Violence Against Women: Breaking Down Walls

Posted on May 8, 2008
Filed Under >Aisha Sarwari, Society, Women
34 Comments
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By Aisha Sarwari

Art by Abro: Violence againat WomenWhat are the odds that I move into a house in the elite F/11 sector of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad and our land lord turns out to be a wife-beater?

1 in 4, according to the United Nations report on gender 2007. Flip it around and the same applies to 25% of all women in this country are said to have faced violence from their male relative, be it a father, brother, uncle, husband or son.

Take this statistic to a new geographical location and nothing changes, the same 1 in 4 of all relatively empowered women of the developed world face domestic violence at some point in their life regardless of race or socio-economic standing. There are two profound differences though, a woman in the west is more mobile and flexible in terms of walking out of a relationship and even moving into a shelter with her kids, and she is more likely to get the abuser to incur some damage, be it financial, social or legal.

This woman in F/11 in a corner house with a beautiful lawn has no such chance. There is no weapon, no upper hand, or moral imperative she holds to his mindless violence. I heard loud noises coming from their house while my family was away, and at first I ignored them, assuming they are arguments with some random person in our side of the driveway. When they grew louder, it was apparent it was a domestic squabble, over some matter, water in the drive way that she should have gotten cleaned up. The mister was making demands, his wife was giving explanations. I reacted by ignoring it. What’s the point?

Art by Abro: Violence againat WomenSoon, I heard the deafening thuds that beg a three act internal dialogue in your head, everything comes back, every character has an opinion and a role in this mind’s eye, while you struggle to decide if you are part or not. Now you’re a part, now you are not. He was hitting her. And that too real hard. I wondered what it was, knuckles, wall, just dragging, a couple of slaps, shoves, punches, or objects. There was also the simple wham that hit right near the eyes where it hurt the most. I kept saying to myself, I just got carpeting, curtains and air conditioning installed. I deserve a mental break, treat yourself, stay out of something you can’t affect.

This man who was now savage was salt and pepper haired. He watered his own garden everyday, Kissed his 3 year old son, was seemingly proper and respectful. His wife and I interacted a couple of times, she came across as sweet and informative, even knowledgeable. One of the first few things she said to me was, that her husband found it rather strange that I was singlehandedly involved with the hired help to construct a fenced wall for the pets and do all the carpeting, and she said, she too believed in doing things herself. Generally positive, definitely practical. In just a day we agreed to share duties of maintaining the gardens and cleaning the driveways.

The same woman was getting battered, so after about 15 minutes of her pleads and the children weeping, I couldn’t take it anymore, and decided to get downstairs, when I did, the impact of it only grew. She was being dragged against my wall. The wall I paid a year in advance to enjoy “peaceful and quiet living” as per the contract. I dwelled on trying to disperse the mulling dog from her by raising this point, I had to do something, I thought when I heard no sound but thuds right after she said, “Aren’t you a doing a great job of being a man, pick on someone weaker than you.” With my heart racing from the familiarity of life’s violence, and the tyranny of all unhealthy relations that my female relatives went though, I walk out expecting to see a scene. He’s dragged her in.

Art by Abro: Violence againat Women

I walk to their main door and knock, but they can’t hear me over the recurring shouts. I knock harder, begging for a distraction. How could this clinically narcissist of a human not care about his new neighbors? I kept yelling out and knocking. When I thought of it, it did seem like something was wrong. Like most abused women she tends to repeat herself for needless clarification, she seemed a bit unsure, yet while she had a polite smile on her lips, her eyes were brave. As if she had to learn to be on the defensive and her hands seemed always prepared, she cupped them in each other.

Finally someone was walking toward the door, I stepped back, ready. She opened it. Her head has blood on the side, her hair was pinched apart. She looked at me as if she got back from a brisk workout. I heard noises and I want to make sure everything is ok, I said, and surprised myself for interfering in another’s household matter, just because I happened to be there. She surprised me by her answer, same old she said, battering. Her honesty made me nod. I said, oh, and walked away. The purpose was served. The momentum was broken.

I read somewhere that the most scary thing about helping is being involved. I would like to think that I worked against my fear and got involved. The probability that a woman’s life is in danger are very high, and my simple knock on the door is not enough. One needs to break these walls and protect these brave women to be truly empowered by being mobile, and by gaining some mutually assured destruction for peace in the household.

(Also by Aisha Sarwari: Being Woman in Pakistan. Also see Silent Against Domestic Violence and Former Wicket-Keeper, Current Wife-Beater. Artwork by Abro from Flickr).

34 responses to “Violence Against Women: Breaking Down Walls”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    Violence against women is a complicated subject.

    It is universal and retains common threads:

    1. It is silently done for it is inside the walls of the house which has a legal history of protection from both state and outsiders.

    2. Against a gender weak in physical strength.

    3. Domestic because it even with and after police / courts intervention, the separation of parties is necessitated because it is the only solution.

    4. Familial because it generally involves children and break up of families is destructive and it carries permanent scars. Motherhood feeling generally gets invoked as she concludes that the price paid may have dividends for the best of the children.

    The post seems to suggest that mobility is the answer. While it has some level of truth to it, it is not the simple answer. The societies with mobility have not been able to resolve domestic violence issues and remains the single most undocumented problem.

    I personally think it has to do with state of mind that respects the weak. A mindset with empathy. A mind examiner of truth and seeker of justice.

    For a mind which is capable of the above is not a mind which will resort to violence to settle a dispute.

    The problem in Pakistan is also compounded by laws that favor power. A judicial system that is incapable of imparting justice because invariably the justice is delayed and thus denied. And a mindset that has its eyes shut on the weak.

    In Pakistan poverty is discussed as object and not as “zulum”. Weak is someone to ignore; they exist over there.

    Women are powerless in Pakistan because they are weak and so too are all the weak in Pakistan.

    I have the audacity of hope that this will change and with urgency of now.

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ShahidnUSA,

    How to free Pakistanis women ? when men are still
    slaves of somebody !!
    Free from what ? please elaborate, so that we camn learn.
    Thanks

  3. Dr. Habib Ashraf says:

    The culture of violence has to be defeated everywhere, and specially against women.

  4. ShahidnUSA says:

    I would like to make it as simple as possible. As long as women are not free in pakistan, pakistan can never and never develop.
    Because woman raise a child, I rest my case. Thank you

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