By Subah Bhatia.
The world is all but a perfect place. Religion, culture, and tradition are three of the holiest and most misused forums. Over the years, once sacred aspects of life have been reduced to justify the inhumane practices and stereotypes that are not only hard to counter, but almost as hard to believe. Atrocities are demons that seem to prevail, that the world never seems to be able to eradicate. Blinded by lineage misled by the name of God, communities commit sins that give birth to endless suffering and searing. Here are some traditions which disgrace and question our humanity.
This is the act of killing human beings, usually as an offering to a deity or as a part of a ritual. It is believed that good fortune can be woven out of thread smeared with blood. Although deeply embedded in the pre-historic history of this world, it has almost been expunged from the 21st century.
Human sacrifice has been predominant throughout history. Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, claims that 10,000 to 80,400 people were sacrificed in the ceremony of the re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Trojan over a span of a mere 4 days.
However, the blind tradition of human sacrifice has not yet been completely erased. A BBC report dated 2005, UK, reported that boys were being trafficked from Africa for human sacrifice. In 1960, a 5-year old boy in Chile had reportedly been stuck into the sand on a beach after his arms and legs were amputated. The judge acquitted the men charged with a verdict saying that they had ‘acted without free will, driven by an irresistible natural force of ancient tradition.’
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Native to the state of Karnataka in India, this barbaric tradition is one of the most heart-wrenching atrocities ever committed. Treated by some as an annual festival, the ritual of having babies take a 30 feet jump off the balcony of temples still prevails all over the state. Robed priests shake and then drop babies onto a cloth held below, as the cries and tears of the babies make no difference to either the priests or the bystanders.
Upon a safe landing, the crowd cheers and celebrates wildly.
Although the gruesome practice still continues, there are several organizations that work towards protecting children’s rights. The Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights is the most influential among these organizations.
Female Genital Mutilation
This refers to procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. 200 million women and girls alive today are estimated to have been victims of FGM. Women undergoing this horrific torture are usually from sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab states. FGM has numerous consequences including severe bleeding and pain, shock, and sometimes death. Along with instantaneous pain, women often have to go through years of chronic infection, pain and disorders.
The pain is not limited only to the inflicted physical trouble. Women and girls are often psychologically impaired after going through FGM. They face complications during sexual intercourse and childbirth, too.
This tradition, carried out to control a woman’s sexuality and to ensure virginity before marriage, is a dark example of the atrocities women face and serves as the epitome of monstrous actions.
28 Too Many is a charity based organization working towards ending Female Genital Mutilation.
Download their brochure to know more about how you can lend a hand in eradicating FGM.
Osu Caste System
The Osu caste system is an ancient practice of Igboland that denies social interaction and marriage with people belonging to a caste termed as ‘Osu’.
The Osus are treated as inferior to the class of the Ndiala people. They are made to live in poor conditions, and are not allowed to have any relationship with the real born. Osus are given separate seats in churches and are often not allowed to make prayers on behalf of the ‘real born,’ for it is widely believed that this action will bring calamity upon the society. Punishments that Osus bear includes ostracism, disruptions of marriage ceremonies, disinheritance, deprivation of property, and expulsion of wives.
Human rights organizations have been raising voices against the Osu caste system. The maltreatment based on an ancient myth has caused Osus to flee the country in order to attain a life of freedom.
A dowry is a transfer of parental property at the marriage of a daughter. An ancient custom, it is yet another example of the inequality in gender, the records of whose practice confirm its existence since almost the beginning of civilization. Even in today’s world, dowries are a customary ritual preceding marriage. They are often a condition for the approval of a marriage proposal, mainly in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans.
In some parts of the world, disputes related to dowry sometimes result in acts of violence against women, including killings and acid attacks. About 4.6% of total crimes against women in India are dowry related. The number of dowry-related deaths per year range between 600-750 and 25,000 homicides. There are few prosecutions and rare convictions for dowry-related violence against women.
Marriage proposals are often compared on the basis of the amount of dowry offered, and the one with the highest wins the boy’s hand in marriage. Women are reduced to mere sacks of coins and wads of cash to compare. All that remains of their identity are the denominations of the dowry their family pays.
Organizations like Stop Violence against Women are slowly but surely doing their best to end the system of dowry.