Monthly Archives: May 2016

Op- Ed: Judging Books by their Covers? Islamic Women and the stereotype of the Veil

By Karen Stallings

America is a free country. If I were to ask, most everyone would agree with that statement. They would also agree that as Americans, we are free to express ourselves in whatever way that we choose. We can say, do, wear, and worship whatever we want. Other countries do not have these freedoms. Some people have laws that they must live by in that honor their cultures and traditions.

Members of the Islamic faith (Muslims) have laws and guidelines that they live by. Specifically, women are instructed to be obedient to their husbands, as well as to honor and protect their bodies by covering themselves. The veil, also known as the hijab, is a garment that allows women to hide parts of their body, or their entire body, in order for them to remain modest and respectable in the eyes of God.

There are a variety of ways the hijab can be worn, whether it be the type of dress that the woman feels most appropriate in, or the style that chooses to wear it. The veil is said to represent honor and dignity, bringing a woman respect, not only to herself, but to her family. The Holy Quran, that provides scripture to guide Muslims spiritual lives, commands that women wear the hijab so that they may protect themselves from the tempted eyes of men, and so that will not be annoyed by them. However, through the years, the scriptures have been misinterpreted leaving problems for women. The Sharia, derived from the Quran and Hadith (recorded activities of the Prophet Muhammad’s daily life), was written and provides laws where women are instructed to wear their headscarves and be obedient to their husbands.

Unequal rights, and women not having the freedom to express themselves because of the male dominated environment, have been reasons why westerners and feminists view the covering of a Muslim woman’s body as a sign of male dominance and oppression. From their point of view, the veil is a way to simply hide their femininity, keep them under control, and powerless.

However, researching the veil, led me to different perspectives of women and how the perceived the way they were instructed to dress. Many of the women who chose to veil were upset by the fact that others associated their headscarves and dresses as signs of negativity and oppression. For them, wearing their coverings allowed them to feel empowered in their femininity. One woman interviewed said that it allowed her to remain neutral with the opposite sex. She was able to keep her professional and sexual life separate from one another. Others described it as a way of bringing them closer to God. Wearing the veil, is a modest act, and that is respectable in his eyes.

One of the biggest questions that I asked myself was how can we prevent making assumptions on other people based on their culture, specifically women who choosing to wear the veil? Although some of our negative stereotypes may be a reality in some aspects, it does not always apply to every case. Ways that we can become more informed are by asking questions, reading and researching, and simply talking to individuals assimilated in the culture. Expanding our knowledge by asking someone educated in the subject, and by doing our research can provide endless possibility. Also when you talk to someone who has experienced the culture first hand, it will allow you to take another look at your own opinion. When we ask, we learn, and in turn, gain a new understanding.

Prior to my research, I was unaware of the positive perspective of the veil and how it allowed women to feel empowered. I viewed it as most of the Western world sees it, strictly in a negative light. However, if we all just stopped for a moment to listen, we would find that we can hear over our own voices. We would place our feet into the shoes of others, see a new perspective for the first time, and learn how to not judge a book by its cover.

Karen Stallings is senior at East Carolina University majoring in Applied Sociology with a concentration in Marriage and Family. She plans to work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes upon graduation, and to eventually attend graduate school for counseling.


Sanders, Eli, ed. 2003. “Interpreting Veils: Meanings Have Changed with Politics, History.” Seattle Times, May 27.

Peace Corps

I know some of you are interested in joining the Peace Corps, and I fully support the organization’s purpose. I thought I would share this though. I think its important to keep in mind that Kate knew the dangers of where she would be working, but she was happy volunteering. I think the purpose of this is to show how her parents are grieving and confused as to how Kate was murdered because they weren’t given any details.

Kate was the 23rd volunteer to be murdered since the organization started 50 years ago. It made me so sad to read and watch this video and hear from Kate’s parents. Watch the video to hear the whole story.


Op Ed: Sex Sells

                                                      By Aryana Tillman

            Think back to your teenage years when your only worry was about how much your new prom dress or new car would cost. The prices you worried about as a teenager seemed like such dire issues, but what if you were more worried about how much you would go for that night? This is the reality for over 2 million children who are exploited into sex trafficking every year.

When researching the most common places sex trafficking occurs, India was one of the top 10 countries sex trafficking occurs. Sex trafficking in India is very prevalent. India is located in the golden triangle, which is the most vulnerable for trafficking of women and children for trade. It is reported that India is the main recipient of an estimated 150,000 women and girls trafficked into India from South Asia in order to feed the commercial sex industry.

India is also a source and transit country for the sex trafficking of women and children from and for the Middle East. More than two million women and children are trapped in commercial sex work in the red-light districts in India. In addition, Nepalese and Bangladeshi girls are trafficked into India to work in brothels and be sex workers. A little over 50% of the total commercial sex workers in India are from Nepal and Bangladesh; the prevalence of sex workers from Nepal and Bangladesh can be attributed to poverty and lack of education in both these countries compared with India. India is both a common place that sex trafficking occurs and also common places that sex traffickers migrate to from surrounding places. It is estimated that every year between 5,000 and 10,000 Nepalese women and girls are trafficked to India for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and work in brothels in various cities in India however, 90% of India’s sex trafficking is internal. With the increase in sex trafficking in India, there is something that needs to be done to end sex trafficking.

It is time we think of a solution to reducing the amount of sex trafficking in India. In order for the Indian government to respond more effectively and cease sex trafficking in India, they need to create a system that makes the government stronger and more education needs to be given on sex trafficking to lawmakers, government officials, and police. The government is responsible for fixing the sex trafficking problem in India, but also the police are needed to enforce these rules in order for them to work. It was found that some of the police were accepting bribes, starting their own brothels, warning or raids, and ultimately have been a part of the problem in feeding into sex trafficking instead of helping victims; so ultimately, the police need to also do their jobs and law needs to prosecute those who are sex trafficking because even if just a few police aren’t doing their job, it makes it dangerous for all police to be trusted to help such a vulnerable group of people with a serious problem. Setting up a system to eliminate sex trafficking is hard and India needs the government, police, and laws to all work together to diminish the high amounts of sex trafficking in India.

Sex trafficking is very much a women’s rights issue since women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. In India, Indian government estimates that the vast majority of the 500,000 children in the sex industry are girls. Women and girls are being stripped of their innocence and being forced to have sex with strangers for little to no money all the while picking up various sexual transmitted diseases from their clients. Due to forced use of drugs, unsanitary forced or voluntary pregnancy termination, and multiple sex partners, HIV is very high and an often unknown status of victims of sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking is common in India but also happens right in our own backyards. Though India and America are two very different places, there are three root causes that drive demand in both countries. First, the women and children who are already in the local sex industry are not meeting the sexual demands of “johns.” Second, sex trafficking is a very profitable business, usually more so than legal alternatives. Third, the victims of sex trafficking are vulnerable to promises made by traffickers and thus often consent to travel willingly-at least in the beginning.

Sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and is now the 3rd largest international crime industry behind illegal drugs and arms deals, so now is the time for us to take action. Here are some things that you can do to stop sex trafficking:

  1. Be educated on the characteristics of someone who looks like they are being sex trafficked and ask follow-up questions if you suspect they are being trafficked.
  2. Know the numbers of sex trafficking hotlines to report sex trafficking: National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 and Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 and be sure to save these numbers in your phone encase you ever need to report to them.
  3. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.
  4. As students you can take action on your campus by joining or establish a university school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community.

It only takes one person and one phone call to help end sex trafficking. Always stay aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts when suspecting that someone is the victim of sex trafficking because it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to reporting sex trafficking. It’s about time that we stop one more person from being a victim of sex trafficking and start shinning attention on this issue. Speak up and speak out to end sex trafficking now!

Aryana Tillman is currently an undergraduate student at East Carolina University pursuing a bachelor of science in Sociology with a concentration in Marriage and Family. She is a senior who plans to graduate in May 2016.  She hopes to pursue a law degree one day and work in juvenile law. Aryana Tillman dreams to be a child and civil rights advocate lawyer.  

Child Marriage Photos

I know we’ve discussed this topic plenty of times, but I thought I would share some visuals. This article has photos taken of child bride who’s only 15 years old on the day of her wedding day. It’s hauntingly sad to look at, but I think it’s really important to recognize  how articles like this really give the public a lasting impression on the issue.


Op Ed: The Most Dangerous Place for Women is Inside Their Own Homes

By Rhianna Rogers

In the United States, three women die at the hands of their husbands every day. Around the world, over 1/3 of women will experience sexual, or physical abuse in their lifetimes. In Bangladesh, half of the women who are murdered are murdered at the hands of their husbands. And these are just the reported cases of domestic violence against women.

When you wake up in the morning, you think about your tasks for that day, go to the bank, get coffee and catch up with friends, go to the grocery store, hit the gym on your way home, tidy up the house. When you lay back down at night you reflect on your day, and plan for the one to come. Many people think about the person lying beside them. We think about his happiness or we may think about an old argument that got brought back up that day or the pile of clothes by the bed you wish he would remember to put in the laundry room. Do you ever think that the person beside you may take your life the next day? Has that person who you love ever made you feel so small, so useless that you consider taking your own life? This is the reality for millions of women around the world.

There are countries all around the world that instill the idea of male superiority from birth. Little boys are favored over little girls, fathers choose their daughters husbands, and husbands decide when the couple is having sex, when she is working, who her friends are, and when she has done something to deserve being beaten. In Ethiopia, 78% of married women experience domestic violence each year. Oftentimes this violence is sexual as well as physical. We are taught to avoid dark alleyways, to not walk alone at night, to not put our drink down at a party. We should never have to suspect that the person we live with, the person we share a kitchen and a bathroom with, would rape us and beat us if we fight him off.

Many of the societies with high domestic violence rates have no commitment to try and end such violence because it is not perceived as a problem. It is a part of their male dominated, patriarchal culture. The men believe it is their right and their duty to dominate their wives, and the women know no other option so they do not speak out. Nobody would listen even if they did.

So what do we do? How do we find the delicate balance between cultural respect, and fighting for the safety of the millions of women around the world who are a victim to domestic violence every day?

We educate, express compassion and understanding, show respect an raise awareness.

The majority of domestic violence, both in the U.S. and abroad goes unreported. We need to give women a safe place to go, to report their experiences. We educate the societies on the dangers of their practices, we educate women that there are other options; there is another way. We respect their traditions and beliefs and we help them to find an alternative expression of their values. On that does not put the lives of women on the line.

The world we live in right now is in constant fear. Fear of terrorism, of mass shootings, of environmental tragedies. But for women all over the world, the most dangerous place for her to be, are within the walls of her own home.

      Rhianna Rogers is graduating with a degree in sociology from East Carolina University and plans to teach elementary school next year.


Op Ed: Ending Female Genital Mutilation

                                                       By Jessica Knox

Puberty can be a very confusing time for a young women. Her body is changing and her emotions fluctuate by the minute.. On top of all of this, imagine being told you are about to get a procedure done. Your parents are telling you that you must be circumcised and your labia and clitoris must be removed. Soon after you will be married and sent to live with your new husband, which you haven’t met, and probably will not see your family again. This sounds like an absolute nightmare, but is a reality for young women in many parts of the world including sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia.

Genital mutilation is the removal of some parts of female genital organs without a medical need. There are 29 countries where some form of this practice is carried out. Girls who are about to enter or have just entered puberty, typically ages 12-16, are at highest risk for the procedure. If no precautions are taken to stop this practice, by 2030 over 86 million girls will run the risk of being victims.

There are absolutely no health benefits that are associated with female circumcision; in fact, it actually can be a huge health risk. The short term complications of FGM are severe pain, inflammation and infection, shock, and complications healing. The long term effects can range from perfuse bleeding, the formation of cysts, problems when urinating, and complications with conception and childbirth. These issues affect many girls and not only can result in severe impairments to their health but in some cases have even resulted in death.

Not only is there physical trauma from this method but also results in psychological and emotional wounds as well. Female circumcision really counteracts the idea of gender equality and feminism. By taking away a woman’s sexual organs, you are also taking away her pleasure during sex. This promotes the idea that sexual pleasure is only intended for men. If men only get pleasure out of sex, it creates the idea that women are only seen as tools for men to have sexual intercourse with. When women are only seen as objects that can have parts of them removed, it also promoted domestic violence and rape culture. Circumcising a female takes away a woman’s voice as well, and giving her the option to make her own decisions about her sexual life.

This practice is harmful to young girls and should be stopped. Education is the best tactic for changing the factors promoting this practice.

  • Girls that have mother who have completed some form of education have a lower risk of becoming victims. Girls who are also from families with a higher source of income due to continuing education also have a lower risk of being circumcised
  • The organization “Because I am a Girl” is huge activist for this situation. They went to Mali in order to reach out to 845 community leaders to explain the consequences of female mutilation, now 69 villages have abandoned the practice in that area.
  • Every year on February 6th, that day is recognizes as The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

The question arises, what about those who have already been circumcised? One action that has taken place in order to help these victims is a reconstruction surgery intended on reducing the pain and discomfort these women have to face on a daily basis. A study was conducted in France from 1998 until 2009 to almost 3000 FGM victims. This medical reconstruction was an attempt to restore the genitals when the clitoris or labia have been damaged or in most cases removed. Only 866 women showed up after a one year follow up in order to report their progress. It was documented that 821 out of 840 reported that there was a decrease in pain, and 815 out of 834 reported that they have had an increase in sexual pleasure. It was also stated that 430 out of 841 women reported that they have actually been able to experience orgasms when participating in sexual activities.

In conclusion, we must spread awareness of this subject and support organizations and campaigns fighting to stop it. Until recently, I personally did not know female mutilation was even a problem in the world. Now that I am aware, I feel that it is my duty to spread the knowledge to others. The more people care, volunteer, and donate, the more outreach we can make to educate these areas. Supporting these organizations can provide them with the opportunity to visit more regions and teach these people the facts and consequences. Together we can end female genital mutilation

Jessica Knox is a senior at East Carolina University. She plans to graduate May 2016 with a degree in Sociology and a concentration in marriage and family. After graduation she plans to seek a job at a domestic violence counseling center.