Amidst the hard work put into making awareness about women’s rights and advocacy for the right of women and children, we hear an appalling tale of how a girl, barely out of her teens has been subjected to male stupidity.

Daily Post’s Issue #4787 screams out an angry “Assaulted for refusing marriage proposal” as their lead, front page story. This is a reminder to all that in Vanuatu, when it comes down to it, respect for women is reserved for the official speeches during awareness meetings.

I say this with absolutely no remorse whatsoever towards the boys involved. You are all pigs! Your side of the story does not matter to me. Not when you acted as cowards, got drunk and assaulted a defenseless lady. Not when you humiliated someone’s daughter. Not when you disrespected someone’s sister through no fault of hers! Pigs you all are!

It is a given that violence against women is condoned in Vanuatu – even after decades of lobbying by women and their male counterparts for the government to put a stop to this “norm” by law. The ratification of CEDAW by Vanuatu has given women some hope that violence against women would end.

But alas, you still hear about women being beaten, chopped with bush knives, kicked in the stomach and treated in as much inhumanity as you can think of. Why? I don’t know!

But as a village grown, indigenous man, I can say that men who beat up women are scared of rejection by the women they beat up on. Because rejection brings humiliation amongst a man’s peers. No man wants to be humiliated by a woman – especially not a man whose macho echo is compressed in a pea-sized brain. When a man-boy declares “Mama blo ol pikinini blo mi ya,” (She’s going to be my children’s mother), he intends to follow through with it.

In the Vanuatu culture, men are the de facto head of the house – even if they don’t yet have a house of their own. Women are supposed to be under the rule of men. Any girl or woman in society is expected to succumb without question to the man’s desires, wishes, bidding, decrees, and what ever else you can think of. If a man asks for a favor from a woman, he expects an automatic consent. He is not accustomed to getting a rejection. When a woman rejects a man’s requests, and if the man thinks he deserves the woman’s consent and has been sufficiently persistent in persuading her, then violence erupts as a preferred reaction – with some cowardice thrown in for good measure. Why is violence a preferred reaction? Because it is expected and condoned!

The story about Gibson Bovu, Jamen Hango, and Rex Hinge from Pentecost who beat up and humiliated the 20-year old female teacher is a perfect example of how a man can go off the edge if he thinks he deserves what he asked for. It does not make it right, no way! But it is enough speculation to understand why such stupidity still exists.

Despite all that has happened, there is one hidden story not being told here. The story of that 20-year old woman who has been empowered through western education. She has a job as a teacher. Her education gave her the courage to say no to the fool who felt he deserved her hand in marriage. Her empowerment gave her the strength to choose a future for herself. She stood up for herself and for other women who have succumbed to society’s norm of letting men walk over women. For that, the fight for women’s rights has won one small battle. She needs to be congratulated for her courage!