The President was not the only politician to attend V-day. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, former mayor of Reykjavík, read a harrowing chapter from The Vagina Monologues, describing one woman’s experience of the Balkan War’s rape camps. During the evening’s many musical numbers and performances, violence statistics were projected on a screen behind the performers.
The audience gasped audibly when statistics on our beloved Iceland were published. 279 rapes were reported to the Icelandic police last year. It is a known fact that only a fraction of rapes are reported, so in all likelihood there were twice as many rapes committed. Out of these 279, only 17 people were charged with the crime, or about 6% of the offenders. Out of these 17 people, 2 were sentenced, meaning that only 0.6% of the victims saw justice served. Obviously, these statistics are not encouraging for rape victims who consider reporting their offender.
Stígamót, the counselling and information centre on sexual violence in Iceland, reported 8 gang-rapes last year. This means that one gang-rape takes place every six weeks in our civilized country.
Iceland’s difficulties were made even clearer when the issue of rape charges were brought forward. For this, a young woman came on stage and told her story. Her courage could not be measured when she described her humiliating ordeal to the audience of the jam-packed Opera. The first question the police asked her during interrogation was what she had worn that fateful night. It bears witness to the longevity of the myth that a woman can “ask to be raped” by the way she dresses.
The air was thick with anticipation when Eve Ensler herself finally took the stage. With soft sincerity, she described how she was molested and beaten as a child by her father. When the pain became unbearable, Ensler invented an imaginary friend, Mr. Aligator, whom she used to call upon to come save her. Needless to say, Mr. Aligator never came to her rescue, no matter how hard Ensler prayed. For the majority of rape victims in Iceland, the odds of them getting justice served are as high as of Mr. Aligator coming to rescue them.
Nine years ago, a woman stood on a poorly lit stage in New York City and voiced her concerns about vaginas. She worried about the darkness and secrecy that surrounds them and compared them to the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody reports back from there. This woman was Eve Ensler, who put forth her concerns in the play The Vagina Monologues. Over the course of these nine years, Ensler has come a long way. Today, the global movement V-day, a result of the successful Vagina Monologues, is celebrated in 1102 places worldwide. V-day fights violence against women and makes miracles happen every day. These miracles range from saving African girls from genital mutilation, to offering rape victims in the United States comfort and care.
With due respect for V-day’s miracle makers, the day of celebration brought about one poignant question: isn’t it time to raise awareness about violence against women in our enlightened and equal rights-minded Iceland?