She came to me for a contraceptive but her husband dragged her away

Published: May 31, 2016
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PHOTO: iStockphoto/shawshot

It was a few years ago when a 40/41-year-old mother of five children (her eldest in his late teens) came to me asking for contraception. After we discussed the pros and cons of the various contraceptives available, she decided to pick a pill that was appropriate for her age.

Half an hour later, her husband, a man in his early 60s, stormed into my clinic, flashed me the same medication in his hand and asked,

“What is this?”

“This is a medication for women,” I said.

“Is this a contraceptive?”

“Yes.”

He threw it in the dustbin and warned me that if I ever dared to prescribe his wife a contraceptive again, he would file a complaint against me. He stormed out of the room and banged the door shut. I was later informed that he pulled his wife by her headscarf and dragged her all the way back to the car.

A year and a half later, that same woman had another baby.

At the age of 67, just three years after this child was born, the husband suddenly died of a brain haemorrhage. The lady was left with six children, two of which were not even in their teens. She was also the second of the three wives the man had taken – and left behind.

She continued to see me over the years after that first encounter, right up until I left the job. I can vouch for how much misery this woman went through; a 40-something-year-old widow raising children on a 1500 Saudi Riyals stipend.

This is only one of the many stories I have personally encountered.

Being in such close proximity to so many distressing stories of unplanned pregnancies, when I came across the CII’s proposed women’s protection bill, particularly this clause, I was overcome with unshakable rage and disgust for those who are supposedly protecting our kind.

“A woman cannot use contraception without the husband’s permission.”

I wish men could get pregnant and be forced to raise children the way mothers do to realise what a travesty of injustice this clause by CII, Pakistan really is. It should be the other way around; men should take permission from their women before even considering not using contraception.

What completely evades my understanding is why men think they can dictate whether contraception is required when it is the woman who bears the burden of unplanned pregnancies. Unlike Catholicism, our religion is accepting of seeking such preventative methods. If Allah (SWT), the all-seeing and all knowing allows it, then He has granted such rights to women for a reason – knowing they are the ones who bear the children in their wombs and raise them. Making husbands become the contraceptive police is unjustified and is substantiated no-where in the Quran or by any Hadith.

This is simply a patriarchal attempt by opportunistic men to control women.

Having worked in a conservative community in Makkah, Saudi Arabia as ObGyn/in the field of family medicine for 14 years, I can tell you that I have seen this happen one too many times amongst our people.

It is easy for men to stand firm against contraception. But do they stand just as firm with their wives to raise a child conceived from that decision? Do they stand firm in carrying out the responsibilities that emerge from that particular choice?

No, they do not. They leave it to their wives to deal with.

A family should be planned with a conscious and practical head above the shoulders. When something is in your control, you cannot impose patriarchal notions upon your wives and accept the repercussions of an impractical choice as fate or Gods decision. Neither should you shrug it off as a woman’s responsibility. The decision to conceive, and how many at that, is a joint concern. Not only does one need to take into consideration the husband or wife’s capabilities, but you really need to think of the child.

Ask yourselves, can you provide the child with everything s/he could ask for? Can you provide him/her a life with no shortcomings or obstacles? Can you promise to protect him/her from any harm that could possibly come his/her way? Can you vow to make sure your child’s happiness is your utmost priority?

If your answer to all the aforementioned questions is yes, then go right ahead. Tell your wife you don’t need to use protection because, if she conceives, you are willing to provide her and her child with a life that they won’t regret. If not, stop trying to play God in your wife’s life.

ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

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

  • Jayman

    Really sad. Then again, how do you go about addressing this problem when leaders like Turkey’s Erdogan proclaims that it is every Muslim family’s duty to have as many children as he can and not use contraception. The clerics are no better. It is the women who suffer silently in the end.Recommend

  • worried

    ‘That’ poor woman, you talked about, is culpable. She married a man who was at least 2 decades older than her. It was more likely due to his money or whatever. She took a deal, and she should hold her end of the bargain. Have you ever wondered that she did not visit your clinic discretely, and that she put your career/life in danger by directing her man to your exact location? Do you really believe that ‘the’ man knew readily that the tablets were contraceptive? And to top it off, how comes does it relate to CII in any way at all?

    Dear ET, please stop all this male-bashing which knows no bounds. Promoting and highlighting a matter, are two different things. It goes without saying that excess of everything is bad. Lets see whether my comment gets deleted.Recommend

  • Ali S

    How about giving chemical contraceptives to Pakistani men by telling them that they’re pills for improving sexual performance – win-win solution.Recommend

  • abc

    Who forced her to marry a person who was already married twice?
    Accept it or not. Islamic rulings are not going to change according to your westernized education of sooo much realism and materialism. You people are lucky who have every forum available to spit your nightmares.Recommend

  • SRK

    Indian born folks, irrespective of religion, tend to have liberal /modern / western views.Recommend

  • MR.X

    CII in everything.. These women have not read the Quran and Shahih Bukhari or they just dont accept islamic teachings.. I have and sure did not find CII teachings against them.. CII got to the head of women because they are bot educated according to our religion or dont want to accept it.. I read somewhere Ashfaq ahmad said:”Jis ko islam acha nai lagat wo maulvi ko bura kehta hai”Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    A problem because of Religion has been reduced to a Pakistani problem.

    Why can’t just people say don’t follow Religion, follow common sense? Having more than 1 kid is Economically suicidal! Why is that such a bad thing?

    The first thing Muslims do when discussing problems arising out of blind faith is to declare: “This is not Islam!”.

    Abrahamic Religions are anti-contraception. They address issues, which should be none of their concerns – political, personal, hygiene,etc. – than just be about finding peace and God. Rather than say it as it is you guys are obfuscating the issue.

    The liberal Muslims are more concerned about Islam getting a bad rep than actually addressing the problem. Shameful.Recommend

  • Sandeep

    Way to go Lady..!!
    Superb Article..Recommend

  • siesmann

    Not regressive like Pakistanis are.Indians have came out of dark ages mostly,whereas Pakistan is going the other away towards 7th century-from dark to darker.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Have you read any comment from any Pakistani that doesn’t mention Islam, Muslims this and that a few times.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Do maulvis really love Islam.?They are the most anti-God creatures that ever lived.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Typical misogynist and Patriarchal comment . As if women have much say in marriage !!!Recommend

  • Abdullah Ghayur

    Totally agree with you. I dont know what is going on on ET .They are publishing all those things which suggest man are divine evils. who makes women life hell. Almost form the last week every article either related to someone bashing at CII and now the topic turned on Erdogan. two things are common targets in all these articles . Males and religionRecommend

  • MR.X

    The saying goes “See what is being said not by whom”. As i said earlier i have read Quran and Sahih Bukhari in this regard so please dont argue the facts which the CII has clearly stated. Emotions do not change facts,
    Only God knows what is in the heart. You do not decide that.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Which part of this piece is a fabrication or a lie? If you are saying that it should be brushed under the carpet or at least, not exposed, you’re wrong. Women are humans too.Recommend

  • rationalist

    Having 6 to 10 children is a normal thing for Muslims in India, Pakistan and other countries. Especially in India, Muslims remain backward due to their refusal to accept contraception that results in large number of children they can’t educate and support. They and their pseudo secular activists then complain that the nation is responsible for Muslim backwardness.

    Just blame it on others and not take personal responsibility.Recommend

  • Myrna Minkoff

    Well said, couldn’t have put it better myself!
    That is the exact problem with Abrahamic religions, they are more about politics and power-grabbing than about God or spirituality.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Neither should Mullah decide,and rule over what the chosen representatives of people have decided.Recommend

  • Humza

    This article says nothing about the background of the patient. If an Indian doctor is practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia, it’s possible the patient could be another Indian like her or a local Arab so no need to sound so smug about Indian cultural views. We are all well aware about the treatment of women in India or India’s reputation as the rape capital of the world. The outlook for Indian Muslims is generally bad because of poverty, exclusion by largely Hindu society and lack of education which is compounded by their high birth rate. Indian Muslims need to tackle their own issues. The problems of Indian Muslims cannot be compared to Pakistanis who face different issues.Recommend

  • SRK

    The comment was directed at the author’s backgroundRecommend

  • stevenson

    She and her family could have asked to put in a clause to deny the husband another marriage in the original Nikah Nama. This is a stipulation that is allowed in Islam and used by the prophet when his own daughter was married. Many people in Pakistan and Muslim countries would never marry a partner who has the intention of having a second wife and you will find very few educated Pakistanis with more than one wife because they are aware of this clause.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    why did God create men, pakistani men specifically? Theyre so jaahil it just makes me question everything about life and death. I thought Quran was given to us a guidance for living our lives. If Islam is supposed to make u a better person and majority of these sick Pakistani men claim to be religious and pious, then why are their characters so bad?! Everything they do is just the opposite of Islam but I bet this guy who dragged his wife from her headscarf, prayed 5 times a day, read the Quran etc but then why…why are Pakistan men such jaahil backward evil sick confused braindead extremist perverted human beings? I DONT GET IT. If they claim to follow teachings of Islam so ritualistically and follow every aspect of Islam in their lives, should not they be the best human beings in the world? In fact they are the worst!
    In contrast to them, just look at men in the west. Loving, caring, obedient to their wives etc and thats why I have taken a stand for myself and have made this point to my traditional grandmother and my wife beating father, that if Im gon get marry Im marrying a white man and at the bottom of the list, if all else fails, id marry a jaahil pakistan man.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    No ,it was directed at the lack of information the authoress has provided in her blog.

    The author has twisted the facts to prove her point.
    The authoress has declined to mention the ethnicity,the financial situation,the family background of the said victim.

    A cute little trick that information gathering agencies often use.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Every thing written in a blog should be taken as absolute truth?

    Let me tell you how this works…..
    To prove a point you have to give
    references(how many people you have interviewed?)
    your sources(where you have interviewed to these people?)
    factors affecting outcomes(the culture,background,financial situation of the ones being interviewed.)

    The authoress has used words like “one of many”.

    What does “many” mean 100,1000,10,000.
    There is no way to know for sure.
    That is why people use data to prove a point.
    Not your personal experiences.Recommend

  • sterry

    Hey lay off the Pakistani men ! We are not all the same. Where in this story does it say anything about Pakistani men? There are jaahil men all over the world and I doubt Pakistani men are more jaahil than Arab men or men from other Muslim nations who are even sexist like Afghans. Ever hear about Afghan refugee men killing their wives in Western countries like the Afghan man who killed his wife and three daughters in Canada? And he also had a 2 nd wife too.Recommend

  • rationalist

    It is not a question of the maulvis loving Islam. They obey Islam as every Muslim is supposed to do. Rizwan Ahmad is quite correct. Whatever the CII has said comes straight from the Quran, Hadiths and Sunnah.Recommend

  • LS

    Kudos to you for speaking your mind!Recommend

  • Jayman

    If you’re looking for a precise number, you’re just being pedantic. Look what Erdogan says and what your own clerics say about birth control. That should put a figure in your mind. But you haven’t told us why you think this claim is wrong. She happens to be a doctor. Meeting and treating people is what she does.Recommend

  • Saher

    And on the other hand, there are many women dying to have more children but husbands have restricted and do not want more, so much so that they are willing to refrain from the act altogether just for the fear of getting the wife pregnant. Whether it be about having countless children or none at all, it should be mutually agreed upon and not imposed by one on the other.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    She has overly simplified a complex problem into a simple one to fit her world view.
    In poor countries like Pakistan,India,Bangladesh,China etc children, especially male children are a source of strength for the family.
    Men ,it is generally believed are to protect the family, so the more the merrier so to speak.
    More children mean more sources of income,more family strength and more resources.
    By the way , her being a doctor proves nothing.
    To prove a point you have to give some references , not your own limited experiences.
    I hope this makes it clear to some extent.Recommend

  • gp65

    I may agree with your assessment that Mullahs should not decide the fate of a country. However the unfortunate reality is that Pakistan constitution says that all laws must be compliant with Islam. That being the case people can either
    a) change the constitution and NOT require laws to comply with Islam OR
    b) prove that what CII says is not derived from Islamic sources OR
    c) comply with what CII is saying.
    You cannot dump on CII without disproving their theological sources if you claim to be an Islamic country.Recommend

  • Afshan

    A rare situation that can take place anywhere in the world MUST NOT be
    taken as the common behaviour prevalent in Pakistan where women come to
    service delivery outlets to get contraceptives on their own free will.
    41 percent of all married women are using contraceptives in Punjab, the province with the largest population in Pakistan. Only surgical contraception– considered a permanent method– requires consent of husband–none other. Islamic clerics also promote birthspacing through contraception so there is no religious barrier.
    Culturally also birthspacing is accepted. This is a rare case and highlighting it gives a totally wrong perspective, especially as the writer has been introduced to Pakistan only through her husband.Recommend