On March 8, almost a month before the parliamentary ruckus over the domestic violence bill, scholar and activist Dr Fouzia Saeed, also MNA PPP and the mover of the bill, Yasmeen Rehman and another woman lawmaker from PML-N sat in my studio. It was a special for International Women’s Day and the discussion was on women’s rights. It was my unfortunate duty to disabuse the participants of any complacent views. Yet, their euphoria and optimism were contagious. I was finding it particularly difficult to convince them that a lot still needed to be done and whatever was achieved could easily be undone by the right wing. Faced by the possibility of annoying them all, I finally threw in the towel.
But my fears were soon proven right. After a few days, Fakhra Younus committed suicide and otherwise quite sane intellectuals were found rationalising the act of acid-throwing. A prime time host, a woman no less, even invited Bilal Khar, the man accused of throwing acid on Fakhra, to her show and allowed him to bad-mouth the deceased. The parliament, too, did not allow the name of Mr Khar to be included in the resolution demanding justice for Fakhra.
As if that was not enough, when the bill against domestic violence was presented in the senate, all hell broke loose and the parliament that we have so lovingly empowered was inundated by rants. A religious politician lost control and demanded that the bill which had already been cleared by the National Assembly be sent to the Council for Islamic Ideology, an unrepresentative body headed by Maulana Sherani, a member of Fazlur Rehman’s party. Later, President Asif Ali Zardari was to call Fazl and sympathise with him.
Why would anybody, not totally deranged, condone domestic violence and sabotage such an important bill? This question has been haunting me ever since. And yet, there they are. The children, brothers, fathers of women and yet, they want them to be beaten black and blue. And they use their religion to justify such barbaric acts.
Has it occurred to us that every time a woman is disfigured, hurt or killed we always manage to blame the victim? From Mukhtaran Mai to Fakhra Younus, why is it always the fault of women? In a country where men can get away with whatever they want, regardless of what their faith commands them or society demands of them, why should women always pay the price?
The time has come for the well-intentioned and conscientious men of this society to answer one question. Do they or do they not want women in their lives? If they don’t, the issue is settled and we can ask all women to leave the country en masse. But if they do want women to remain in their lives, they will have to end their silence and speak up now. The only parent who bore you for nine months, sirs, is a woman. The sibling who was always most affectionate towards you is a woman. The child who loves you blindly above anyone else will one day grow up to be a woman. Women in our lives have always been givers. Is it not time we give them something in return by ensuring that they are protected and no one can hurt them? Let us show them that we are not threatened by their happiness but rather we welcome it.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ
wow @awais ch here too! im a woman and interested in reading about matters pertaining too women, but if u always have to complain about women-centric pieces why read them? and great post by the author!
@Sarah: lolwut ? A man can surpass a man, and a woman can surpass a man like a a man can surpass a woman : I hope you don't believe in some kind of "sexual determinism" - which actually rationalises both misogyny and an extreme feminism -, men and women are technically and firstly both human beings with the same array of creative - and destructive - possibilities... sadly enough, one half of our humanity has been historically repressed, and if Pakistan wants to prosper, we have to invest, through education, in women, and empower them socio-economically, there's no other way, the old sociological structure will get shaken when the pillar of the family - the mother - will learn to be what she basically is, an intelligent and capable individual.
The children, brothers, fathers of women and yet, they want them to be beaten black and blue. And they use their religion to justify such barbaric acts.....
This Statment doesn't make sense at all. Islam has given woman every Right.... What religion are you Talking about?
It is not that I 'a woman' want to be equal. I want to surpass what you call a man.
@fahad: Okay, let’s not give women all this. But then lets pass a bill where men SHOULD NOT be allowed to wear anything they want. Men SHOULD NOT be allowed to have affairs as many as they want. Men SHOULD NOT be allowed to come and go at any time and any where they want. Men SHOULD NOT be allowed to have relationships with other women. Men should also NOT be allowed to go out without a mahram. How about that? Do you feel good, or you feel trapped? You all are sickos! Read and understand why this bill is needed. But how would you understand, you are not a woman. Only if you were a woman, I would have debated with you!
It is indeed sad, very sad, that an article such as this one needs to be written and debated, and that too in the twenty-first century. I would like to know why women should not be treated with respect?
Most countries of the civilized world have legislation for prevention of cruelty to animals. (like The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 in India). There are well regarded NGOs, like SPCA (The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) working in the field as well. Is it not a matter of extreme shame that some countries need a legislation like "The Prevention of Cruelty to Women Act, 2012" and an NGO like The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Women (SPCW)?
@fahad: Why is protecting women from abuse by their families equated with their having affairs? Do men spend all day having affairs when they go out to work?
The majority of women are least interested in affairs, but very interested in having some respect, and some autonomy over their lives and bodies. The daily accusations and killings all over pakistan of people accused of karo kari is evidence that if people want to stray they will often risk death to do so, even if you confine them to the house.
You write "do they not want women in their lives? If they don’t, the issue is settled and we can ask all women to leave the country en masse." Why would you ask the women to leave why would you not leave? Be a man and do the right thing for a change! Beheading, acid throwing and burning alive simply make me sick to my stomach.
Yes Give women there due Like they do in the west. Let them have affairs as many as they want, Let them wear any thing that they want, Let them come and go any time and and any where they want,Let them have relations with other women, let them go out free without a mahram, and please change all the interpretation in Quran & Hadees like its now being done by the Imams & Mullah in the west. I am in no way defending men in our society they should be punished so severely for any abuse on women that they should be made example for others.The law must protect women there is no question about it.But the path that this country is taking is very dangerous and I am surprised that women of my country who is my mother, sister,daughter,wife , friend cant see this.
It is time indeed. @pmbm: They are not ours to give ? Of course they are not and yet when we have these rights under lock and key how can they get hold of them ?
My Logic. Where women are respected, there lies prosperity. Woman is a Mother, Sister, Daughter. You educate a woman and you educate the whole family. It is not for nothing that countries like Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Many European and probably all Western countries are the most advanced all because they have respected women, given equal opportunities be it in politics, society or day to day running of their affairs. Now look at Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and such ilk. They have refused to even acknowledge that they are one-half of humanity and look how progressed they are. This fact is symptomatic in all OIC countries, there are exceptions like Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey where off late women are given respect and equal opportunity and they have progressed. Yes India is a mixed bag. Women goddess are worshiped like Saraswati-Goddess for Knowledge, Laxmi-Goodness of Wealth, Kali-Goddess of Strength at the same time Indian society still some times ill treats its women, so the mixed bag for India. So the logic or moral of my writing is where there is no liberty and equal opportunity for women there is no progress. Rgds
Sir, Does the religion(Islam) really permit and justify violence against women? Not the religion I have learned from The Quran.
@Cynical: "Women have got their dues when they were given half a vote (as witness). That was long time ago,under divine wisdom and no one has a right to change it.Period."
Beautifully said, Cynical. .
"Giving women their due." It is not your's to give. Even in this land, women are breaking their shackles. They will be equal to men someday. Why shouldn't they.
Uffffffff there is nothing left to write about except WOMEN?????
Give Men there dues first there talk women or others.
Women have got their dues when they were given half a vote (as witness). That was long time ago,under divine wisdom and no one has a right to change it.Period. If it's unpalatable to the liberals so be it.