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The walls are closing in

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Atika Sheikh

“Besides their training to be “lady like” we should mold them into strong, confident and cogent personalities. Because in a time when wolves are out on the hunt, we need to raise lions not sheep.”

The moment a baby girl crawls out of her pink bassinet, her parent’s starts to worry her future. They begin to ponder about her life choices. And in this thought process, marriage remains the corner stone of their eyes.

The institution of marriage is made the center of universe in a girl’s life. Her whole life revolves around the single most important person; her husband.  

He is perceived as the protector, provider and the guardian of her and their children. But what if the protector becomes the abuser? Who will come to save the princess when her prince charming has gone rogue?

In Islam, women have been given rights as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and as human beings. They are entitled to respect irrespective of their caste, religion or their dressing. But the society reminds to women only their duties and what great “rewards” await for them if they keep up with their molesting husbands.

According to human rights commission of Pakistan, 90% of women in Pakistan have experienced some form of domestic violence, at the hands of their husbands or families. 47% of married women have experienced sexual abuse, particularly domestic rape. These figures are testimony of the vulnerability of women in our society.

If women are prone to the evils of the social world, what are we doing to make our girls more strong and powerful? The greater the dangers of the war zone, the more we train the soldier. In the same way, marriage is the greatest risk a woman take in her life but little we do to arm her.

By her training, I mean her education, her sense of herself as a significant and dignified human being and her financial independence.

In a research report, 50% of women experiencing domestic abuse, suffer in silence and only 0.4% take their cases to the court. A long list of reasons is behind that figure but one factor is the lack of financial support to the victims.

Judicial process in our country is both tiring, time consuming and money draining. And suppose a woman gets a divorce then who will be the benefactor for her and her children?

In many cases, a girl’s family out right reject to take care for her if she gets a divorce.Many girls are not educated or mature enough to support themselves.

Though women constitute 49% of Pakistan’s population, they constitute only 24% of the labor force. Moreover, according to human rights watch, 21 percent of girls in Pakistan marry before the age of 18, and 3 percent marry before the age of 15.

When a woman is not able to financially support herself or her children, she is left with the only option to stay with her husband. She writhes in the realm of mental and physical torture in which the only light of hope is the sweet escape of death.

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Marriage is gambling, the chances remain that you might hit the jackpot or lose all that you had. The risks are ever greater if you are a part of a man dominating society where almost every woman have experienced some sort of harassment or abuse.

In these dark times we need to change our perspective. We need to let our daughters grow out of the narrow silos they are made to live in. We should help and encourage them to plan their career.

We should remind them that they are not limited to their role as a wife, mother or daughter. They are above all, humans. And as humans they have every right to think about themselves, what they want to be, what professions they like, how they want to contribute towards the society.

Since the daughters of Eve are surrounded by the walls of oppression, humiliation, abuse, rites and rituals that quench even the slenderest opportunities of escape.

We need to remind them that they were born with the wings of freedom. They are their own saviors and possess immense power that can challenge the injustices that prevail in the society. Women are not born weak, they are not meant to be fragile and vulnerable.

The way they are raised makes the difference. It’s the family and the society that hands them down the list of “Do’s & Don’ts”. They are made to believe that they are somehow mentally weak and immature to make their own decisions.

We insult their intellect and keep on reminding them that how helpless they are without the support of men. As Mary Wollstonecraftduly desired that, “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves.”

It is high time that we change the topics of discussion with our daughters. Instead of asking them their favorite Disney princess, we need to ask them about their favorite world leader. Instead of limiting them to the romantic fairy tales, we need to enlighten them with the emerging opportunities in various professions, worldwide.

Besides their training to be “lady like” we should mold them into strong, confident and cogent personalities. Because in a time when wolves are out on the hunt, we need to raise lions not sheep.

The writer is MPhil scholar at the University of Punjab and can be reached at atikasheikh56@gmail.com

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