Women are responsible for domestic abuse, not men

Published: April 17, 2014

My neighbour, sister-in-law and best friend all get slapped as well and they never complain about it. PHOTO: FILE

It’s an age old story that women are the main victims of abuse. Over the years, many NGOs, awareness projects and feminists have forced laws to be passed against female victimisation. We have all blamed men for abuse, who are seemingly the dominant sex and similarly, many steps have been taken to make women realise that it is the men who are at fault.

So, why then are women still subjected to abuse, even though they are aware of their rights and are more liberated than before?

Why are they not raising their voice against domestic abuse?

And also, are men really the main cause of abuse?

These questions need to be carefully deliberated upon.

If you turn on the television, you would see dramas depicting domestic abuse on different channels. This is because the producers of such shows know that most Pakistani women – regardless of their class backgrounds – would relate best to such situations.

There are many reasons why abuse is still prevalent in Pakistan. These reasons range from the wicked whisperings of ammi jaan and her bickering, to the husband’s own misplaced anger and frustration.

However, the root cause of abuse, albeit any kind, is just one. Women, from a very early age, are socialised with the idea that being hit by a man, or being abused at home, is a natural ordeal that they have to go through, no matter what. This idea is ingrained in them.

Hence, most women do not cry out in protest to this victimisation. They think it’s normal to get beaten up by their husbands or be mistreated by other people in the household. Perhaps this is also the reason why our media does not create much hue about it – the cause is so subliminal in nature that many people miss it.

You don’t agree with my assessment?

Well, here are a few examples for you to understand my view better.

While a child stands in the corner and watches her parents fight, she unconsciously learns about the powers spouses have over one another. When her father strikes the mother, slaps her right across the face and stomps out of the room, the child understands who has the upper hand.

The next day, the parents seem to have resolved their problems and hence are back to acting like a normal couple. However, just because they are acting normal now, it will not undo the effects on the little girl’s mind from the previous night. In fact, it only reiterates her observation – that your husband hitting you is a forgivable act, as long as you can patch things up and revert back to being a ‘happy’ family.

Now imagine, for instance, that a son is born in the same family. He grows up and enters his childhood phase.

One day, when he breaks a window in the house while playing cricket, his mother scolds and reprimands him,

“Bus Baba koh aanay dou. Unko bataoun gi aur phir dekhna woh kya karain gay”

(Just wait till your father comes home. I’ll tell him and then you’ll see what he does with you.)

This threat is repeated multiple times in that child’s life and it is usually used to scare him into submission.

Now, when he grows up and gets married, he would believe that it is his duty – or his right – to be the scary, dominating father, whose children can only respect him if they are afraid of him. Such ideas make men want to become stoic and stern, both with their wives and children, to establish their supremacy.

Even though now, with changing times, fathers have become more loving and less severe in their demeanour, there is still a part of them which is distant and reserved. They do agreeably spend more time with their children and are more in tune with what they feel, but the distance between father and child is still present.

This distance is present because the father wants to maintain his right to discipline his children, and even his wife, if the situation demands.

This idea is prevalent in every strata of our society, in larger or smaller proportions.

Getting out of the bubble we all live in, we need to cast a look upon every Shumaila, Bano and Rani who works in our house. They are the real victims of abuse and have been through an even more intense male-oriented socialisation than we have.

What stops them from raising their voice?

It’s the same logic; the image of their employer being pushed around by the husband or mother-in-law. These domestic workers think that if educated, seemingly independent women can be abused, then what chances do they have of getting out of this vicious circle?

The bruises on their employers’ bodies make them feel that what happens to them in their houses happens to women everywhere, and if their employers can put up with it, then so should they.

Why should I complain if I’m slapped a couple of times a day? My neighbour, sister-in-law and best friend all get slapped as well; they never complain about it. Then why should I?

And like this, the dominoes keep falling, women by women. We accuse our husbands, fathers and brothers for abuse but the real perpetrators are women themselves, who indirectly support this idea and hence are the main reason why such practices remain rampant in our society.

So when you see your daughter being hit by her husband, don’t think that you got her married in the wrong house. It’s not the husband’s fault, it’s yours. You should regret the time when, all those years ago, you covered your own bruises with some foundation and didn’t say a word against your husband’s tyranny. Your daughter learned to stay silent from you.

Similarly, when your son hits his wife, it’s really not his fault. It can all be traced back to the moment you told him,

“No beta, it’s not Baba’s fault; I did something wrong.”

Even though he was the only one smart enough to care and question you about the slap, you made him believe that husbands can beat their wives if they do something wrong.

Also, remember when you portrayed his father as some sort of tyrant, who could do whatever he wanted to in his house? Yeah, time to reap what you sowed.

Inseya Ali

Inseya Ali

An aspiring journalist with a level of patriotism not found in most 15-years-old.

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

  • Haider Ali Budini

    Interesting! Infact mothers are mentors. People become what they are taught and how they are brought up.Recommend

  • Hussain Bangash

    Every one is reflection of his brought up but this image can be changed into more positive side by realizing the world :)Recommend

  • Hammad Mian

    Girl’s mother is the main key player in disturbing the home. She teaches her daughter not to respect your mother-in-law (saas) and the break up starts from here.Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Excellent writup Recommend

  • Ali

    Blame mother nature for developing the female kind as the weaker sex not in just humans but in 99.99% of species if not 100%. But wait isn’t mother nature female herself :PRecommend

  • Ghada Rahim

    interesting……but i might disagree with some of your views..otherwise good job..keep it up!!!Recommend

  • gp65

    Interesting. Blame the victim. So a simple question to you – who is responsible for rape? I imagine your answer will be the women who dress provocatively?
    Now to answer your questions:
    “So, why then are women still subjected to abuse, even though they are aware of their rights and are more liberated than before?”
    What rights are they supposed to be aware of? You are aware that bill against domestic violence was not allowed to be passed by parties like JUI-F and JI?

    “Why are they not raising their voices against domestic abuse?”
    Because raising their voices in most cases will not help them in any way. There exist no laws against domestic violence in Pakistan and with the social norms being as they are – very few parents will support their duaghter returning back from their sasuraal. The lack of economic independence also often has a role to play in the women having little choice but to olerate oppression.

    “And also, are men really the main cause of abuse?”
    Obviously not all mean abuse their spouses but those men that are violent to their wives – yes certainly they ARE the main cause of the abuse with other related causes being the woman’s helplessness due to socioeconomic factors.Recommend

  • Of course I don’t believe this whole blame the victim idea saying women are responsible because they have bought into the system. To the extent that we are generalizing about the systematic occurrence of domestic abuse in our society, it is caused by patriarchy which is pretty insidious about maintaining the dominance of men and engineering the consent of women. Simply saying women just need to reconsider their own behavior is to ignore the whole structural context.

    However, for a 15 year old, the writer is a smart kid! This was written well and the argument was constructed intelligently. So long as she stays open to questioning her own beliefs, she’ll do well.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The issue you have raised is a big one, important as well and you have managed to percolate it down to produce a result that says……..the woman is to blame.
    To me this seems like a simple answer to a complicated question. You have addressed the human element but societal, economic and cultural aspects also play a role in shaping this abuse.
    By the way, I did enjoy reading this.Recommend

  • Wajahat Saeed Khan

    It is obvious that men are superior in ‘physical’ terms it has always been that way, but it is not just women who must broaden their thought about this ongoing issue of abuse it is not them hitting themselves in the first place, us men should also be aware enough about the world around us to question our selves about this culture of abuse. In Islam mothers are given three times the priority to the father so the father who is physically abusing the mother must be aware enough to understand that the person that I am abusing is the mother of my child she is superior to me in the eyes of my child and I must treat her that way.Recommend

  • Inam

    Very well observed. You have spoken my heart out. Women must stop blaming menfolks for misbehaviors and not being treated equal in society. Its all because of their own thinking and behavior. Recommend

  • ExtremelyConcerned

    How does it make sense to you to blame the victims of domestic violence for the violence that they were subjected to at the hands of others? Would you say the same for a woman who was raped? Recommend

  • BatoolAsad

    Totally agreedRecommend

  • Xain Gardezi

    //Women, from a very early age, are socialised with the idea that being hit by a man, or being abused at home, is a natural ordeal that they have to go through, no matter what. This idea is ingrained in them.//

    I dont know from where you are from but here it is not the caseRecommend

  • infi del

    STAHP ET, What are you doing ET STAAAHHPPPP!!!!!!!

    An aspiring journalist with a level of patriotism not found in most 15-years-old”Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Not only in Pakistan almost every where else in the world……..stop stereotyping Pakistanis for every thing.Recommend

  • Shabana

    Standing for your rights, boils down to financial independence. If your husband knows that you can survive without him and can leave him if he misbehaves he will hold his hand and use his tongue to talk. My father used to beat my mother until a year ago, she is 65. One day, she hit him back and asked him “did it hurt?” That day and now, he is a mouse!Recommend

  • Parvez

    She’s 15……and has attempted to address a difficult issue.
    You have made some excellent points……but if couched in a supportive tone it would have had a more desirable effect.Recommend

  • Hasan

    It is about infusing your child with the idea of respect for others and taking a
    stand for what’s right the right way both male and female. Also Standing up for
    yourself being strong and independent enough to take care of yourself.

    I disagree with the generalizations; there are so many scenarios and so many
    different situations. Women are not financially secure without their husbands; they
    sacrifice for their children knowing that they are being wronged. They want to avoid
    the public ridicule. Avoid separation or divorce as life won’t be all sweet
    after that. Not just that they accept they are inferior or it’s the husbands

    The problem is not why one chooses to suffer but why is someone raising his
    hand in the first place!! Physical violence in any form should be objected and
    frowned upon from early childhood. When you hit a child to discipline him he
    sees physical violence as the solution not only it scars his innocence but imbeds
    it as a one solution fix up for almost every situation.

    is also there in a boy’s nature that needs to be discouraged severely! yes by
    both the parents. The only situation where women directly encourage domestic violence
    in that in the role of Saas and Nands that is weirdness infused via culture to
    its extreme that only a man can put a stop to by standing up for what’s right
    be it the Father in law or the husband.Recommend

  • Shahla Ahmad Husain

    Wow…I am speechless!! Perhaps being 15 might have
    something to do with the writer’s approach to a very complex and
    disturbing subject. Its difficult enough as it is my dear Inseya for
    women in an abusive environment to stop blaming themselves for the abuse
    and not place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the
    abuser. Nothing justifies abuse… and the inability to stop the abuse
    does not make the victim a party to the crime. Also remember that abuse
    is not just physical, it can be emotional and psychological and a whole
    lot more…. Women are by nature nurturers and hold themselves
    responsible for keeping the family together…plus in most situations (
    not through any fault of theirs) women are economically dependent on men
    for themselves as well as the children. So taking a stand means the
    family unit disintegrating in no time. So please do some more research
    on the dynamics of domestic abuse…or better still go to a women’s
    shelter and ask a few women why it took them so long to report the abuse
    (if at all!) and you may be in for a profound learning experience.
    Please also do some reading on the subject. I can recommend a list of
    books and other material that would help you get a better grasp of what
    its all about.Recommend

  • Hareem

    Respect her or serve her like a maid? The mother is certainly at fault but it is when she teaches her son that she expects the Bahu he brings home to serve her. Why does the man never serve his wife’s parents the same way?
    And personally, I’ve never heard a mother tell her daughter to not respect her mother-in-law unless she wants to break up her daughter;s home.Recommend

  • Shahla Ahmad Husain

    What about women who don’t have children?Recommend

  • knightridrr

    I think she gave pretty good and valid examples. Re-read the article!Recommend

  • knightridrr

    You missed the point then.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    Yeah it is everywhere so its okay if we do it too? Certainly not.Recommend

  • knightridrr

    I thought the same too but her blog post wasn’t bad after all.Recommend

  • shewhoshallnotbenamed

    mothers don’t really tell their daughters that.. i believe this is all due to those horrid drama series which everyone in Pakistan enthusiastically watches…Recommend

  • Banaras

    Where are you from? This is exactly what things are like here.Recommend

  • Banaras

    She never said the opposite. Stop trying be over smart.Recommend

  • Banaras

    You have absolutely no idea how hard it is to change who you are as a person once it has been ingrained in you by your home. Its like breaking yourself up and rebuilding every thought you’ve ever had.Recommend

  • Aqeela Tayyab

    The only solution is that a women must be fully aware of the rights ISLAM has given her,as a mother she must know her resposibilities and prepare her children in a good manner…as hitler says”u give me good mothers I will give u The best Nation” …. so that mother will make atleast good citizens (boy or girl)….who will ,in their practical life be successfull and will run their home successfully….
    Secondly a women must have some kind of ability,education so she will not be concidered a burden in difficult times,as husband and wife are two wheels of a vehicle……….Recommend

  • Banaras

    That’s not what she was implying. She never said they bring it on themselves. She’s saying they believe that its ok and hence perpetuate it.Recommend

  • Anushe Noor Faheem

    I completely agree with the writer but the major question is how can this be stopped? If this is the environment probably in every house than how is this even possible? well all the Pakistan is not reading this blog as they can’t due to illiteracy then HOW?Recommend

  • gp65

    You have assumed that the cause for the violence is disrespect for the saas.
    So I have several questions with regards to this:
    1. Assuming that the daughter-in-law is disrespectful to the mother-in-law does it justify violence?
    2. Do you think that there are never cases where the husband maybe violent for reasons other than saas-bahu fights?
    3. I am sure that there are some mothers who do what you say but in a south asian context where for the most part the bulk of a woman’s grooming from childhood relates to how she can be a good daughter in law and adjust in her sasuraal, what is the proportion of such mothers who guide thei daughters to be disrespectful for no rhyme or reason? In any case if that were the case, the woman can surely use her own judgmentRecommend

  • gp65

    That’s fair. Actually I had not noticed that she is a 15 year old kid until you pointed it out.Recommend

  • TheOne

    All the problems I have ever seen are because of the boy’s mother. My cousin’s husband even hit her at 9 months pregnant because his mother completely lied and fabricated a whole incident that never happened.

    If you can’t let go of your son then please don’t get him married.Recommend

  • DF

    This article is more less based on domestic violence done by men to women and it’s influence on children. Wajahat was simply elaborating on more reasons as to why women should not be abused by stating Islamic beliefs in a similar context. I am sure he did not mean in any way whatsoever to imply that women without children can be abused as opposed to women with children.Recommend

  • Nobody

    No similar complaint about a son not respecting his in-laws? Best not to expect more than one is willing to offer his/herself. If a guy doesn’t treat his wife’s parents with respect and as his own, he has no right to have any such expectation from his wife. Simple.
    And based on my own observation, the guy’s parents, particularly the mother, ends up being the key player in disturbing the home. Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Carry a baby for 9 months, squeeze it out then tell me who’s the weaker sex.

    On a serious note, physical inferiority or superiority is one tiny (often irrelevant) piece of the pie when it comes to our species in particular.

  • Nobody

    Denial doesn’t change facts.

  • Nobody

    Outside of Eastern and/or Muslim cultures, where else in the world?Recommend

  • Aneeqa Aysha Asghar

    I agree with most of your points but women cannot raise their voices unless
    a) They are financially independent.
    b) At least 1 family member (either from her own family or in laws) stands up for her and supports her.
    and I commend you on the point of upbringing you brought up. From the day one parents encourage their sons to take charge and have a go-getter attitude while preach their daughters to be introvert and obey every whim of their fathers and brothers. Since childhood they pour these teachings to her ears ” Susral ja k kya karo gi”. When she gets married they advice that now your husband’s home is your home and obey every command of your husband and in laws. This outcome of domestic abuse can entirely be the result of upbringing by parents in my humble opinion.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Oh and i forgot to add-
    Inseya, for someone so young, your writing shows a lot of promise. Keep writing. I am confident that you will grow up to be a woman who is not just a succesful writer but a confident, independent and articlate one as well and serve as a role model for your cousins, nieces, neighors and friends.

    All the best from across the border.Recommend

  • nust

    Very well written, spoke my voice out!Recommend

  • Fareed

    happens in pakistan mostlyRecommend

  • Mash

    Kudos to this 15 years old for highlighting such a sensitive issue…. I agree that a lot of bad things happen because people accept the wrong doings and justify it. We would have a lot less issues if we started accepting our mistakes.

    and also… i think that women are their own enemies. The way one woman’s jealousy, insecurity, complex can drive her to take revenge from another woman… whether it is as mother in law supporting violence, as sister in law, as a daughter in law, as a jealous wife, as a boss for, as a colleague, as one handling her maid… in every role where she can be in authority, a woman will rarely support another woman!Recommend