexism in our society, which means that those with the greatest expertise are consistently denied a voice and a platform. This has to change.
If you are a Muslim woman who wants to write about this topic or about any issue related to domestic abuse, we’d love to talk with you about doing a guest blog and having your piece featured on our website and social media. Please get in touch!
p.s If you want to read more from Muslim women on faith, feminism, race and sexuality you can preorder It’s Not About The Burka from Amazon here.
“It’s Not About the Burqa doesn’t claim to speak for a faith or a group of people, because it’s time the world realized that Muslim women are not a monolith. It’s time the world listened to them.”