A Legal Warrior
For the last several years, Mufti Ziauddin has pursued an unusual career, one that few men in Pakistan -- and even fewer in his village -- would dare enter. He works as a human rights attorney on behalf of women.
In a country that still denies women such basic rights as employment, education and access to credit and loans, Ziauddin is in a minority. His efforts to reduce men's violence against women and girls and to improve their legal and constitutional rights have made him suspect in the eyes of many of his male peers.
"I am a human rights attorney," Ziauddin said during a recent interview in New York. "Just imagine the laws we are having. The laws are coming from who? The men. Yes. Not the women. This is the society where I started my work. I had to break the status quo."
In his small Muslim village, families live by ancient traditional codes. Men conduct business, tend to their sheep flocks and enjoy public life. The women raise children and are responsible for domestic chores.
"I started helping women who were accosted by the community, by the families, women who had no place to go and hide their heads," he explained. "No one was there, no men. The idea of men working for women. I was very alone. It is a sensitive area, a sensitive subject. In my country, the men are not at work for the cause of women. Women cannot even turn a single stone without the help of men."
Ziauddin has managed to make some headway in changing attitudes, working with police and magistrates around Pakistan who agree with what he's trying to do. He has also forged alliances with 150 nongovernmental organizations working to ensure equal justice for the women of his country.
While he is regarded as a hero by many of the women in his village, other women continue to contribute to their own oppression, he said. He recalled his grandmother telling him, the night before his arranged marriage, that he needed to beat his wife.
" 'If you don't give her a rough and tough beating on the first night, she will not listen to you,' " Ziauddin quoted his grandmother as saying.
"Who is directing me?" Ziauddin asked. "Not a man. A woman! I said to her, 'Grandma, if I cannot capture the heart of this girl who has never seen me, if her consent was not obtained, if I cannot capture her heart through my love, I cannot capture her through my muscles.' "
Ziauddin said it was his mother who enabled him to reject the traditional beliefs his tribe professes about relations between women and men.
"I have been inspired by my mother," he said. " She taught me that I had to be a women's rights activist. "
In Sweden, police Capt. Goran Lindberg has spent the last 20 years devising gender violence prevention training for police officers. A hulking figure standing well over 6 feet tall and weighing at least 250 pounds, he serves as an expert adviser on gender equality for the government of Sweden and is the chief commissioner of the Uppsala County Police Department. Lindberg is also the former director of the Swedish National Police Academy.
For two decades, he has witnessed the repetitive cycles of men's violence against women and the steady increase of negative depictions of women in Swedish advertisements.
"Europe's advertising is the same as America's: It features emaciated women as sex objects," Lindberg explained during an interview in a restaurant near the United Nations. As the chief of police in his district, Lindberg believes so strongly in men sharing responsibility for child rearing and domestic life that he refuses to hire police officers who have not taken care of children.
"If you want to be a police officer in a high rank in my department, you must show me you have nursed children, your own or others," he explained, adding that attitude changes among Swedish men and boys are critical for shifting the status and ensuring the safety of women and girls.
"We must support new male role models or men will not have the courage or strength to remain as role models," he continued. "If you don't support men who are doing this, they will remain quiet. There is the silent crowd, those who keep quiet, and there are those who agree with good role models, who must break the silence. The people's silence can be devastating."
Lindberg knows he is often made fun of by fellow police officers for his fierce departmental commitment to women's rights and for holding men accountable for their actions and attitudes toward women.
"They call me Captain Skirt, but I am proud of my nickname, and I have a fan club, too," he said smiling. "Outside the police force I speak to presidents of companies and men with political power and try to reach them and change their minds. The man culture in Sweden is to look upon the men with power and if they do good things, we little men can do good things too. It is important that men with power join us."