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“I was raped hundreds of times, by the man I was married to”


Published: September 10, 2014

It has taken her years to even be able to talk about this. For the longest time, she was exisiting in a zombie-like state of mind. PHOTO: REUTERS

That phase of her life ended three years ago with her divorce, but 35-year-old Naila* will never be healed of what she went through during the nine years of her marriage. This is a true story; the true story of a woman who suffered a plight faced by so many women. Sadly, the crime committed against them is not even considered a crime.

“Every time my husband approached me, it was sheer torture. Sometimes physical, and forever mental and emotional torture. He was physically brutal and wanted me to indulge in behaviour I was not okay with. He never cared about what I wanted or needed. He did not care about whether I was unwell or pregnant or had recently given birth to a child,” says Naila.

It has taken her years to even be able to talk about this. For the longest time, she was existing in a zombie-like state of mind.

While laws to punish perpetrators of rape have seen considerable headway in Pakistan, how does one even begin to talk about an act that is not even seen as something despicable, leave alone a crime? Talking to even educated people makes one realise that most Pakistanis, even women, do not recognise it as something that should even be discussed openly.

Naila tried to talk to her family about her plight many a times,

“They thought something was wrong with me. ‘You have to fulfil his needs. He has a right over you. Besides, your three sons will suffer. Think of them’, is what they’d say every time. So many times, I wanted to say ‘but what about my rights?’ but did not have the courage. When something is packaged in social norms and misunderstood religious ethics, one is conditioned into staying silent even in the face of pain and suffering.”

When asked if Pakistani law recognises marital rape as a crime, Maliha Zia Lari, lawyer and women’s rights activist, explains that earlier the law described rape as a crime committed by a man against a woman other than his wife. Lari says:

“In 2007, the part that said ‘other than his wife’ was removed. That technically means that the statute has changed. However to the best of my knowledge no cases have been reported”.

In her opinion, it all boils down to social bias, stress on women in particular when it comes to conjugal rights, and the fact that marital rape is not even seen as a crime,

“There is so much silence around the issue”.

Naila’s saviours came in the form of some friends who made her realise that religion neither condoned nor allowed a man to be physically cruel to his wife, even when it came to spousal physical rights.

“I began to study and talk about it with people who had knowledge, and realised I was being wronged. I realised that just like I am not allowed to cause harm to others, it is also a sin to allow someone else to harm me. Allowing a man to physically hurt you and treat you like an object with no feelings is not piety,” she says.

The change took long. The process took even longer. The first person who needed to understand that this was wrong was Naila herself. The most difficult part was making the decision, because her husband was not a habitual wife-beater, yet was often violent when it came to the area of physical intimacy. But Naila finally struggled her way out.

According to barrister Asker Husain who practices law in the UK, those from the civil society or human rights’ camps should not be disheartened if social change is not swift.

“In England, marital rape wasn’t recognised as an offence until 1991, and it took a very long time and much effort to change centuries’ old thinking that somehow the act of marriage was tantamount to the woman ‘consenting’ to everything,” says Husain, adding that even in the UK, that there aren’t many marital rape prosecutions.

“There are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s simply because the wife doesn’t want to bring a case against the man she loves and/or is the father of her children, or reasons like economic dependency. It’s also very difficult for the prosecution to establish the absence of consent. But evidential issues are faced in other arenas too and are not unique to marital rape.”

Seeing stories like Naila, one is forced to wonder whether what Bertrand Russell wrote in 1929 in his book ‘Marriage and Morals’ still holds true. Russell had said that,

“Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution.”

Whether one gives the act the tag name of ‘marital rape’, or chooses to call it by a milder name to avoid severe reactions from certain quarters, the fact remains that use of force and violence, and lack of consideration of the wife’s feelings is something unacceptable, both religiously and ethically.

Change takes time. For change, all segments of society must be slowly brought on board, including the men. For this, baby steps would have to be taken. And the first step is to break the silence around the issue.

Change may take decades, but the process must start.

*Name and certain details have been changed to protect this person’s identity

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About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, blogger & activist. Currently working for The Express Tribune. Focus on human rights, health, gender, peace & Islam. Idealist. Wannabe photographer. Chaai, traveling, reading, friends and motherhood.

5 responses »

  1. Farah please think hard on it. Is it not going to damage the marriage institution, which has already suffered blows by westernised mind. I think study of English literature has caused a lot of damage to Islamic societies. Why we referred to Bertrand Russell, why not to Quran and Hadith, the biggest source of guidance.

    I think we want to show ourselves as more liberals by referring to Englit and Eng authors. If we refer to Quran and Hadith we seem conservative and fundamentalists.

    Hence its better between the two ISLAM or WEST and be proud of. We should get rid of this hypocrisy.

    You wrote well on Eidul Azha ritual. But what is this on marriage. I failed to understand. please read what Hadiths say on it. Wife is bound to agree if husband ask her to share bed with him. its very clear.

    If there is a health issue no human being let alone a Muslim will demand that. Please try to understand ISLAM as a whole.

    Woman are somewhat oversensitive when it come to gender issue and it is spreaded by WEST. We are all Muslims with clear right and duties.

    Reply
    • Dear Asif Sahab
      Salam
      Jazakallah for the response.

      Indeed I write even this in the light of ahadith and fatawa. The rights of the wife defined by our Prophet, may upon him be peace, made me write this!!!
      However Pakistani media does not want an article on such subjects in the light of Islam.
      Inshallah I will write on it some day and hope you will read it.

      Thank you for your feedback Sir.

      Reply
      • Dear Farah,

        Wasalam Warakhmatullah wabarakatuh,

        Thanks for such a cool, calm and sedate reaction. I was expecting an EMO, coarser, more abrasive and rougher one, as it has become an unfortunate norm in our society.

        I just went through your Ethiopia series.

        Amazing and awesome!

        I would particularly appreciate you being in decent dress all the way through or more appropriately in all the pictures available.

        I was looking for some traces of Islamic history there particularly about Najjashi but unfortunately found none.

        Didn’t you try to trace that place where the first Islamic Hijra muhajireen went and settled and where GREAT Najjashi used to be.

      • I will wait for your article and Insha’Allah will read it and comment.

        You can read me on,

        asifmasood@wordpress.com

        My email is,

        asifahq@gmail.com

  2. It seems you were overdosed by tea while writing this blog. Please be careful before lifting pen to write on Islamic issues.

    Reply

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