Global patriarchy and women of a lesser God

Published: January 6, 2015
Email

A 24-year-old mother-of-two was beaten, had her head shaved in a religious ritual, and was then forced to breastfeed her younger lover after she left her husband to be with him. PHOTO: AFP

I came across a story today that left me disturbed to the bone; a 24-year-old married woman, mother of two, hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, India, was punished and made to do the unthinkable. Yes, the unthinkable.

She was allegedly having an affair with a man and left her husband to be with him. On being discovered, she was brought back to her village of Wadha to be presented before the panchayat (village council). Both, the woman and her alleged lover, were beaten up, and the woman was stripped and forced to breastfeed her alleged lover in public.

The assumption here is that the woman recently had a baby and was lactating. The assumption here is that the affair was alleged. The assumption here is that we do not know of the woman’s relationship with her husband, his age and his treatment towards her. The assumption here is that we do not know how she was being treated by her in-laws. The assumption here is that the panchayat was a band of men. And lastly, the reality that if all the charges were true against the woman (which I certainly do not believe, but need to say for argument’s sake), how perverse, inhuman, detestable and heinous was the punishment inflicted on her, regardless of what the truth may have been?

Why just talk about India when our very own Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan is riddled with similar stories. If memory serves me right, there was a recent case in Pakistan, where an 18-year-old girl was ordered by a panchayat to be gang raped by a group of four men, because her brother was allegedly having an affair with a woman from a higher zaat (caste).

If truth be told, Muslims do not have a caste system, but then again how important is truth anymore?

Travelling back to the 80s, there was an incident in Multan when women from one family were forced by the panchayat to walk naked in the streets for some inane issue. Many articles were written on the incident, there was some debate too, and PTV had boldly televised a long play on the same theme. There was uproar but only to the extent of sound, and like always, that story of inhumanity and barbarism disappeared without justice.

Question being, what is the commonality in all the three incidents mentioned above?

It is perverse men who sit in the demi-god camaraderie of a village panchayat, making decisions and inflicting torture of flesh, shame and lust on women. It is men who are giving life to pornographic images in their heads, wanting to experience them live and hence creating satanic punishments on helpless woman for sadistic and heinous pleasures of the flesh. It is men, other than the panchayatwho are letting women of their villages go through such punishments, it is men who sit back and let it happen. Why?

To answer my own question, because humanity is dead, civility is dead and right is lost in the deafening noise of corruption.

Where was the law enforcement one may ask?

It was in the pocket of the chaudharys, waderas, sardars, (all male) who support such a system.

I cannot imagine a society where women would inflict similar punishments on a weaker gender.

Between the three basic demographics of society, namely men, women and children, it is men who are actively exploiting the lesser demographics; it is men who are pursuing the active humiliation of the weaker in pursuit of hedonism.

Would the outcome have been the same if women were made a part of the three panchayats above?

In a perfect world, there would be no panchayat, but a fair and educated system to resolve conflicts and crimes in a society. But a rude reality check ensures that the rustics and urbanites of the world, may it be in the subcontinent, Africa, Middle East or the West, will employ all kinds of manly panchayats to humiliate women, where there is no reason to humiliate but only punish if and when a real crime is committed.

It would be interesting to see how these three cases would have played out if the panchayat consisted of an equal number of men and women. Would the nature of the alleged crime and the ultimate assault on the alleged perpetrators (in these three cases the women defendants were helpless and defenceless victims) have been any different if the judges were men and women?

Should any society, urban or rural, allow a bandit panchayat to inflict punishments so heinous in nature? What is the role of responsible leaders in passing legislature to ensure that such assault is not committed against alleged defendants who are actual victims? What are women politicians doing to correct these wrongs against their own gender? What is law enforcement doing at a local level in small villages? Would having women in law enforcement agencies bring about change, or would the law-enforcing women be encountering a similar fate as the women in the three aforementioned cases.

There are so many questions but no answers, and this is where we seek help of men in power to assist women make a change.

This world is a global patriarchy and the bra burning women of the world will tell you the same. To make a difference, a few good men must rise and support women in such causes. It is always best to win battles at a local level, be the voice in your village that speaks up; in the heart of darkness, be the light that shines on vices of the male panchayat; be the woman or man who is willing to uncover the heinous nakedness of the hunters and cover the vulnerability of the hunted.

Right is not over-rated, truth is not over-rated, and that is the only truth out there. Be that truth.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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