By: Fazal Khaliq
MINGORA: Two days before Eidul Fitr, 20-year-old Shabnum’s brother came to pick her up from her in-laws’ residence so she could enjoy the festivities at her parents’ home. Shabnam’s husband Gohar Ali refused and said he would take her the next day himself, however, it turned out Eid was hardly festive for the young woman.
“Two days before Eidul Fitr, my brother came to take me home but my husband and in laws did not allow me to go,” she told The Express Tribune. “By nightfall, my in-laws started fighting with me,” she added. “First my husband’s brothers started beating me, then my husband struck my head with an axe.”
The last thing Shabnum could recall before she lost consciousness was her husband chopping at her leg.
When Shabnum came to, two men from the village had shifted her to a hospital and Gohar had fled.
Never a happy beginning
Shabnum was only 13 when she was wedded to Gohar in Mangar Kot, Malam Jabba. “The first year of my marriage was normal but then my husband and in-laws started beating me on a daily basis.” The marriage bore much pain but also three-year-old twin daughters, whom she must care for now. Left with one functional leg, Shabnum knows there’s a hard life ahead of them with her as the primary caregiver.
When the staff at Saidu Teaching Hospital saw her critical condition after her husband took an axe to her, they referred her to medical experts in Peshawar. After examining her mutilated leg, the doctors decided it was in Shabnum’s best interest to amputate it completely.
Even at such a critical juncture, Shabnum’s in-laws did not come forward, not even in a reconciliatory manner, she said. “They didn’t pay for my treatment, my only brother, Amir Shah, who works as a taxi driver paid for it all.” Shabnum said, “I borrowed money from others for first the emergency treatment in Swat and then in Peshawar.”
Her brother told The Express Tribune that throughout the course of her recovery, neither her husband nor anyone in his family even asked if she was okay.
Knocking on justice’s door
Shabnam’s mother who is looking for justice for her daughter said this was not the first time the young woman’s in-laws inflicted violence on her; it was however the most brutal of the abuse.
“Sometime back her husband wanted to strike her with an axe and before he could, she fell down while trying to run from him,” shared Sartaj Begum. “That day we brought her home but after sometime they promised us they would not be violent with my daughter,” Sartaj told The Express Tribune.
“He should have just married another woman…he should not have cut my daughter’s leg,” said Sartaj as her tears took over. Though Gohar has been arrested and is in jail, Shabnam’s mother says one of his brothers is in the police and trying to put pressure on them.
Tabbasum Adnan, the chairperson of Khwendo Jirga in Saidu Sharif who brought the case to the media’s attention, said the trend of chopping women’s body parts was not new but elected representatives do nothing.
“Where is the Domestic Violence Protection Bill to stop gender-based violence and what are our fellow women MPAs doing for us?” said Adnan. “The government must implement the bill in its true sense. The government should also initiate a women’s protection fund,” Adnan told The Express Tribune.
The women’s jirga chairperson said the police need to be trained on women rights as they always register wrong FIRs in cases of violence against women.
The women of Khwendo Jirga demanded exemplary action against the husband of Shabnam. Khwendo Jirga has also decided to provide her free legal and medical aid from Access to Justice’s project The Awakening in Swat.
“We have arrested the accused after filing a case against him. He is now in jail and his case is continuing in court,” said Anwar Syed from the Ashary police station.