women
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Shiffa Yousafzai |

Its not easy to be a woman. I was again reminded of this, when I suddenly met Mahrukh. She was a year senior to me in school and was a heart throb: sharp defined features, best debater, topper in the class, darling of all teachers and inspiring a mix of envy and jealousy from other students. Last I remember of her was that she had landed in medical school and we were left to select other more “easy to enter fields”

But now the same articulate Mahrukh looked vacuous and dull; drained of life. I found out she never became a doctor. What went wrong. I wondered.

People in traditional cultures, like among the Pashtuns, argue that girls shouldn’t go out, they shouldn’t be allowed to go to schools and colleges and carry on with their education because the world outside is dangerous, harmful and not safe. But then is our ‘Chaadar and Chaar Deewari’ any safer?

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I found out what happened. Mahrukh is, like many of us, a pashtoon girl and belongs to the ‘Afridi’ clan so according to the tradition and culture of Pushtoons she had to get married in her early 20s – no ifs and buts…

While she was still in the second year, pre-medicine and preparing of her entrance exams, she started getting “rishtas”; one of them was her cousin and the family was insistent that she should get married – as early as possible; younger the mother, the more healthier the babies.

People in traditional cultures, like among the Pashtuns, argue that girls shouldn’t go out, they shouldn’t be allowed to go to schools and colleges and carry on with their education because the world outside is dangerous, harmful and not safe. But then is our ‘Chaadar and Chaar Deewari’ any safer?

But since Mahrukh was the only daughter and the sister of four brothers she had the edge of being listened to; so, she convinced her family not to marry her off till she gets into the medical school. She was brilliant enough to pass the entrance exam in the first go and got into the med school. After the first professional exam of her MBBS degree she was finally married to her first cousin.

As both were cousins and grew up playing together she had an idea about him being a little aggressive and hot-headed but she certainly didn’t expect her marital life to be a challenge for her because of his aggression.

She started observing his mood swings in the first few weeks of their marriage but every time he came and apologised for scolding her. The first real shock that came to her a couple of months later was when her husband ordered her; yes he ordered and commanded her to quit her prestigious medical school.

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She had betrayed him; how come she is bearing him a girl? He – the childhood friend of the young girl, now her husband- started beating her; he started throwing everything at her – whatever was in his reach, in the way of his rage. Rage makes you mad, insensitive; he never realized that she was bleeding profusely.

Mahrukh should have left him, but instead she quit the medical school. Her parents protested and asked her the reasons; she created many but none was satisfactory so she told the truth. Her father and her brothers then called a ‘jirga’ to find a solution to this problem. So “Jirgas” are not only for awarding punishments for death and rape but for settling these kinds of disputes too. But even this did not help; her husband – her childhood friend and cousin -now said in the jirga that he doesn’t trust her so she cannot study with other boys if she wants to live with him as his wife.

Maybe this was the time that Mahrukh should have left him, and took care of her life. But this was Pakistan, and Pashtun culture so she had no choice but to end her education there to save her marriage. Is this called a relationship of dependence? She was not poor, her parents were reasonably well off, but then I guess culture matters.

After a few months, Mahrukh was expecting their first child. During her ultrasound her husband asked the technician to tell them the gender of their baby; he told them it was a girl.

its been almost 10 years since then but she still hasn’t managed to get over the trauma. She lost everything that she loved: her child, her dream of becoming a doctor, her marriage and her confidence.

This was it, the minute they entered the home he went into an uncontrolled rage. She had betrayed him; how come she is bearing him a girl? He – the childhood friend of the young girl, now her husband- started beating her; he started throwing everything at her – whatever was in his reach, in the way of his rage. Rage makes you mad, insensitive; he never realized that she was bleeding profusely.

In her painful condition, she begged him to take her to the hospital but he didn’t. After sometime she lost consciousness; he left her and disappeared. After a few hours, her husband’s brother and his wife came back home and rushed Mahrukh to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a placental rupture; her baby had died due to loss of oxygen.

When Mahrukh regained consciousness, she came back to her parents’ house. Maybe she needed to do this long time ago.

A few days later her husband came to take her, she refused to go with him and he divorced her then and there. Mahrukh’s one nightmare was over but it left such strong scars on her mind that she is in her 29th year now and its been almost 10 years since then but she still hasn’t managed to get over the trauma. She lost everything that she loved: her child, her dream of becoming a doctor, her marriage and her confidence. She can’t muster the courage to talk or even go places just because she fears that she might be asked about that ill-fated ‘episode’ and she wont be able to talk about it.

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according to HRCP, almost 40,000 women committed suicide since 2004 for various reasons, but life accidents and marital tragedies do play a major part.

As I grasped and absorbed her story – not from her, from all our old mutual friends – I wondered if our society will understand that girls shouldn’t be forced into marriages or shouldn’t get married just for the sake of getting married but should wait for the time when they have stood up on their feet, when they feel that they are ready to get married and they have come across the man that will love them and respect them.

Such men will beat you, leave you bleeding and bruised and will come back later saying: sorry. The more you’ll stay in such a relationship, the more it will destroy your self esteem.

According to White Ribbon Pakistan, 1,843 cases of domestic violence against women have been reported by Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) from 2004 to 2016. Almost five thousand women faced sexual violence in the same time period. And according to HRCP, almost 40,000 women committed suicide since 2004 for various reasons, but life accidents and marital tragedies do play a major part.

Domestic violence against women takes different forms: Acid attack, amputation, beating, shaving head, shooting, setting on fire, forced into sex (marital rape) and beating her children in front of her.

 


Girls in Pakistan, need to understand that if they are being a victim of any sort of domestic violence then they don’t have to give him unlimited chances. Because such violence is never ever a one time thing; incidents generally would get more recurrent and acute over time. Such men will beat you, leave you bleeding and bruised and will come back later saying: sorry. The more you’ll stay in such a relationship, the more it will destroy your self esteem.

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Irony upon irony is that if a victim of any such violence speaks up, she becomes the object for others to point fingers at her. It starts to appear as is she is worthless to the society. All the more reason to leave; suffering Mahrukh’s fate is like: rape unreported.

What women deserve?

Women deserve to
be free to live their life with respect and dignity
be free to completely control their life
be free to make decisions and choices about their life
enjoy equal opportunity for education
enjoy equal rights for social justice
enjoy equal social status in the society

What can be done?

Serious efforts should be made to change the mindset of men who believe “God has given them the right to give a woman a little thrashing”.

There is a famous African proverb attributed to a Ghanian scholar and one of the greatest educators Dr. James Emmanuel. He said, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).”

Perhaps domestic violence can be cured only when women come forward and feel the pain of another woman. Mothers should educate their sons to love and respect other women; their wives.

Shiffa Yousafzai is a free lance journalist; she just completed her Masters in Multi-media journalism from Manchester Metropolitan University.Twitter: Shiffa_ZY

"Shiffa Yousafzai is a freelance writer; She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. She had been vice-president Air University Cultural Society; She is a singer and has performed in cultural events. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on facebook @Shiffa Z. Yousafzai."

1 COMMENT

  1. If you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. There are many of mahrukh cases in our society. Which cannot be controlled unless educating the woman.

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