I knew I was not a cow, a chattel

In Ethiopia, men grab little girls, rape them and then marry them. The little girls don’t like it.

even though she was eight years old, she suspected at once what was happening. She had heard whispers that, when a girl is considered ready for marriage, a man will seize her, and rape her, and then she must serve him for the rest of her life. “That was the culture,” she says. But it wasn’t her culture: like all the other little girls, she didn’t want it. “I started screaming and tried to run out of the hut,” she says…She was taken back to his home, held down in front of his family, raped, and taken to be married the next morning. Dazed, she signed the papers, and waited for a moment when she could flee.

After three days she had a chance to escape, and she ran miles back home; she was crying with joy when she got there – but her parents told her she had to ‘go back to him and be a good wife.’ So she did.

Nurame has a distant sense of another life, one she will never lead now. “If it hadn’t happened to me … I would have been educated and got my own work and lived my own life. I wish to God that had happened.”

There’s a rebellion now, started by Boge Gebre.

When Boge was 12, she was pinned down and had her genitals cut out with a knife…This happened to all Boge’s sisters too – and it killed one of them…Men came to abduct Boge twice – but both times she ran away before they could rape her. “So – here I am!” she says.

When she was told this was her culture and she had to accept it, she found the argument ridiculous. “I thought – how can this be my culture, if it kills me?” she says, leaning forward. “What is culture? It is something that is constantly changing. In Europe, you burned witches. That culture changed. Every woman has a sense of her own dignity. I knew I was not a cow, a chattel, and I did not want to be treated like one. No woman wants to be abducted or cut up. This is true whatever your culture. Culture is not stagnant – it is transient.”

That is what ‘culture’ is. That. culture. changed. The victim’s culture is not the same as the perp’s. No woman wants to be abducted or cut up. Amen.

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