Intersections (a Poem from the Maldives)
by Aisha Hussain Rasheed
Maldives is a small island nation in the Indian ocean known for its scenic beauty. What most people don’t know about the country is that it is young democracy where the first democratic elections were held in 2008. The first democratically elected government was forced to resign due to police and military mutiny in 2012. We are currently under an increasingly autocratic regime that has recently declared a nation-wide state of emergency. The declaration of state of emergency impeded a mass rally organised by the opposition to call for the immediate release of political prisoners. As such, the opposition organised an evening tea party (a favourite Maldivian pastime) instead, which was also crashed by the Police. When the Police barricaded the street, the attendees got separated in two groups, one inside the venue of the party the other across the street. When a friend attempted to cross the street so she could join those of us who were inside the venue, a policeman told her to go between her mother’s legs. The following poem in response to the incident.
Tell every girl and woman who is groped on the street that, as per the principles you protect and uphold, her body deserves as much protection as the public property she walks on.That you will stand guard so no stranger’s hand can freely cross the barricades you set up and grab her.Tell every third woman in this country that she would not have been violated had she been a cold, inanimate pavement,Silent even when you stamp your boot upon herLying down, so you can grant or deny others to access herLet your ignorance air-dry on her body, like red tinted saliva mixed with areca nuts and betel leaves
Chewed and spit out like bloody morsels of flesh
Leaving behind its mark on your crooked smile between your tainted teeth and staining her.Tell her that if the nape of her neck was a causeway to the small of her backAnd the nook of her arm and the bend of her knee were street corners,You’d light up her eyes like street lights and set them up at every intersection so no man will flash at her.Tell her you’d regulate the unwanted traffic round about the curves of her bodyAnd the ridge of her breasts is set up far enough away from the end of the road for men to slow down and listen to her say,“NO”!
Dear policeman who told a girl to go between her mother’s legs when she asked to cross the road,Tell the woman who opened a way between her legs to let you cross out into the worldAnd the woman who harvested the seeds you planted inside of herThat the world you hope to leave for your daughters will protect their autonomy the way you protect the streets.
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Images Courtesy of Aisha Hussain Rasheed.