Saturday, March 14, 2009

Violence against women in Pakistan

Tehreek e Niswan is a movement for women that started its journey 30 years ago in the hands of a few talented and committed individuals. Individuals who are committed to the ideal of a society where women are respected and given the dignity they deserve. This group searched for literary work that was being written in the country on current issues and had it rewritten in the form of plays.

The plays were performed not only for the educated in society but also in the streets to audiences who could but only afford to seat themselves in a tent on barren ground. The plays were performed on Karo Kare and on violence against women in its various other forms.

I saw a play recently that helped me understand the predicament of so many women from the lower socio economic group [SEC] and I narrate it below.

A young woman who was nearing 30, her two sisters, one older and the other younger married, she herself with a steady job of PKR 8,500/- had remained un-married because she was not very good looking. Her father and mother uneducated, careless, replete with a supply of sarcastic pedagogic advice had left it up to her to find her marriage partner and so it was that she went about asking about boys from their neighbors in neighborhoods sometimes as far out as different cities.

She had a steady job and now the only thing on her mind was to get married but her search led to one bad review [of the boys] after another.

On one of her inter-city trips she met a young man on the train who spoke in good English and impressed her with his stories of the US. Having found nothing wrong with him she gave him the address of her house to come and meet her there so that they would get to know each other better.

As a few days past she kept remunerating about this young man. Incidentally, we are shown at this point, another aspect of this young woman’s life: a colleague of hers of apparently lewd intentions invites her for dinner and as we see for the umpteenth time she declares her abhorrence of his attempts and intentions. This colleague has a dialogue with the narrator of the play [as part of the play] where he is asked why he is so incessant in asking her out when she is not interested to which he replies ‘one day she will accept, it’s just a matter of time!”.

Finally the young man of whom the heroin of our play is busy fantasizing comes to her house and greets her with a bouquet of flowers, sweet-talks with her and invites her over to his hotel room at Hotel Millan room 303. Hesitant of meeting him there yet of the opinion that this might finally be her opportunity to get married she decides to meet him.

Two days later she goes and finds herself at the reception of Hotel Millan where she finds that her suitor has already left for Lahore but has left behind an address.

She decides that she has come so far into this that she must go to meet him in Lahore where she will meet him during the days and stay the night with her very close friend Laila. And so she gets to Lahore takes a taxi and finds his house.

Of course he is very ‘delighted’ to see her and immediately makes arrangements to make her feel comfortable. Happy once again she soon finds herself discovering Lahore with him as he takes her to see different places. As night time arrives they reach his house and we see they are discussing where she is going to spend the night. The discussion soon turns into an argument and worse. He rapes her, after he is finished he spits on her face gets up wears his clothes and leaves.

She stays there lying for some time, slowly gathers herself gets up finds a taxi goes to the train station and goes back home.

On getting back home she is welcomed by her father’s usual sarcastic comment to which she once again realizes she doesn’t have an answer; in fact she finds she doesn’t even have the capacity to answer.

The next day it would appear, life goes on as usual, the same routine, another day at the office and another encounter with the colleague who thinks she will accept his offer.

And so goes the story of so many women in Pakistan, especially from the lower SEC!

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