The soft whisper of morning was broken by her first cry. And in the adventus hour of wakefulness which follows birth she directed her gaze toward the voice which she had come to recognize as that of her mother. The womb had revealed her treasure and now one woman looked up, while another, fixed her gaze downward. Their eyes met and comfort flowed between them.
Beloved by her father, part of a large family, the woman was allowed to experience a measure of free will. Entering young adulthood she chose to teach in a village school. When a marriage proposal was forthcoming, she lived up to her family name: Sadaqat. The truth is that she sincerely was not ready for marriage. So the response from her father was a firm “no”. Months passed and one season beckoned to the next. Generation continued to call out to generation. Life seemed calm and full of promise.
The shadows tangled along the road when the men came for her. Toting the petrol along with their fists tightly clenched, they set out to teach the woman a lesson. Brute force with the cunning of a lynx approached the home. The men knew she was alone, caring for a much younger sister whilst her family attended a funeral. Faces more prideful than Nanga Parbut, a deep sense of dishonor by the father of the jilted suitor had built into glacial acidic acid.
The woman could not put up much of a fight because she was outnumbered. Bullies always run in packs. But as she doubled over in pain she instinctively reached to protect that area where future treasure awaited her own life. Woman. Thy name is called Woman.
Her nostrils picked up the scent of the petrol and as the patterns of fire cast shadows upon the wall, her fingers fanned out like a moth beating against the flame. The excruciating pain finally gave way to welcome darkness. She found herself drifting, drifting, moving away from the voices; away from the torture toward obsidian blackness. Thy name is Woman: vulnerable, dependent upon Mercy for the seasons of thy life and travail.
She found herself seated on a chair and being carried along a rutted path when a familiar sound brought her back into consciousness. It was the sound which she had heard as her mother labored to bring her to birth. The woman listened as her mother cried. It was a mighty heaving torn from the breast and catapulted into the sky. At first, she was unsure regarding the immense outpouring of grief. And then she remembered. She blocked the images scattered around the edges of her emerging consciousness. They cut, like shattered glass.
Woman. The tears on her own face were now wet with the memories of her life. She was woman: unique, beloved by God, but cursed by a land called Pakistan. She was woman. And she knew that she was dying. Hands already gnarled like the branches of a dead tree – she was unable to wipe the tears from her own eyes.
Sadaqat was laid into the soil from which springs a curse. In Pakistan, it remains a curse to be born a woman. Let’s take a moment and view a few statistics:
Violence Against Women (Islamic Republic of Pakistan)
2015: Pakistan formally investigated the cases of 76 women set on fire and 1,100 women killed in honor killings. It must be remembered that reported events do not accurately reflect the actual statistical forensic for violence against women.
Ninety percent of Pakistani women endure domestic violence. One in three women suffer extreme acts of violence: rape, acid attacks, honor killings, heaped-upon psychological verbal abuse. Many women do not report out regarding their circumstances for fear of greater reprisals. Those tasked with investigation retain a strong gender bias against women.
Pakistan consistently ranks in the top five – for the most dangerous countries for women.
What are the policy solutions needed to remove a curse from the soil of Pakistan? It seems the initial emphases needs to be on a concerted and sustained effort to educate the men. In the West, a man is deemed a gentleman based on his treatment of the woman. A man who hits a woman, denigrates a woman in public, or seeks to bully into submission is labeled a bastard. We have our bastards too. But the difference is that we do not tolerate them. We remove these men from society. They spend their days languishing in jails across the U.S.
The sociometric within Pakistani society remains an unhealthy choice which places the needs of the man above the needs of his counterpart. The fluid generational transfer of a corrosive pattern of thought must be contained. Pakistan has lacked containment policies. There are times within my own home where my husband and I have stood united and said, “This unhealthy family pattern which has been passed down through our generations stops with us. We will not allow this to continue. Our future generations will perform better than our past.”
Policies which lack enforcement are like an old lion without the teeth. Policies must be crafted which marry good governance with practical enforcement. Law becomes Grace when true justice is achieved. When law functions as it should, grace is extended to the aggrieved supplicant. Law without an endpoint of justice is malpractice. It seems the choke point within Pakistani society is the guardians of the public good: your own local police departments. Rapid professional investigations, warrants for arrest, and judicial intervention remain weak.
Blood money for crimes against women must be disavowed. What price can be placed on a woman and her generations? I like to think that we are pretty near darn priceless. We can cost a man all that he possesses and more. But what we give in return cannot be purchased with all of the money in the world. What price, for the love of a woman?
How many more women? I am a woman too. Answer me like a man. Look me in the eye…. for the sake of a woman with the family name of Sadaqat.