My father divorced my mother because she gave birth to me, a girl

Published: December 3, 2013
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My dad was saddened so much by the birth of my sisters that he threatened to leave my mom if she gave birth to a girl again. My mother suffered silently. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS

A few days ago, a newborn baby girl was dumped in a garbage heap by an unidentified woman in Faisalabad. No one realised there was a baby until the heap was set on fire and the cries of the baby girl alerted the garbage collector. She was taken to hospital with more than three-fourth of her body burnt. Unfortunately, the doctors could not save her.

Female infanticide is still very common in Pakistan. It is sad to see that even in the 21st century the birth of a female is considered a stigma.

When my eldest sister Tena* was born (we are three sisters and one brother), my mom was criticised, mocked and ridiculed for giving birth to a girl. My dad started mocking my mom and soon enough, relatives, friends and neighbours followed suit.

Life for my mom started to become very difficult.

When my mom was expecting for the second time, there were hopes of restoring her lost respect if she gave birth to a boy. But Alas! A girl it was, once again.

At this point, in sheer disappointment, my dad threatened to leave my mother if she gave birth to another girl. My paternal grandmother and aunts had suddenly assumed the roles of my mother’s worst enemies. My mother, however, suffered silently. She just prayed to Allah to protect her children and give sense to those people.

Giving birth to me, however, was the toughest phase of my mother’s life.

By this time, she was sure if it was not a boy, my dad would leave her. He desperately wanted the child coming to be a boy, but to his utter disappointment, I was born.

My birth was the beginning of a dark life of taunts, threats and despair for my mother and sisters.

The gloom and sadness was evident on the faces of all my family members. My dad was furious and blamed my mother entirely for my birth; as if giving birth to a girl was a choice made by my mom. My paternal grandmother and aunts pushed for my dad to divorce my mom. All my relatives wanted my dad to leave my mother so he could bestow her with a ‘punishment’ in proportion with the ‘sin’ she had committed of giving birth to yet another girl.

He divorced my mother, married another woman and settled in Saudi Arabia.

He did not even maintain contact with us or our mother, nor did he ever offer to pay for our upbringing.

Why would he though?

He hated us and didn’t want us to begin with.

So what if we were his daughters?

We, his very own daughters, were a stain on his reputation. We had stripped him of his ‘ghairat’ (honour) and let him down, all because we were born girls. We would obviously grow up to be good-for-nothing burdens on his shoulders, mere liabilities or perhaps just bad luck. So, according to him, it was best that he left us and cut all ties. Pretending we don’t exist is probably still better than the poor baby who was left in a garbage can.

Luckily, after a couple of years of being the single parent of three daughters, my mother finally found an educated, reasonable man who was willing to marry my mom and accept her three ‘sins’.

Life didn’t seem so bad suddenly – it was as if we were given a chance to make a fresh start. Of course, the occasional taunts referring to me and my sisters still continued, but when that did happen, my step dad tolerated it but stood strong by my mom’s side. Together, my mom and him had a baby boy and my mother’s image was given a feeble boost. The ridiculing and taunts, however, continued nonetheless. My step dad was called ‘character-less’ for helping my mother bring up her three ‘sins’.

Eventually, he buckled under pressure and left my mom, and once again my mother was left to face the cruel, ruthless remarks of our society all on her own. She has lived without the support of a husband or man since then.

Two of my sisters are married and I, too, will be married soon. My step brother is a graduate now. But what pains and bewilders me is the mindset that some men (and indeed some women) have. No matter how educated they may be, they still think women are the bane of their existence.

How can they be so cruel to their own blood, their own daughters? How can they be so pathetic?

Have they forgotten that their mothers are also someone’s daughters?  We boast about living in a ‘progressive’ society but cannot learn to accept women in this world? Do they not realise that without women they would not even be alive? And yet they bury their daughters alive?

Why is the ‘ghairat’ of a male placed on the shoulders of women? How can men do this to their wives and daughters, and get away with it, with the support of society?

Why can women not be allowed to live?

Why did that baby girl have to die?

Why have no answers ever been given?

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals.

Anam Tariq

Anam Tariq

A 25-year-old computer engineering graduate from COMSATS Institute of Information and Technology, Abbottabad. She loves to read and write.

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

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