Samina is waiting for a miracle

Published: June 30, 2011

I hope one day we will have a country where women are respected, safe and empowered to remove hurdles of life.

Samina, my maid’s daughter, is being forced to get engaged to a boy, who she has never seen or spoken to.

When she asked her mother about him, she found out that the boy was a 12-year-old child. Frustrated, Samina tried to cut her wrist with a blade, but all in vain – she will be engaged on the coming weekend.

I could sense the remorse in her voice, when she told me about this, as she was not prepared to face such a responsibility. Samina’s dreams were to go to school, read the Holy Quran and learn English – all shattered and crushed to pieces.

At first Samina thought she would be able to face her parents, but now it seems the odds are against her – even if she tries she cannot stop the engagement, because the arrangement is part of a watta satta, which means if she refuses, she will end up breaking her brother’s engagement as well.

A half-life for women

According to Islam and the laws of Pakistan, a woman cannot be forced to marry someone against her wish, consent or will. Unfortunately, women in Pakistan can only attain a life of peace if the obey social norms and traditions that are expected from them.

They have no right to question the life that is drawn for them, and they live in constant fear of instigating their dominant male relatives who might shoot them dead, burn them or throw acid on their faces if they are thought to have brought shame to the family – shame for marrying men of their choice or for divorcing abusive husbands – merely an allegation is enough to justify the slaying.

Women in Pakistan live their life circumscribed by traditions, male members in the family – brothers, fathers and husbands control their minds, behaviour and speech.

Many believe that Islam has made men a degree above women. This should not be misinterpreted – this degree refers Quiwama that is maintenance and protection. It does not mean men are superior in front of the law. It does not mean that a husband can be a dictator to his wife.

Honour killing is rising dramatically in Pakistan. Hundreds of women are abused by their husbands or other male members of their family, on a daily basis. They are verbally abused and physically beaten over minor issues, such as delays in serving food.

It is wrong for us to think that honour killing is limited to only rural areas. Samia Sarwar’s mother, a doctor, killed her daughter in the name of honour in Lahore in April 1999, when she sought divorce from her abusive husband. Samia’s mother and her mother-in-law were sisters so divorce meant bringing ‘shame’ to the family.

There are laws to tackle violence against women, such as the Protection of Women Act 2006 or the Criminal Law Act 2009, but their rights and safety are continuously curbed by restrictive acts. Discrimination against women is not only a legal problem, but also a societal one, as it is deeply embedded in the mindsets of the people. Laws provided by the parliament are not enough to protect women against centuries-old traditions. This can be changed only through an evolution that will includes the abolishing jirgas, implementation of laws, empowering of judiciary and the police to deal with such issues. All this requires a strong political will.

Physical and sexual violence, honour killings, forced marriages and structural inequalities within the society are constant violations of women’s fundamental rights. Pakistan is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of gender gap according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2009.

Women in Pakistan are as capable as those of any other country. With a strong leadership, and determination at an individual level, they can escape torture and have control over their lives.

I feel debilitated and helpless for Samina.

I cannot put myself in her shoes as I have been given enough liberty to express my views and show my disapproval.

I hope one day we will have a country where women are respected in all fields, where they are safe and empowered enough to stop all the hurdles which come their way.

Sana Kharbe

Sana Kharbe

A student who did her A levels from Nixor college and is currently applying to universities.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://arslan-poetry-blog.blogspot.com/ Arslan

    I agree, Such acts are a sign of our lack of knowledge in both religion and morals….Recommend

  • Faran Maqsood

    How could we change our society bad norm and customs, how these gils can be save themselves from such kind society norms.
    These are questions which we should ask to our law makers and our supreme authority.Recommend

  • G. Din

    When will the despotic sadism of Muslim male be ever satiated?
    When will the Muslim female breathe free?Recommend

  • Affan

    All the above issues highlighted by you basically belongs to the families which are less educated..!! In my point of view you cant do anything in stopping them, as these are their family traditions or norms and they believe in that..!
    Similar ways you also have to see the issue in educated families..! i have seen this trend that the educated families are not ready to marry their children in different sect.! e.g Shia–Sunni ..
    This is reality.. The point here is every family has there our thinking, traditions and beliefs..! So you cant insist them to do this or that.!
    You may change the decision by force but in reality, it will take time to have a better Pakistan ! Recommend

  • Bhutto

    Yes this all happens in our rural areas only because the literacy rate at rural areas is very low people are not leaving their children for schools so that they can learn the modern studies and others skills. there are many children who want to learn from schools but unfortunately there will not be any teachers in schools and some schools looks like cattle farm….Recommend

  • Spam Robot

    What about the 12 year old boy?Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Samina’s case is just one of the thousands of such cases happening in Pakistan.I believe that the core problem is lack of education.But we see such things happening in educated families too.I believe,in addition to lack of education,one of the reason seems to be the generation gap between us and our parents and grandparents.They are not ready to let us make decisions for ourselves. They want to treat us like the way they were treated. They do not seem to understand that the today’s generation is much more aware of the happenings of the world and they are sensible enough to decide what is wrong and right for them.Recommend

  • http://www.rankmeme.com Ali Yaqoob

    She should leave her house! be the next Mukhtar Mai Recommend

  • Arslan

    @G. Din:
    When will non-Muslims post some senseless generalizing comments ? It’s about social paradigm (rural origins), and not religious influence.
    I’m sure you’ll find ‘non-Muslim women who can’t breath free’ in Indian Punjab or Bihar amongst other places.Recommend

  • Miss.Al-Aiouby

    It’s really sad to read these stories about women in Pakistan, but through my experience as foreigner I think it’s not only Pakistani women who is suffering from this issue, dose Pakistani men have the right to choose whom they want to marry?
    I think they can not because again it’s Mama and Papa who decide for the Man whom he should marry and that’s why you see more Husbands cheating in Pakistan more than anywhere else World.
    Just want you to check while you walking or driving in the streets have you seen how the married couple looks? it’s looks like it’s an obligation for the Pakistani Husband to take his woman out and of course you will not see any smile on their faces.

    So I think Pakistan need a miracle from God to fix all the problems it have, even though the woman who wrote this article want to bring this story out but look at the way she start the article “Samina, my maid’s daughter” this is what Pakistan is about this one is what so called “THE MAID” of that one who have more Money and we are on the 21st century and slavery still there in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Umer

    A very old and good topic that has been a part of our society.

    Such news can be shared, but now its time to put out articles in a different way, like “Riaz wants to learn English”. That was a very sad topic that was touched upon, and at the same time brought a smile to my face. Express Tribune Blogs touch good topics, but they 80% of the time bring out the sadness rather than put a smile to the face.

    We need more smiles.

    “I look at the world and I notice its turning,
    Still my guitar gently weeps”Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Arslan:
    Yes, you may see a few such cases in India, too, but:
    They can still drive and go in freedom wherever they damn well they please!
    And, we don’t insist they cover themselves in a coffin!
    Or, arrest them if not accompanied by a male relative!
    Or whip them if their ankles are showing!
    Or, throw them on the street just by casually uttering a word (you know which) three times and wash our hands off of them!
    Or, dilute their importance by taking in three more wives and innumerable illegal consorts (harem and all that).
    Or, use them as baby-manufacturing robots to increase the numbers of ummah!
    Or,………..
    We have seen quite a few cases where old Arab bearded leches come to our Hyderabad to “marry” children, 11 years old, for a night of pleasure and then utter those three words above the next morning and feel pious after strictly confirming to Islam’s diktats. One was so smitten with one he had bagged that he decided to take her home. On the way, on the plane to Delhi, he was arrested when the stewardess found the poor child sobbing. There are umpteen cases of, not the old beards but young educated Muslims marrying white-skins of Russia and Eastern Europe, only for the purpose of selling them off in the local Arab market as soon as they reached home. My friend, Islam has big, big problems! And, they won’t go away if you close your eyes to them!Recommend

  • http://arslan-poetry-blog.blogspot.com/ Arslan

    My friend, If you want to know about the true essence of Islam then you should read our Holy Book (The Quran), only there will you find the true picture of what Islam is about and what it deems as right and what it deems as wrong. One cannot judge a religion by simply looking at its followers, because they might be followers by name only and not by heart.

    Those people you talked about, who go to Hyderabad for such acts, I can say without a doubt that they are not true muslims. They are simply men who have succumbed to their sinful desires…

    I brought up Islam in my first comment because in its true essence Islam gives the woman full authority to decide whom she wants to marry. It is said that she need not follow what her parents say, in the case of who to marry.

    Apart from that I don’t think there is a need to discuss other issues here, as they are not relevant to the topic at hand.Recommend

  • Imran Jiwani

    If the bride’s consent is required for marriage then I think half of pakistanis are not legal ( a polite word for ba*rd). I dont know if my comment would be published.Recommend

  • Ammad Qureshi

    I agree to Ahmed that the core problem is lack of education,we see and observe that this problem is more in our backward areas and villages where there is no education or less education as compared to cities…The second significant thing that we are lacking is our values,we are losing our values day by day, which are inherited to us by our forefathers.Our elders need to have a dialogue with their young ones before binding them into a wed lock..thats the only way we can eradicate this menace.Recommend

  • sana javed

    Yes, i agree to Ahmed’s view. I think breaking decades old traditions and norms, gaining insight about the laws, which gives rights to individuals, following the true teaching of our religion and most importantly acquiring education, will solve half our problems which we are facing today.Recommend

  • Khalid Irteza

    @G. Din: the kind of male chauvinism prevails in Pakistani society is mainly because of the Hindu cultural influence over a period of centuries. In fact, Islam teaches otherwise where role of a male family member as mentioned in the blog text is “of this degree refers Quiwama that is maintenance and protection.” All we need is to learn Islam in its true perspective, and educate others. Recommend

  • Sameer

    @ Khalid – yeah, because women are treated so well in Saudi Arabia. Your comment is completely ridiculous.

    What Islam teaches and what the people who call themselves of followers of Islam may be completely different but it doesn’t change the fact that people who call themselves Muslims are the ones committing such awful crimes. The whole “these people cannot be Muslims” argument just prevents anyone from taking the blame and lets you put your mind at rest. These people are defaming your religion – fix it instead of blaming it on Hindu influences.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/saminalindstrom Samina Lindström

    Good read!
    from Sweden…Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Khalid Irteza:
    Please read my post once again. All cases I have quoted happen for the most part outside what was India in 1947, chiefly in Saudi Arabia. Do you still maintain that such despicable practices are as a result of “the Hindu cultural influence over a period of centuries”? If so, how so?
    “Islam in its true perspective”? And, whose perspective would it be, my friend? If you ask me, Islam is indefensible and has proved to be a curse on the humankind!Recommend