“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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