Seminar Two
Evolution of sexuality
Subjugation and denigration of women

Esther Satar
Abdul Satar lost his poppy harvest to a hailstorm. His daughter Esther, shown above, will be given as a second wife to a seventy-year-old drug lord to pay debt accrued at a grocery shop the dealer runs in Deh Magas, in Badakhshan, Afghanistan.
Photography by Ash Sweeting

Now for the most painful question of all: Why do we have such a long history of subjugation and denigration of women by men? Throughout history women have been considered property—of their father, or husband, or harem owner. Why have women been treated as inferior to men, if they are the limiting resource?

In rural Afghanistan, Esther Satar, a thirteen-year-old girl was told she would be handed over to a seventy-year-old drug lord in marriage because of opium poppy crop failure. She would be payment for debts. She had been to school and vehemently resisted the decision, threatening to walk for twenty-four hours over the mountains to the office of the Human Rights Commission in the provincial capital to report her family, if she was forced into marriage.

In the the northern Indian state of Haryana, villagers attached and murdered a young couple, in an “honor killing.” Simon Denyer in a 2008 report writes, “Growing economic opportunities for young people and lower castes in Haryana have made ‘love marriages’ more common, experts say, and the violent repression of them has risen in tandem as upper caste Jat men fight to hold on to power, status and property.”

So-called honor killings are also commonly reported in many Middle Eastern countries, even though most governments officially denounce it. Honor killings are so called because it usually involve family “dishonor,” where often the family shame is the result of sexual violence against a daughter or wife!

In a 2006 article in the New York Times, Dan Bilefsky describes the tragic suicide of a young girl caught in the merciless dogma of honor killing:

For Derya, a waiflike girl of seventeen, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Sweeting, Ash. Esther Satar. Photograph. ”In desperate times, daughter is currency.” Dallas Morning News. 30 May 2006.
Morarjee, Rachel. ”In desperate times, daughter is currency.” Dallas Morning News. 30 May 2006.
Bilefsky, Dan. ”How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide” New York Times. 16 July 2006.