Javed Chaudhry’s misogynistic excuse for violence against women

Published: April 2, 2012
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Even in his attempted condemnation, the language he uses to describe her injuries is detailed, graphic, and inappropriate. PHOTO: AFP

In a column published on April 1 in the Urdu newspaper Daily Express, Javed Chaudhry  expresses his disapproval for a man who had paid another Rs100,000 to attack his estranged wife by throwing acid on her face.  Even in his attempted condemnation, the language he uses to describe her injuries is detailed, graphic and inappropriate. 

“Hadiyan nangi ho gain. Aankh ubal kar bahir aa gai”

(Bones were bare. The eye was singed and protruding)

But then, these descriptions become downright pornographic as his ultimate thesis becomes apparent; perhaps, women incite violence because of their own insubordination, give or take a few innocent victims.  The narrative focuses on the perpetrator and makes a case for him; the victim is invisible, except for the vivid description of her wounds.

The perpetrator explains how he was provoked to have acid thrown at his wife because she betrayed him.  She left him for his nephew, a younger, more attractive, and successful man; she gained possession of their home, had him evicted, began living with her new lover, planned to marry him, subjected him to family and community contempt.  Enraged and emasculated, he lost his self control, and had her disfigured for life.

The narrative is brimming with misogyny.

Blame the victim.

Absolve the perpetrator.

In the end, the man is given space to chastise all women and lecture them that they must remain chaste and obedient, or else risk heinous revenge.

The author asks him why he did not kill her.

“Intiqaam lena tha to seedha sadha qatal kar detay”

(If you wanted revenge, you could have just killed her)

He replies, that he could not give her the satisfaction of a peaceful death. 

Sadistically, he rejoices in the fact that she lost her lover, her home, and is now dependent on charity for medical care.  I don’t know what is more chilling – the perpetrator’s lack of any remorse whatsoever, or the author posing this question in which he seems to condone honour killing and regard it as the more compassionate thing to do.

Although Chaudhry leaves the readers with the question – do victims of violence deserve being burnt because of their own provocative conduct, his unethical and bigoted focus on the perpetrator’s story without a single refutation from the victim, amounts to complicity in violence against women.

If this were a court of law, his lawyer would fail in making a “grave and sudden provocation” defence as his was cool, contemplated revenge.  He hired an accomplice, paid him, and even planned his exodus from the country.  His story would not serve even as a mitigating factor for a lighter sentence given the grievous nature of the injury suffered by the woman.

But here, in this bizarre piece of writing, Chaudhry seems to be unabashedly generating support for him and his crime, building consensus for violence against women and the male right to exert physical power over women who “stray”.

We live in a patriarchal society where incidents of domestic violence are commonplace. However, to indirectly suggest that victims somehow deserve to have their faces destroyed, in a most painful and brutalizing way, is outright irresponsible, criminal, and derogatory to the decades of struggle by the women in Pakistan.

Some conclusions are plausible, if we were to supplement her side of the story. She filed for khula (judicial divorce) which is her legal right under Muslim law.  Khula law is not always favourable to women, who must return all property gifted to them by their husbands, if asked to.

Thus, if she retained the house, maybe it was never his to begin with.

He states that she made multiple accusations against him in a court of law. In a justice system that places more weight on a man’s testimony and regards female infidelity as a serious moral breach, the judge must have found her to be credible and granted khula – despite his possibly damning testimony.

If he could disfigure her irremediably, perhaps he had a history of abusing her.  Perhaps, his nephew had been a source of support for her to finally pick up and leave him.

And even if she did simply fall in love with the nephew, do men not leave their wives for other women all the time?

Should there be a systematic campaign of directed violence, including acid throwing, at the faces of such men? Or is abuse a male privilege?

Are columnists supposed to promote vigilante justice against women – and provide a platform to violent criminals, rather than seeking their punishment or mental health treatment? His statement is likely to induce men to seek revenge against women. Technically, under the law he could be punished and, at the very least, face public opprobrium.

Read more by Abira here or follow her on Twitter @oil_is_opium.

Abira Ashfaq

Abira Ashfaq

A law teacher in Karachi who works with human rights organisations. She tweets @oil_is_opium. (twitter.com/oil_is_opium)

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