Difret is a striking film about a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl named Hirut who is captured on her way home from school, raped, and forced into marriage with a much older man. Instead of remaining complacent and living a life of forced bondage, Hirut escapes from her captors and ends up shooting and killing her soon-to-be husband in an act of self-defense. She is put in jail, and is accused of murder. Much to the disdain of many in Hirut’s village, a female lawyer named Meaza comes to her defense, claiming that Hirut acted in self-defense and should not be convicted of murder.
Throughout the film, traditional village beliefs, justice, and gender roles come face to face with the more modern idea that women ought to be allowed to select their own husband rather than be forced into marriage. The word difret perfectly, and sadly, captures the ethos of this film, as its meaning simultaneously represents “courage” and “the act of being raped.” Hirut and Meaza both represent such strong and courageous females in a country whose traditions tend to diminish the female voice.
Based on a true story from the 1990’s, these women began a revolution that is still impacting the country of Ethiopia nearly 20 years later. Meaza’s willingness to defend Hirut paints a beautiful picture of self-sacrifice and grace. Meaza had no personal connection to Hirut, but committed herself, despite the extreme consequences, to defend her right to not be forced into marriage.
Demonstrating compassion above the difficult task of serving as Hirut’s lawyer, Meaza commits herself to the justice of the “other.” She takes Hirut into her own home, goes out of her way to include Hirut’s uneducated and illiterate parents in the process, and even risks her job for the sake of justice for Hirut. May we be inspired by this true picture of grace, justice, and love.