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Not in the name of God

Published Apr 13, 2012 09:03pm


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“WHAT would you do if your wife arrived home at four in the morning and you didn’t even know where she had been?” boomed Senator Dr Ismail Buledi, the JUI-F senator.

He was part of a TV discussion on the domestic violence bill (DVB) and was expressing opposition to the proposed legislation on the grounds that it would promote ‘western-style freedoms’, was un-Islamic and would lead to the dismantling of ‘our family structures and values’.

If his contention hadn’t been so sad, it would have been laughable. Doesn’t he know that if your spouse (man or woman) arrives home at four in the morning and you haven’t the foggiest where they have been and why, your relationship may well be over anyway and is best terminated?

No, the good doctor would rather take a whip to the wife and reform/cure her of her disappearance disease and still want to own her even if every inch of her skin is broken and her whole body represents different shades of black and blue.

One only need google the senator’s name to find out what constitutes Islamic for him with suggestions that the doctor has a deep interest in not only the disappearance disease of spouses but also in duty-free diesel, dare one say in itself a disease rampant in the JUI-F hierarchy.

No. I am not being facetious about an issue so grave. Dr Buledi, like all good JUI-F leaders and legislators, is a man of God no doubt who doesn’t tire of saying Islam accords a special status, rights and dignity to women witnessed nowhere else.

So, the senator must be in the company whose ranks at last count stood at many, many million strong. Yes, the ranks where all of us have figured either permanently or temporarily at one point or the other: male chauvinists well-endowed with hypocrisy.

All the ‘family structure, values’ and of course religion that are thrown at our activists, bulk of them women, battling biases of Himalayan proportions, in order to seek an existence rooted in equality are no more than an attempt to maintain the status quo.

A status quo where we are free to treat half of humankind at the best of times as a coveted object of beauty and in most other cases as mere property to be used, abused at will.

Tell me, what is acid-throwing symptomatic of if not such a mindset: if I cannot own a woman, no one else will as I will disfigure her, mutilate her, leave her good for no one else. Sick. Very sick indeed. We all condemn acid-throwing, don’t we?

I am sure so does the good senator and most of his ilk, as was evidenced in a recently passed law. But he has a different view about ‘disciplining a spouse gone astray’, and would think nothing of prescribing the raising of a hand, of administering a good beating to a wife, in order to make her fall in line.

It isn’t about religion, it isn’t about family structures, it isn’t about our values vis-à-vis western-style freedoms. It’s about ownership. It is about the vilest and most archaic notion of a woman’s place in our midst.

So, what’s new in all this? Haven’t we seen a raft of legislation in the country through the late 1970s and 1980s consigning women to a secondary status? And all this justified, as we do with most of our base instincts, in the name of religion and God.

But, yes, wouldn’t one argue, the 1980s mainly belonged to a dictator who pursued an obscurantist agenda with a zeal that would put to shame the enthusiasm of most men of cloth whatever their denomination.

Now, we have a democracy. We have a governing party whose leadership remained twice in the hands of women. One of them became the prime minister twice after having waged a relentless struggle against dictatorship and then offered the supreme sacrifice. We have an opposition party which was led so ably, literally electrified, by a woman when the male leadership was incarcerated and unable to lead the defiance against another dictator. We have women ministers, ambassadors, editors, surgeons, lawyers.

In brief, excelling in every field they choose to enter; competing successfully against men at every step, despite a playing field that is so not level for them. But at the same time we have women killed everyday for merely wanting to marry a man of their choice.

Everyday, we have dozens of women raped and I am not even counting marital rape here because then the number would be infinitely higher. We are known to bury women alive to ‘protect our values, family structures’ and to prevent our society embracing ‘western-style freedoms’.

Suffice it to say that those who feel the West guarantees freedom, equality to women and protection against domestic abuse are sadly mistaken. For, no matter, what the law of the land stipulates, men will be men.

A recent study claimed that among women who suffer domestic abuse in the US, the spouses of policemen constituted a higher proportion simply because the cops responding to emergency calls and investigating such cases seldom went against their fellow male colleagues, encouraging them.

However, legislation does exist and is relied upon to penalise offenders. In our case, if the opposition to the domestic violence bill (and this isn’t to say the draft may be perfect and may not need to be improved) assumes a God vs godless form, its passage is unlikely. The dictator may have died, his ideology thrives.

In such an event, what options for example will we, as parents of two lovely daughters, be left with. Organise self-defence lessons for them so they can break the raised hand of a man if ever confronted with it. Maybe we will.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.


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Abbas Nasir is a former editor of Dawn.

He tweets @abbasnasir59.

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

Comments (20) Closed

Sadia Humayun Apr 17, 2012 10:53pm
Brilliant article, as always!! Thought-provoking and sensitive.
Cyrus Howell Apr 14, 2012 09:34am
My friend, I suggest your daughters be taught the Japanese martial art of Jujitsu. They would subdue and embarrass their husbands with it. The Eve teasers would wish they never had put their broken hands on them.
ali Apr 14, 2012 09:43am
Women need to stand up for their rights. No one is going to give it to them. I guess there is no free lunch.
Isma Haider Apr 16, 2012 05:57pm
Thought provoking and excellently written article.
Hamza Balouch(@H_Bal Apr 14, 2012 12:25pm
JUIF was the part of that committee... am I wrong? They were discussing that bill,procedure was happening democratically, and that procedure went to wrong because of those "women" who did not belong to that committee. Strange, rather than blaming Non-democratic forces, writer blaming JUIF. People always mis quote sentences and situation for their purposes, Writter also did the same!
khaled Apr 14, 2012 01:11pm
Very well analysed, when are we going to wake up, are sixty four years not more than enough.
S.Murthy Apr 14, 2012 01:12pm
In the South Asian countries, to some extent, and in Pakistan, to a great extent, there is a strong belief that women should be subservient to men. Until this basic attitude changes equality and respect for women in civil society can only be a dream. The only way to achieve equality for women in society is by giving modern education to children so that they will learn to think for themselves leading to disirable changes in the next generation. It will take a long time in a county like Pakistan to achieve this goal.
Zambrotta Pendragon Apr 14, 2012 01:57pm
excellent !
Ahmed Apr 14, 2012 03:00pm
Anyone who thinks we can do away with social evil or bring about social change by the simple passage of a law is living in a fool's paradise. A legislative action to outlaw domestic violence will not achieve anything. The only solution to change people's conduct and behaviour is to educate and convince them of it. Till that time, this practice will go on, as will the rhetoric of our religio-political elements identified above, to the effect that islam accorded special status to women and restored their honour.
Amin Mughal ???? Apr 14, 2012 03:03pm
fahad. Apr 14, 2012 04:13pm
raika45 Apr 14, 2012 07:01pm
When you use your religion according to your perverted mullahs yardstick, you will never wake up.
aqabdulaziz Apr 14, 2012 08:35pm
Even in a very liberal Western society, if a woman comes home at 4, and you haven't the faintest idea where she went, it is over baby. If you were such a god-loving, god-fearing, fair-minded, justice-loving, honorable man, she would cherish every bit of you and she would never leave you. These mullahs and their fans in pakistan are so out of this world.
Fazil Apr 14, 2012 11:17pm
Of course legislation alone is not enough; it has to be accompanied by massive education drive to change the barbaric behaviour. But for education to work without the support of an appropriate legislation, we may have to wait for another century!
Chaigram Apr 14, 2012 11:41pm
Beautifully analyzed Nasir sahib. It is amazing to see that this good Doctor is ignorant and unable to comprehend how this world functions. I would like to see where he obtained his doctrate. The civilized world has moved so far ahead but Pakistani (muslims) still living in a bubble! Thank you for your This well written article.
Razia Sultana Junejo Apr 15, 2012 03:09am
Bill should be passed because this will be beginning to change the mind-set.
samina ibrahim Apr 15, 2012 05:01am
great always!
Sameena Khaliq, Srin Apr 15, 2012 07:07am
The author's write ups are generally thought provoking, and I respect his views most of the times. But I think here his views reflect confusion, and even lack of knowledge - a hallmark of the myopic western liberal discourse on women's rights. I think we need to be clear that some cultural practices related to women in Pakistan, most of South Asia, Africa, China and many other countries (even in the west) have nothing to do with religion. If the author thinks that the western style freedoms would make Pakistani women's lives better, he must improve his knowledge. He must listen to people like Myriam Francois-Cerrah - British actress who embraced Islam in 2011 and articulates how she sees Islam as liberating for women. He should read "Two-Income Trap" by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, an empirical articulation about why jobs and more income do not necessarily lead to a better quality life for women. If western style freedoms were a panacea for women's liberation then US would not be home to the largest number of women prisoners in the world. Guardian reported on 16 Jan, 2012 that around 90 percent of Britain's top companies have no women bosses, according to a parliament report. What does that mean? It is true we need to rein in the religious leaders who use religion to maintain the male chauvinistic supremacy which is irresponsible and ugly, and also those who mix cultural practices and criminal acts like acid throwing with religion. And let us don't forget what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had to say to humanity in his Final Sermon: "O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste." And what does Bible say about it: "Because of God's curse, serpents have to crawl and eat dust, women have to suffer in childbirth, and men have to sweat for a living."
shaur Apr 18, 2012 03:16am
all I hear is there is wrong in the bill, why not be clear and what is wrong in the bill.
Humanist Jul 28, 2012 02:32pm
Whatever be the circumstances, domestic violence remains a barbaric unjustifiable act ...