By: Hilde Jacobs
As soon as women come out of their dependence on men, the problem of gender inequality and discrimination against girls will disappear
The article by Haroon Mustafa Janjua, ‘To be a woman in Pakistan’ (Daily Times, October 15, 2013) is a very well written contribution to the general description of women living in Pakistan. Although being a German citizen I experienced an almost-rape in Karachi where I was married to a very kind and loving Muslim diplomat many years ago, I was only saved due to my strong will to teach the rapist a lesson by biting his hand severely the moment he tried to keep me from shouting for help. Allah was with me of course when this rascal took his hands off me because he was distorted with pain. Therefore, I could flee without being raped.
But then, I asked myself what would have happened in case of a real rape? Would I have been stoned or condemned and told to bring four male witnesses to court? I cannot find a satisfactory reply.
Coming to know an intellectual couple in an urban area of Pakistan, he being a teacher/sociologist and she a teacher, I was shocked to learn that both are living, closely connected, in a sort of ‘fool’s paradise’, firmly believing they are a happy, loving couple.
This couple only separates when going to work and in the evening when the husband goes off to meet male friends with the intention of having a chat, a smoke and a cup of whatever, keeping all this secret from his wife. The wife stays at home. When I pointed out to the husband that probably he would not like his wife behaving as he does, he lamented, “But what am I to do? My wife does not like me to smoke and drink inside our house.” This argument left me speechless.
What I think is even worse is his making the effort to hide his mental state from her. Out of misinterpreted care, he does not open his heart and mind to her. He is actually treating her like a child whom he does not trust to be strong enough to cope with all sorts of difficulties. This caring is of course well meant and I do not blame him for it but misunderstandings are bound to arise.
Whenever this husband has to go abroad for a couple of days, his wife is full of fear and distrust. Consequently, he has to ring her up several times a day. I wonder why she is scared. Is it jealousy? Is it fear he might not come back to her? On the other hand, he must be feeling like he lives in a cage, constantly under control and never coming to know how to use his ‘wings’. To end this chain of possessive love, distrust, concealment and lack of freedom, the wife could address her husband like this, “Look here, my dear husband, let us strike a compromise. You tell me frankly what you are doing outside the house and what your worries are, if any. After all, to be married means to share good and bad times. Please, do not spare me from harm and trouble, else you will make me feel less important for you. Together we will be able to move mountains if necessary! In return, I will trust you fully.”
How can people develop with increasing democracy and equality of gender if even those with intelligence do not have the slightest idea as to what true love between a male and female means? How can women be respected in general when husbands are looking for ways to flee the couple’s clinginess by betraying their wives?
I would like to go further: when a grown up woman does not know how to show her integrity, self-determination and self-respect to the man by claiming her right to equality then how do you expect the citizens or fanatics to care for the welfare and freedom of females from birth? The depictions given above are the reason why newly born female babies are not welcome.
As soon as women come out of their dependence on men, the problem of gender inequality and discrimination against girls will disappear. Rape, child-marriage and the expectations of women to ‘serve the master’ are partly created by females themselves. They are not yet aware that we are not living in the Middle Ages any more. It is quite comfortable for some married women to have somebody by their side deciding matters of the household, shopping, child education and budget finances. Instead of sharing these routine matters, they are left to the husband. Thus, he is the one who dominates the family although his wife is clever enough to make him believe, she is keeping things firmly under control.
What makes me sad is the fact that these women still depend on men and are not willing or are unable to support those few wonderful female examples slogging away on the improvement of the situation in Pakistan. Malala, a 16-year-old girl, has the courage to face not only the cruelties done to her and others by the Taliban but to face violence in general by open speech. Her stoic and persistent behaviour, when appearing as a fighter for women in regards to education and training, is a shining example for all of us. It makes me feel ashamed to be shown by a girl, almost a child, what heroism means. Why are we not following and supporting her? I do not know a single person with the guts to join her in her struggle for justice and freedom of choice concerning education and further studies for females. Should our admiration and praise for her remain nothing but lip service, instead of suiting the action to the word? It is beyond question that this would mean taking the risk of being shot by the Taliban just as it happened to dear young Malala. Are all of us too cowardly to take this risk for the sake of development and progress of girls and women in a country in dire need of social, economic and cultural adaptation?
I would like to ask all males in Pakistan: how will you carry on without women at all? If due to your hatred for girl-children there are no females left after you have killed them all, then who will care for your offspring? After all, males cannot bear children, can they?
At this point, I would like to call out finally to my dear Pakistani women: please, change your way of life! Be conscious of yourself! Be yourself! Do not continue to be self-denying! Show the power hidden in your body and soul! Show your husbands, brothers, sons and fathers that you are ready to carry your life in your hands. Do not be scared of the fact that your husbands might leave you due to egoistic reasons! Show them that you can do without them if necessary. Do not blame yourself for the misbehaviour of males. Do not self-pityingly cry about sexual violence and the autocratic behaviour of men. As Haroon Janjua states at the end of his excellent article I call on you: “It is not enough to weep. It is time to act.”
Hilde Jacobs is a German citizen and freelance columnist. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org