Disabled but determined: A woman’s fight for respect

Published: May 3, 2011


“Sometime I feel it is a curse to be a woman,” said Naheed Akhtar, mother of two daughters whose old husband is furious because she has failed to give him a son. He was father of two girls already when Naheed’s uncle gave her away in marriage to him against her will.

Women face numerous issues in our society, particularly in the rural areas, where no one is willing to protect their basic right to live as they like but are made to surrender before the will of others and are forced to lead their lives according to the wishes of a father, brother or husband.

Naheed Akhtar, a resident of Swan Garden on the outskirts of Islamabad, was forced to marry a man 25 years her senior, a man who was already married and had two daughters.  Akhtar, 27, who is also physically disabled, said that after the death of her parents, her uncle took her in his custody and when she was of a marriageable age gave her hand to a much older man despite her pleadings.

Now a mother of two, Naheed Akhtar grew up with a disability on her right side which was partially paralysed. Akhtar said that after the death of her parents, her uncle looked after her and she took him for her father. “December 2005 was the worst day of my life when my uncle decided to give my hand to Raja Muhammad Lal Khan, an old man. I told my uncle I will work till my death in his house as a servant but will not marry a man so much older than me. But my uncle said he could not keep me any longer.”

She said that initially, the behaviour of her husband was good, and he cared a lot for her  till the birth of their first daughter, Merhab Fatima. She said that after the birth of her second daughter, Niaz Fatima, his attitude changed and he taunted her, saying “I need boys, not daughters.” Then his anger became a daily affair and he started beating her for small faults. “I was already disabled as my right wrist is paralysed, then one day he broke my left arm. Now I am unable to work at all,” she added.

She had returned to her uncle’s house but he too beat her and demanded money if she wished to live with him.

She said she had filed for divorce and maintenance in 2010 against her husband but he made a compromise in the court on which he had gone back violating court orders. “I will file another case before the court to get divorce from him, ‘’ she said adding her  two daughters Merhab Fatima and Niaz Fatima were  her assets, who were snatched from her. “I don’t want their care in the hands of a person who does not respect women,” she said with determination.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.

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