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Fearing the ‘weak’


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Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

This is the woman whom you have been trying to keep hidden behind seven veils. You glance at her just once and you are “seduced” by her and start reciting couplets; the mere sight of a woman is enough to endanger your faith. You avert your gaze and start babbling incoherently. You think she is the weak one here, the softer, fairer sex but not once do you spare a thought for your own weakness. You hide your own fear by forcing her to fear you.

You have invented numerous excuses to hide your fear of women. Sometimes, it is ghairat, sometimes rituals and traditions. Sometimes, you even erect a wall of religion as an excuse to hide your own insecurities. If these excuses don’t work, then you use niqab, chador, bangles and jewellery but never will you try to perceive women on an equal level. All you see of us is our body; you only look at us through circles, circles that have trapped you. How can you see anyone’s soul, when you yourself don’t have one?

I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and a wife; you and I are bound in so many ways. You are always ready to make me your lover but always refuse to give me the status of a friend. Whenever the question of equality comes up, you back off. You go and make friends outside the home but I, who am your home, must only be expected to look after a house. I wait for your return, cook your meals, look after your children but I know, I can never be your friend.

What does it matter if you allowed me to go and work to help you with the household expenses? I still have no right over my own income. Whether I work outside of home or within it, the power of making a decision remains in your hands. All working women set about to earn a living from early morning to late night, without a break. The housework that they do isn’t accounted for in any manner. The women who work outside the home, at a big post or small, clerk or officer, may be even head of their department, return home at the end of the day to obey you, the head of the house.

What does it matter if you educate your daughter in one of the elite schools in the city or send her abroad to obtain a degree from a foreign university? She must still marry according to your wishes. Not marry someone who matches her mentality, her intellect but someone who you might not even like but just as long as he comes from an affluent family, and has a high status in our society. A potential groom for your daughter must not have a status lower than your own, and must match you in terms of respect too. At least, he will give your daughter all the comfort and luxury of life, even if he cannot provide your daughter with happiness.

You insist on alone having the right to think because you think I do not possess the ability to think for myself or for our home. If I do make the mistake of doing either of the two, you will call in the jirgas, panchayats to judge me in. Even the neighbours hold the right to pass judgments on me.

Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

What does a woman have to do with education? These schools are just there to teach “immoral activities” and are a Western conspiracy against us. A woman’s place is at home. Even if we provide her with the best education, she will eventually end up looking after the house anyway. There are such parents who provide their daughter with a professional degree thinking that will get her an equally or more educated husband and that she will live a prosperous life. They don’t think once about the fact that her professional degree would be wasted as she spends the rest of her life bringing up children, and attempting to please her husband.

It never matters how much fame a woman earns because of her talents, no matter how successful she is, no matter how high a post she achieves in her career. All of it can be destroyed in a single moment by a single allegation on her character. It can compel her to stay home. You, however, may have hundreds and thousands of charges against you but the society is still going to meet you, bowing in respect. The fact that you have charges against you will only serve to increase your prestige. Not to mention, how you use those charges against you to get political leverage. It just keeps getting easier for you, doesn’t it?

How can the laws for women be passed when the lawmakers themselves don’t agree with them?  Numerous bills for women keep getting submitted but all of them end up pending. But if there is a law that ensures that your system of give and take flows as smoothly as ever, then that law will be passed immediately. Even our female prime minister could not change the laws against women. Now the country is ruled by men anyway.

Women can continue to protest in the national and provincial assemblies but the majority is yours, isn’t it? Women hired by political parties are either just there for show or they have been hired to further hire herds of women for their party’s rallies just to take photographs. Someone should ask that leader, the self-proclaimed champion of women’s rights, how many women does he allow to sit with him during important decision-making meetings for the party.

Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

You have released an army of sons who roam the streets and neighbourhoods, waving weapons and sticks, wreaking havoc in the city. But it is your daughters who continue to maintain the peace in your home; the same daughters who are also working in offices simultaneously. They are ahead of your sons in education. They are well-versed with the modern world and also have been gifted with the ability to think by God. You can do whatever you want to keep us away from schools, enshroud us in hijabs and niqabs, pollute our thinking with obsolete ideas but you cannot prevent the light of the new age from reaching us.

This net that you have sewn from the threads of ghairat and religion, you use it to trap me like a fish. It cannot prevent the infiltration of thinking, understanding and believing. Don’t forget that every home has a mother, a mother who wants to see her daughter educated.

Have you ever been to a university? You will see women everywhere on the campus. Seventy to 80 per cent of the women are studying and are at the forefront in every competition. Forget the big universities in the big cities. Why don’t you take a walk around the Gujrat University campus, notice how the daughters come from far-away villages, changing various buses to reach the university everyday. Your offices cannot function without a woman anymore. That is because she alone knows how to work hard with affability. She has no interest at all in all the fighting and riots.

Best you teach your sons to respect their sisters, and educate them. If you don’t, the rising demographic ratio is going produce educated daughters with no sons to match them. Educate them so they are not pitted against each other; one putting your house on fire, the other dousing it.


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

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Author Image
The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (74) Closed

Oct 04, 2012 05:32pm
Wow! What a timely share Cyrus. Thanks a lot. Thumbs up to the writer too for penning down such a thought-provoking piece.
Oct 05, 2012 03:05pm
Thank you for writing, indeed it speaks volumes of burden womenfolk bear in this patriarchal society
Oct 04, 2012 11:45am
What a great article. I'm keeping this one for a while
Oct 05, 2012 10:00am
nicely quoted, its aka hypocrisy at a massive level
Oct 04, 2012 08:29pm
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
Shahid Latif
Oct 04, 2012 12:31pm
Very good article. Its impact will be negligible due to very limited readership. Still, even if it forces one man to stop and see his reflection in the portrait painted by the article, the writer has done his job. Societies evolve. We too are changing. Women will get their rightful status whether enshrined in our religion or bestowed by the western civilization. The struggle is tough.It is a matter of time.
Oct 05, 2012 01:55pm
Initial 1/4th portion was worthy enough,remaining 3/4th was totally absurd.
Oct 05, 2012 07:27am
Maybe the best thing I've ever read in the Dawn!
Oct 04, 2012 12:33pm
Wonderful take on male hypocrites. Men who suppress women are no real men.................they are just insecure creatures............who use religion as a tool to suppress them as they cannot use logic and education for the same....
A Rehman Chaudhry
Oct 05, 2012 09:50am
worth reading
Oct 05, 2012 09:23am
Oct 05, 2012 09:24am
nicely put .. but i must say i dont agree with half the things there .. but all in all a nice article .
Oct 05, 2012 02:08am
Chandra, Indian woman has more say in every matter, inside or outside the boundaries of her home. Indian woman is more confident and more assertive and knows her rights. You will find more people in the temple of Godesses. The sriptures have given more importance to females than males.
Sachal Lakhwani
Oct 05, 2012 01:22am
Too good, I have used it for my twitter and facebook. Very well written.
Oct 05, 2012 05:17am
An amazing article... Full of depth... It really highlights the facts that are all around us but seldom given attention...
Oct 04, 2012 12:15pm
True depiction...
Oct 04, 2012 11:01pm
If there is one thing the men of our country stand united for, it is suppressing women. It is quite convenient how religion always comes to the men's rescue everytime a woman tries to voice her concerns against this injustice. It's ok to lie, cheat and kill very casually but when it comes to 'protecting' women, we love sticking to the morals taught to us by our religion and our elders.
Oct 05, 2012 04:14am
Yes, it will. Provided, we, the inspired one, also do our job to propagate the message with conviction.
Oct 06, 2012 02:38am
For us Muslims it s much easier to cover the object of our gaze from head to foot than to educate our eyes to look at women as equals - and at par with us - as human beings.
Oct 05, 2012 07:18pm
TRUTHFUL TO THE POINT OF HURT. Fascinating. My respects to the author.
Oct 06, 2012 08:14am
for a while it seemed Mr. Khuda Bux is leading a women's rally for their rights & freedom. To some extent I agree with the author but when i sum up the whole episode, I feel like author could not differentiate in manner of culture & religion.
Oct 05, 2012 10:34pm
excuse me!!! and what is wrong with hijab? In US, I can be an engineer and mother, and wear hijab. Why is it YOU can't give me that right?
Oct 05, 2012 10:36pm
what a sad thing to say. You don't get it do you?
Oct 05, 2012 10:02am
very wel said ... in longer run, the power of women is always more than men, even endurance.
Oct 05, 2012 09:58am
nice choice of words for the populous majority 'women' ... "mothers make the generations, not men, whatever is the environment" ... Men no doubt have more responsibility for their own naqaabs of eyes and depth of gentle character. ... but its the women of our surroundings at a mass level, who are incapable, receptive and ignitor of all the butchery / savagery / fanaticism, when they are mothers and wives, and party to all the evil with the men ... in most cases it all starts with the wants of women, but no doubt again, men cannot deny the righteousness they must possess. ... women can in longer run, by their various types of favors/advantages for men, guide the environment out towards maturity and humanity ...
Oct 05, 2012 03:34pm
I take pride in being a mother ,but the point being is ,do you ever get a word of appreciation or a pat on your back for doing a 24/7 job,Why do women have to listen the burden of bills .and @Ciao If any women is going evil no burka or parda can stop her .
Oct 05, 2012 03:52am
Women have to fight to get their rights. No one is going to give it to them if they keep hiding behind niqabs and hijabs.
Tahira, USA
Oct 04, 2012 03:55pm
How very true and sad. Women should also learn Judo and karate besides college education because when man finds her more intelligent and reasonable than himself, he raises his hands to prove his physical superiority. My friend tells me that when she gives her opinion on any matter, the husband says, "so now you are going to teach me". I am sure he finds her opinion better than his own as his response clearly shows. My regret is that your article applies very truly to Pakistani muslim men. They were advised to love, respect and care for their women folk and instead they disobey their prophet daily. This should be treated as blasphemy.
Oct 04, 2012 07:07pm
Beautifully written.
Sikander Abbas
Oct 04, 2012 06:55pm
rightly said Urawal. A very well written article.
Oct 04, 2012 03:23pm
It's aweful to see Muslim women fully covered from head to toe like ghosts walking in the Western supermarkets and their shameless men dressed in western dress code, where there is complete individual freedom of choice. I think even the Prophet's wife or nine daughters didn't dress like this. They have taken their Religion many notches further than is required of them. Why would they invent things like that. They have forgotton nothing and learnt nothing. It's so sad.
Oct 05, 2012 05:45am
wow, what an article..respect!
Oct 05, 2012 05:25am
very true facts ..... men always supress women in all fields whether it is educational field , professional field or even in family . .... well done writer
Oct 05, 2012 07:14am
Men are not to be blamed. Countless women have said Niqab is their garment of choice. It is naive to think orthodoxy in a society is sustained by men alone. Women play a massive part. It is not plausible that the women in a society are liberated and the society is sinking deeper into fanaticism. Women may go to colleges and work all but beneath all that is a rigid , unquestioning mind. If high education could not change the mind of men, why will it change the mind of women? Professional degree will be wasted if you look after children? Then who will look after children? Will the man's degree not be wasted?
Sue Sturgess
Oct 04, 2012 01:27pm
Whether male or female ... no-one has power over you, unless you give it to them!
Sandeep SIngh
Oct 04, 2012 06:53pm
it is
Oct 04, 2012 02:36pm
What an amazing article. Wish it could be translated into other languages.
s p malhotra
Oct 05, 2012 08:03am
very nice & thought provoking article
Oct 04, 2012 03:27pm
Not just a song. It is structured on a Bible command. And Pauls instructions. Also Timothy.
A Shah
Oct 05, 2012 09:33am
Wow what a powerful piece of writing. I wish every muslim reads this. We all need a hard slap to wake us up from our slumber!
Oct 04, 2012 09:44pm
Change will come, if slowly. This goes for all of us. I can read this text, form a far away country, and know: We share the same sky. Now, we are sisters. Now, I know you are there. Now, I cannot forget anymore.
Oct 04, 2012 09:07am
well written.
Oct 04, 2012 01:22pm
Why is this only in Muslim countries
Agha Ata (USA)
Oct 04, 2012 01:57pm
Chandra Babu, are Indian men different or are Indian women different?
Barkha Tunio
Oct 04, 2012 10:25am
very wel said. thumbs up.
Oct 04, 2012 11:29pm
Great Effort... !!!!
Oct 05, 2012 12:17pm
Men have rights over women bestowed by Allah himself Surah AN-NISA
Oct 05, 2012 10:30am
'They don
Oct 04, 2012 07:36pm
Fantastic article! It is about time someone spoke up about the hypocrisy of men. I hope this article spreads far and wide, and has an impact on our society.
Oct 04, 2012 03:36pm
This song depicts Lord knows when but now this song is irrelevent in England. The society have moved on and so should you. LOL.
Oct 05, 2012 12:16pm
great article - i though such articles about freedom for women can never be published in pak. i agree with the contents , why women needs to be covered from head to toe if men see them as sex object , it's men's weakness of not able to control their sexual urge. It's high time pakistan should liberate its women, also they should know that many pak women still do love marriages and have extra marital affairs inspite of all the restrictions.
Punjabi Jatt
Oct 05, 2012 08:16am
Brilliant.You have exposed the absolute root cause of the ailment that affects so many men in South Asia and the middle east. Pleasantly surprised that this newspaper has allowed this article to be printed because i always thought the Pakistani media well and truly always had its blinkers on. 'Dawn' has again surprised many of its western readers. Salute!
Hameed younes
Oct 05, 2012 08:29am
the best I have read on Dawn.....
Oct 05, 2012 04:45pm
All true and well said, here what needs to be added to the discussion...real change will not come until the parents, and particularly mothers, in our culture raiser their sons differently. Typically sons are given preference over daughthers (larki to paray ghar ki ho jai gi), sons grow up to be mama's boys, the first lesson they get after marriage, us ko apne par bhari na honay dena...dabaa kar can true respect, love, compassion, and friendship develop if entire psche through early years of a man's life is built on these concepts. God bless my a hard working school teacher and principal she always emphasized the respect of a female heart and understand the experiental strength of a female intellect...she made me take equal part in house chores along with sister to establish equality of genders...God bless my sister who always gave me contextual evidence of what men should not do...and God bless my wife who is kind enough to find the strength to show me how I can be a better husband... As the Prophet (SAW) said, the best among you are the ones best to their wives (of course he meant one :) and I am best to mine....We Muslims are great in impersonating the prophets with our long beards and unchi shalwaar, but we just don't understand what it will take personify his character....
Raoul Ciao
Oct 05, 2012 08:37am
Khuda Bux Abro sends down a set of unending googlies in para after para, challenging my conventional thinking of what I, as Man, am supposed to believe, about women, who i am supposed to "protect" for my own family honour etc, but who i cannot fraternise with as it is against....whatever. Mind boggling, rather unsettling thoughts. Why does she challenge the status quo? Are men wrong to enact these barriers to women's growth? isn't it said by our pure preacherhood that women are to be protected from evil and this covering up is supposed to help the weaker sex ensure Iam not tempted???
Oct 04, 2012 05:37pm
Best in the Indian subcontinent that I have come across for a while. Very well written.
Oct 05, 2012 08:39am
A simple-written, to the point and a thought provoking article from Khuda Bux Abro. Thanks
Cyrus Howell
Oct 04, 2012 11:08am
"I'm just a poor girl whose fortune is sad, I am to be married to the wagoner's lad, controlled by my father until I'm a wife and a slave to my husband the rest of my life." (English Folk Song)
Oct 05, 2012 05:08pm
I think dawn is more surpirzing its foreigner readers than representing pakistan's population. I dont do nikab or hijab but have no understanding as to how these two stop anyone from doing anything in their life. If one wants to give anyone the status of being equal it should be by accepting others religious and clutural identities. If people are so worried about women right go and make some policies for thousands of poorest women working in any brick bhatta. Is taking their dopatta off going to give them more salary. Extent of the problem is unknows to many writer. Poverty has no religion or shame. Its the fight between life and death.
Pankaj Patel(USA)
Oct 04, 2012 03:15pm
Excelant article.How hypocrites we are? This applies to India too.
Chandra Babu
Oct 04, 2012 10:10am
Wish somebody in India had written this article. Thank you .
Oct 05, 2012 08:55am
Good and thought provoking column, a reality check on society at large. Possibly the world would have been a far more peaceful planet had it been ruled by WOMEN.
Oct 04, 2012 05:17pm
Any culture, society or household where women are marginalized can never progress, materially or spiritually.
Oct 05, 2012 06:52pm
You just proved the author's point. You are the male in her story. And just FYI I am a mother. I am an engineer. I wear hijab. I expect my daughter to wear hijab when she grows up. I go to work 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. My daughter is in school 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. My husband goes to work at 6:00 am, and picks her up from school. I am productive at work and love my job, and providing a good future for my child and being a good role model for her. See how well it works out when men don't put their ego above their family. Of course, I live in the US. And allow me to say, I have seen very few stay at home Pakistani mothers, who don't spend the day on facebook, or phone, or watching every desi soap opera, or at the mall. Sure not all are like that, but a lot are. one thing is a fact. A woman's proffesion is not a waste. Those who feel a mind is okay to waste are truly lost.
Oct 05, 2012 07:12pm
and women have rights over men, bestowed by Allah Himself in Sura An-Nisa. Allah swt is JUST. The reason why men have twice the rights is because they have four times the responsibilities at home. Women's responsibilities towards men were only two, and even those can be negotiated at the time of Nikah. But cleaning the home, cooking food, even breastfeeding was NOT her duty. It was the man's job to provide a well-maintained home for the wife, and his job to be the primary care taker and guardian of the child, which no father absent from home for 8-10 hours can be. The way things are in the 21st century, a woman can start a lucrative buisness from home, but still the primary home maker and care taker of the children, tasked with dropping and picking kids from school, doing grocery, cooking food, cleaning the house, taking kids for their extra -curricular activities, taking care of their doctor's visits, and so on, and Men really absent for much of the day. Women's responsibilities have quadrupled, and men's responsibilities have pretty much diminished to only making the money. Without the women, the home cannot function. So in all fairness, men are just not entitled to the rights, and shouldn't even demand it, if they are not shouldering most of the duties for running a smooth home.
Oct 04, 2012 09:35am
should be an eye opener for many in subcontinent....but will anyone change, is a big question ?
Oct 05, 2012 08:22pm
I take pride in being a mother ,but the point being is ,do you ever get a word of appreciation or a pat on your back for doing a 24/7 job,Why do women have to listen the burden of bills .and @Ciao If any women is going evil no burka or parda can stop her
Oct 05, 2012 05:30pm
Oct 05, 2012 09:38pm
estranged thoughts of tyhe writer mixing culture,politics and religion and every now and then blaming in implied way the Hijab for all what is happening in pakistan with women.howcome writer is lumping all in one,this is unclear crazy way of looking at the way what is the percentage of women in US congress and senate,for sure less than pakistan parliment so what is the writer point.There are problems in every society(east or west) when it comes to women and different approaches are taken to look at these in every society-right or wrong .so the question is which is the best system to undo current plight of women all over the world.Is it the western system which provide the panecea ,lets do a survey of all western women and find out and same thing can be done in eastern societies and then if the survey favors one over the other then we should apply that everywhere to improve women condition and status and if survey shows that both systems are flawed and are not doing good then we must come with a balanced system which should be based on scientific,biological,psycological and social facts and concrete proven evidence but the question is havenot the human societies have been attempting this for a long time as the history shows and have we human has ever succeeded in forming a just and balanced(NOT equal) system so far .If we have then we must take the salient features of that practiced and tested system but if we have never such a system existed then I must say humans are incapable of devising such a system due to their inherent weaknesses then where we have to look for such a system
Oct 06, 2012 02:46am
"i thought such articles about freedom for women can never be published in pak." It is more of a reflection on your lack of information about Pakistani journalism than the real situation in Pakistan. Pakistani press is freer and openly more self-questioning than the Indian press.
Oct 05, 2012 09:50pm
right FZ,I donot know why upbringing children is considered a stigma by the writer if so then blame nature that give uterus to woman,why not upbringing children should be given the highest status as a profession.Amazingly when these kids are taken care of in Daycares by women ,writer has no objection but writer object if it is done at home by the same women.this is the paradox and hypocracy in our writers like folk since they ignore the natural way.They donot raise voice why all female animals usually take care of their offspring
Oct 05, 2012 10:03pm
well said Bosh,one has to waste his/her degree because degree is considered by the writer superior to everyother thing,It is not degree which makes you a human it is education and once women are educated then what ever they do will be effective particularly up bringing of child which is more natural to women than men if writer knows biological facts
Kabeer das
Oct 06, 2012 05:27am
Mr. Manoj you should not be sarcastic about other people's religion. Are you trying to say that when so many people follow a certain practice, they have never thought about it. And what is wrong if people let God think for them. Faith should never be questioned.
Oct 04, 2012 03:53pm
Kudos, This is an excellent piece of effort in favour of women. They deserve the equal rights and this concept is so emphasized in our religion but we tend to read some thing else.