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Domestic Violence

Depp v Heard: Underlying the Nuances of Domestic Violence

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Depp v Heard: Underlying the Nuances of Domestic Violence

The recent verdict in the defamation trial, Depp v Heard, highlighted the nuances of domestic violence and was, from gavel to gavel, a singularly baffling, unedifying and depressive spectacle.

Background to the Domestic Violence Case – Depp v Heard

Johnny Depp prevailed in his three counts of defamation against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, on June 1st 2022. Depp sued Heard for $50 million for implying he abused her in the 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The world was anticipating the final verdict in Depp v Heard, which underlined the nuances of domestic violence and abusive relationships.

Heard did not name Depp directly in the article but wrote that she was “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Depp claimed her allegations impacted his career and ability to appear in future films. Heard pursued a $100 million counterclaim.

The trial consisted of graphic testimonies highlighting Depp and Heard’s horrifically abusive relationship. The trial was televised worldwide for seven weeks.

A Fairfax County Circuit jury, after 13 hours of deliberations, found that Heard defamed Depp on all three counts and awarded him $10 million in compensatory damages. Additionally, Depp received $5 million in punitive damages. However, because punitive damages were automatically reduced to $350,000 – the legal limit according to Virginia law – Depp’s actual damages amounted to $10.35 million.

Moreover, the jury decided that Depp defamed Heard on one of three counts in her countersuit through his lawyer Adam Waldman. Thus, Heard received $2 million in compensatory damages.

The Cultural Phenomenon of Depp v Heard Underlying the Nuances of Domestic Violence

Depp v Heard turned into a cultural phenomenon underlying the nuances of domestic violence. This case brought up emotional experiences for many viewers who have been subject to abusive relationships. It is personal for many people worldwide, and this sensitive topic should be treated with respect and dignity. The conduct of the trial highlighted the difficulty victims face when speaking up about their abuse. The case had both positive and negative consequences for abuse victims.

The case highlighted that men are also victims of physical and emotional violence within a relationship. Following Depp coming forward and admitting he was a victim of domestic abuse in his relationship, this inspired other men online to admit they were subject to similar abuse.

However, viewers’ hostile reaction towards Heard highlighted the difficulty women could potentially face when speaking about their abuse.

The trial re-establishes the need to create the “perfect victim” within an abusive relationship. It creates a false expectation that a woman or any other victim of abuse seeking justice must be likeable and without any fault in the relationship. This case exemplifies how abusive relationships are not always black and white, and the “perfect victim” does not always exist.

Why Depp Won His Libel Case in the US but Lost in the UK?

The Depp v Heard verdict contradicts a similar case taken by Depp, where he sued the Sun tabloid newspaper for calling him a “wife-beater”. Libel law has traditionally been more favourable to plaintiffs in the UK, even creating “libel tourism” allegations. “Libel tourism” is pursuing a case in the UK in preference to other jurisdictions, such as the US, which provide more extensive defences for those accused of making derogatory statements. Depp won his case in the US due to the difference in laws between the two countries. In the US, the burden of proof lies on the person filing the defamation claim, but it lies with the defendant in the UK, making it far more complex.

Heard testified in the UK case against Depp on several occasions. The judge held that the allegations made against Depp were accurate. Moreover, Depp appealed the decision but lost. In contrast to the British case, a jury decided the outcome of the US trial.

The Toxic Culture Surrounding Media

A critical difference between Depp’s case in the UK and his case in the US is the media uproar online and outside the courtroom. Millions tuned to the live-streamed Depp v Heard trial. Millions dissected the testimony through social media platforms. While the UK case prompted outsize media coverage, the US trial took this to an entirely different level.

According to data from NewsWhip, social media interactions about the trial have trumped all other topics in the past month.

Social media interactions in Depp v Heard domestic abuse trial trump all other topics this month.
Caption: Image obtained from NewsWhip. Social media interactions in the Depp v Heard domestic abuse trial trump all other topics this month.

The “Saturday Night Live” show faces significant criticism for its insensitive parody of the trial. Many viewers felt it was unfair to make jokes about serious topics like domestic and sexual abuse while litigation proceedings were still ongoing. It felt as though the media had already judged Heard long before the court had made any legal decision.

The Media’s Need To Create A Hero-Villan Dynamic

The trial played out on social media, where Depp fans dominated most coverage. There were social media generated hashtags to support Depp and many hashtags highly criticizing Heard. The trial was treated merely as a piece of celebrity entertainment and not as a domestic violence case.

Heard’s accusations immediately appeared unfounded as social media trial footage was edited, mocking her throughout her testimonies. The #JusticeforJohnnyDepp received more than 19 billion views on TikTok. Concurrently, an estimated 69 million videos tagged #JusticeforAmberHeard. Social media posts needed to create a compelling hero-villain dynamic at the expense of many genuine victims of domestic abuse.

It was clear that Depp v Heard served as a cultural battleground in the politically divided US. Following the verdict, the Republicans tweeted a GIF of Depp on their official account as Captain Jack Sparrow, standing triumphantly on his ship in support of the trial verdict. However, this is not a Marvel movie; this is a real and influential precedent-setting case regarding abusive behaviour. A profoundly abusive relationship is portrayed in simple black and white thinking. The media creates an illusive scenario where one individual rises as the hero and the other as the villain.

Caption: House Judiciary GOP tweeted following the verdict announcement in the Depp v Heard trial.

The evidence emerging from the trial underscores how Depp and Heard have both perpetrated wrongdoing against each other. Commentators have tried to use the case to evangelize their long-held misogynistic beliefs. However, Depp is not entirely innocent despite the overwhelming support he has received through social media. The case’s complexity underlines how neither party rises victorious, given the abusive behaviour highlighted throughout the trial.

The Aftermath of Depp v Heard & Moving Forward

Depp v Heard is a mirror of our overly toxic culture. We must not forget that domestic abuse can happen to men and women.

Abuse victims are commonly silenced, dehumanized and, in the most extreme cases, murdered by their abusers. Legal proceedings related to domestic abuse should respect both parties’ right to privacy.

Depp v Heard highlights how we should re-consider televising victims’ private lives to viewers worldwide during court proceedings. Censoring personal details in domestic abuse cases prevents personal information from spreading online and creating public entertainment. This would create a safer environment for future victims to come forward and speak about their abuse.

Shockingly, male intimate partners are responsible for 50% of female homicides in the US. However, female intimate partners are responsible for 5% of male homicides. Although statistics related to domestic abuse fall overwhelmingly on women, this does not undermine instances where men suffer as victims.

Depp v Heard represents a cultural phenomenon highlighting the horrors of domestic abuse. This case will serve as a landmark precedent for encouraging both men and women to come forward and talk in the future. In contrast, Depp v heard has the possibility of silencing abuse victims due to the negative backlash this high profile trial attracted.

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Children

Rohingya Muslims: Citizens of Nowhere

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Rohingya Muslims

A deadly crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities forced them to cross dangerous seas and paths on foot to save their lives. United Nations called this genocide a perfect example of ‘ethnic cleansing.

Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority group in majority Buddhist Myanmar who follows Islam and speaks the Bengali language. They are around 1 million in number out of the total 52 million population of Myanmar. They are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations. But Myanmar sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refuses to accept them as people with basic human rights.

Also Read: Myanmar: The Country of “Oppressed” Minorities”‎

They are not included among the recognized ethnic groups in the census 2014 of Myanmar which makes the Rohingya Muslims ineligible for citizenship. They live in a stateless condition in the Rakhine state of Myanmar which borders India and Bangladesh. 

Rohingya refugee sites in Bangladesh shown on a map.

In 2017, more than 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh due to the armed conflict against them, which was the fastest refugee movement in recent history. They faced communal violence and attacks by security forces themselves.

United Nations described this refugee movement as a result of genocide violence and human rights abuse.

Why Genocide Violence and denial of Rights to Rohingyas is happening?

In 2020, the top court of the UN ordered Myanmar to take measures for safeguards Rohingya Muslims from genocide. But contrary to these measures, the army and top leadership in Myanmar, particularly the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi once a symbol of peace and human rights icon, denied these allegations of genocide violence. Instead, they said that they are fighting with Rohingya militants, not Rohingya civilians. 

Also Read: The Plight of the Rohingya Muslims; An Overlooked Tragedy

According to the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 6700 Rohingyas, including around 730 children under the age of five were killed in this violence.

Against these numbers, the Myanmar Government reported only 400 casualties as a result of ‘militants cleaning operations’. But BBC correspondents reported these claims as hard to believe.

Two soldiers from the Myanmar army itself gave video testimony and become witnesses to the International Court of Justice and confess that a mass killing, rapes, and destruction of villages of Rohingya Muslims took place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. 

Map showing destroyed villages in Rakhine state.

Basically, Myanmar sees Rohingyas as foreign interlopers and does not consider them as their citizens.

The conflict has started chiefly as religious and social differences between the Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas. 

Children’s Apathy

Children are the worst amongst these refugees. UNICEF reported that Rohingya refugees are mostly children, about 60 per cent. They are the face of brutality and unspeakable violence. They are living a childhood with no purpose, education, nutrition, home, state, and safety. They lack any kind of legal protection and human rights.

Also Read: Myanmar Military Coup: Nightmare Scenario Unfolding By Killing of More Than 40 Children

These helpless children are witnessing uncertainty, disease outbreaks, lack of education, trafficking, child labour, child marriage, bonded labour, gender-based violence, hunger, insult, mental harassment and overall inhuman conditions to face.

UNICEF reported that Rohingya children in the Rakhine state are facing violence, torture, detention, forced displacement and restrictions on movement.

Until, Myanmar makes settlements for safe home return of Rohingya refugee families with full assurance of basic rights of freedom, citizenship, living spaces, violence-free environment and dignity, these children would remain as people of nowhere, settled in crowded settlements with inhuman conditions.

How are the Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps?

Around 9,00,000 Rohingya refugees are living in the Kutupalong refugee camp in the Cox Bazaar area of Bangladesh, the world’s most densely populated refugee camp. Most of the camp locations in Bangladesh are natural disaster-prone areas. 

They have to face landslides and recurring monsoon flooding. They are forced to live in a sea of mud, tattered shelters and unhygienic harsh conditions.

Due to humid weather and dust prone winds, respiratory ailments are common with watery diarrhoea in combination with malnutrition.

Also Read: Rohingya refugees: how long will their suffering be overlooked?

The most concerning issue is that more than half of the refugees are children.

In March 2021, a massive fire took place in the refugee camp area of Bangladesh and destroyed food and water facilities along with 10,000 shelters. The death toll was 15 with major injuries to many more. 

Moreover, mental stress is high due to overcrowded conditions in such camps.

Is the International community responding and helping the Rohingyas?

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the situation as a human rights nightmare.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Gambia Vs Myanmar case gave a ruling in support of Rohingya Muslims and asked Myanmar to stop the ethnic cleansing of its minority community by security forces and make provision for their safe living conditions. This is a landmark decision that shows international backing and support for the violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Bangladesh is supporting the Rohingya refugees by providing them accommodation in camps but suffering a financial burden and hence initiating a fundraising campaign as Bangladesh alone can not bear the financial aid required for sustaining the lives of Rohingya refugees. As of now, Rohingya refugees are mostly left unaided to help themselves with their basic care.

The World Bank 2018 committed half a billion-dollar support for water, sanitation, food, health care and disaster risk management.

But still, the support is lacking the requirements.

Rohingyas would remain in destitute and helpless conditions until they are accepted as rightful citizens of Myanmar or granted the status of refugees in Bangladesh with necessary safeguards for their livelihood, education, shelter and right to freedom.

Key Takeaways

How the world can forget the systematic suffering, torcher and human rights violence of such a helpless and poor community. They are humans with emotions, dignity and life. Every human has a place to live a life with utmost freedom and dignity.

Also Read: What are the Human Rights?

No one should have a right to throw out its own people where they are born and raised in the name of original people vs outsiders. It’s the responsibility of the world leaders and every sensible person to deny each and every single unjust act and show solidarity for humanity and kindness. After all, humanity lies above all logic and reasons.

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Domestic Violence

Sexual Assault of Women By Police & in Military: Protector to Perpetrator

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Women protesting

The cases of sexual assault against women by the police and in the military have skyrocketed. So many blood-curdling incidents have been brought to light, but nothing much is seemingly changing. So, what options do women have when the protectors turn into perpetrators?

Sexual Assault by the Protectors

Women are constantly let down by the very institutions placed to protect them. Both the military and the police fail to stop men in their establishment from exploiting women.

One evening in South London, Sarah Everard, while walking home was approached by a police officer in civilian cloth. She has forcibly arrested pretence of COVID regulations and was taken to an unfrequented area, where she was raped and brutally killed by the police person’s belt.

Though Sarah’s case shed light upon a spiraling concern, her story is not the only one. Moreover, the problem is not confined to the UK but can be seen globally. Cops are engaging in sexual violence rather than being the protector.

Also Read: Daniel Prude: another unarmed black man suffocated to death by police.

Domestic violence, sexual violence, and rapes; women are facing a catalog of abuse at the hands of the police. The hypocrisy is hurting civilians and women in the military who are often confronted with sexual violence.

The Time to Wake Up

Employing the police designation for sexual purposes has grown to be the largest form of corruption in the UK. Most of the victims in cases of police perpetrators are minors. Instead of protecting the most vulnerable, police officers are abusing the disabled, women of color, unhoused, migrant, and undocumented women simply because they are vulnerable to criminalization.

Also Read: Black People and The Police in America

In the UK, one of every six male police officers’ spouses comes forth to report domestic abuse each week. Once inside the jobs, officers are given access to resources and personal information of people and their potential victims. The decision to arrest somebody is an incredible amount of power delivered to law enforcement officers.

Also Read: The relationship between police officers and domestic abusers

Even though most of the officers are not involved in such malicious activities, their choice to turn a blind eye to their colleague’s wrongdoing worsens the situation. As a result, the police force is accused of systematically undermining women’s rights.

Sexual Assault: The Ugly Picture of the Military

The UK

According to the observer by the Guardian, two-third of the women in the UK’s armed forces have experienced discrimination, bullying, and sexual harassment multiple times during their careers. In addition, investigations unravelled shocking evidence of gang rape, contests, or trophies to “bag the women” sex for promotion.

Also Read:

While many came forth with their experiences, a number of, despite facing bullies and sexual miss conduct, were too afraid to report it. In addition, many serving and ex-military females said that military accommodation and mess are far more dangerous places for serving women than overseas war zones.

Also Read: Why Do We Still Talk about Gender Equality and Women’s Safety?

A committee survey by the Ministry of Defence revealed that one out of every ten serving women expressed the desire to tackle the male-dominated culture, sexualized behavior, and “mess hall culture.”

The US

Vanessa Guillen, a 20-years old soldier, went missing from her military posts in Texas. Ten weeks later, her body was found, murdered, dismembered, and burnt by another service member after being violently raped. The bone-chilling incident with Vanessa shook the world.

Many women soldiers from around the globe come forward with their own stories. According to current stats, female soldiers are more threatened by their fellow soldiers than a shot at war by an enemy.

From what is expected from women in the military, danger often comes from their forces. The hyper-masculine institution of the military makes it a dangerous place for women. But despite that, the forces are failing to protect women service members.

The Dangerous Military Culture

According to the previous studies, many such cases go unreported because of the universal phenomenon of underreporting. Commanders are also inclined to cover up cases in order to protect the reputation of the unit/organization and cover-up leadership failures.

Also Read: Myanmar Military Coup: Nightmare Scenario Unfolding By Killing of More Than 40 Children

Young male recruits and soldiers have been victims of rampant sexual assault and harassment in the armed forces. Women have only intensified the problem. As a result, militaries are known for their “speciation.”

The chain of commands of lack of independent investigations support is sweeping the sexual assault cases under the carpet. Furthermore, while seeking justice, women often face retaliation.

Sexual Assault: Concluding Remarks

Who to turn to for protection when the protector is the perpetrator?

How can women trust the police or military forces to protect them when it cannot protect its own women personnel from the perpetrators inside? How can we trust lawmakers who are sitting at this appalling data and not doing much about it?

Today, the biggest enemy of female soldiers in most of the major armies is their own camp, within her own rank. Yet, attempts to reform these age-old institutions are slow.

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Domestic Violence

Ayesha’s Suicide: Islam is Against Dowry, But Some Muslims Aren’t Ready to Let it Go

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It’s high time to introspect our community’s practices. Practices followed by our very own community have created an ugly picture of this beautiful religion. Ayesha’s suicide broke me, and I have been waiting to write about it since then but couldn’t process my thoughts.

But it’s never too late to talk about this because data gathered from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is disheartening. The data shows that the crime against women is increasing every passing hour and minute. We should talk about it more and spread awareness.

While we talk about dowry systems and the Islamic take on them, we should also look at how other Muslims react to this news.

Why Do Some Muslims Blame the Victim?

People often blame the victim. There’ve been many instances where people blame the victim without clarity. Whether there’s clarity or not, we mustn’t point fingers because who are we to judge? We can spread awareness to end inhumane activities like this. But it should never be disrespectful or hurtful.

Unfortunately, many Muslims were quick to blame Ayesha for her decision, stating that suicide is haram in Islam. Yes, suicide is haram in Islam, but we should never blame the victim. We don’t know what she went through and what harassment she faced. I’m definitely not encouraging ending your lives when the going gets tough.

But what I’m trying to say is we shouldn’t be judgmental regardless of the situation. Allah alone has the right to judge his creations.

Instead of blaming the victim, the best we can do is make dua and spread awareness about such crimes. Educate women on how they can protect themselves from such life-threatening issues. Also, there are supplications and methods that’ll help you overcome the depressing situations you’re in. Though we unfairly lost a beautiful soul to the crime against women, we must protect other women who are going through the same. Or at least, we can try.

While I write this, maybe a woman is being tortured by her in-laws or husband for dowry –this drives me crazy when I think about it.

First off, Islam is against dowry, and no Muslim is encouraged to request dowry. Second off, you’re marrying a woman, who’s obviously a human, and your marriage should be out of love and for the sake of Allah ((SWT). It shouldn’t be a trade.

Unfortunately, parents agree to give their daughters married to men who request dowry, and it still happens everywhere. It could be because of several unfortunate situations, but offering and accepting dowry should end. There are laws in many countries, but somehow we don’t see the law being practiced.

The best we can do in such situations is to raise our voices. We’ve to become the voice for the voiceless.

Weren’t There Any Other Ways Out?

Ayesha’s last video before committing suicide is disturbingly painful. She says a few things that make us wonder whether there aren’t other ways that a woman can find peace when she’s in an abusive relationship. Even though dowry is illegal, people still do it subtly, but the price is paid by women who have no means to satisfy greedy families and husbands.

In her last video, she says, “Assalamualikm, My name is Ayesha, Ayesha Arif Khan. I am not pressurized by anyone to do this. I’m doing everything at my own will. You may say life has a limit set by mighty Allah.

 Dear Dad, please close the case, till when you will battle it out with family. Arif needs freedom, and I set him free today. I was satisfied with my life, I love Arif. I am pleased to meet Allah soon. I pray I need not see a human’s face again.

 Oh, dear river please accept me. “

I can only imagine to what extent she would have suffered to hate humans to the core. She mentions that she’d not have to see human faces again, which clearly shows that her life has been miserable. It’s actually tormenting to think that a 23-year-old had to end her life this way.

However, Ayesha’s suicide has shed some light on the dowry issues in India. Shockingly, most people don’t understand that marriages don’t depend on dowry. In fact, Islam has forbidden asking dowry from the bride’s family.

Imagine doing something that Allah has forbidden, and even worse is treating your wife in the worst possible way. This shows that most Muslims have forgotten or are ignorant about the words of the Prophet (PBUH).

The Prophet said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” – Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1977

I highly doubt that Muslims who torture women for dowry worry about the words of the Prophet. They don’t care what Allah has commanded and how Prophet (PBUH) had set examples.

Anyway, apart from religious interventions, there are certain laws that women have to abide by regarding Islamic marriage. Some articles mention that women weren’t given the right to divorce the husband because only the husband has the right to request a divorce in India. Some articles mention that there’s an option to plead for a divorce from the husband. But I don’t think a person with a mindset to torture his wife for dowry will offer a divorce.

Also, this is not the rule followed by all the countries. Some parts of certain countries haven’t come out of the stereotyped, male-dominant rules designed by very men who want to keep women in check.

Unfortunately, Islam doesn’t support inhuman behaviors and has no bias rules related to getting a divorce. Therefore, if there was an easy option to divorce an abusive husband, I don’t think most women who ended their lives would have decided to do so.

There are many unfortunate cases like Ayesha’s, and we can only try to bring justice. But there’s one more thing we all can do, make dua! 

When I saw the news, the little girl stuck in my mind, and I prayed that Allah (SWT) grant her Jannatul-Firdaus and forgive her sins. May she receive light and comfort in the grave. Ameen!

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