At every screening, concerned viewers ask me whether the living conditions for women in Tanzania have changed. Are girls still subjected to FGM…are they still being forced into marriage the same way?
The answer to this question is incredibly complex.
The truth is, we are all struggling to find ways to end violence in our communities. And no one, not even Tanzania, has figured out how to do this.
In the case of female genital mutilation (FGM), one can look at the fact that since the early 80s it has been illegal to practice FGM in Tanzania. But there is also the concurrent reality that having a harm legally recognized as a crime is not sufficient to end the practice (especially in rural areas where these laws are difficult to enforce.)
The same is true here in the US. Let’s not forget that there were no laws against raping or beating your wife until the early 70s. And we all recognize that having laws against sexual and domestic violence is not enough to prevent abuse in our communities. So we have some figuring out to do, and are definitely in a position where we can be learning from each other…
So then what does it mean for a village, a community to find its own ways to address abuse? What would the tipping point need to be for abuse to be recognized as a legitimate harm against humanity? Can we develop responses to violence that aren’t dependent on law enforcement? What would it look like for a community to support both the survivor’s safety and autonomy and the abuser’s accountability? And are there any community-based models we can learn from that can shed some light on what might work in our own communities, either here in the US or overseas?
Enter The Revolution Starts At Home…a phenomenal collection of essays and stories by dear friends and fellow activists who have been deeply considering community-based alternatives to responding to abuse. Jake Fawcett (ALLY Exec Producer) wrote a great review of this anthology on Can You Relate?, a blog about violence and relationships.
So this one simple question taps into a much larger issue — what would it take to truly end violence in our communities? This collection of stories, taken as a whole, reveals a very complex, insightful tapestry of what it means to build loving, equitable, accountable communities.