Fearing the ‘weak’
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.
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.
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.