The Alternate Path

Today he decided to be brave and break free
From the shackles of habit and familiarity
He bravely selected the alternate path
He took each step slowly but resolutely

It led him to a path with tall wise trees arching over it
The trees seemed to shelter the path to guide him forward,
The path led to a beautiful garden, colorful and fruitful
It seemed to buzz with life and coaxed him onward.

As the garden came to an end he saw a small cottage
With smoke billowing out of its chimney,
A warm and welcoming place it appeared
It seemed to have come straight out of Disney.

He knocked on the door and saw a pie on the window sill
It smelled like his favorite, apple and cinnamon,
It seemed truly to be a sign a good omen if you will
He experienced a slight increase in adrenaline.

An elderly man opened the door and gave him a big smile
“He’s finally here Emma, can you believe it? He made it at last.”
The old woman hugged him and held on for dear life
She looked, smelt and felt familiar, like someone from his past.

He was overcome by a strong sense of dejavu
How did he know these two beautiful souls?
They welcomed him into their home and hearts
They fed him pie with vanilla ice-cream in bowls.

The taste was divine and oh so very familiar
It reminded him of someone who had made it for him before,
It shocked him and brought him to a crushing realization
Like his grandparents he too wasn’t alive anymore.

Day 58

Femicide

Definitions of femicide

Female homicide (or femicide): the unlawful and intentional causing of a death of a female.
Intimate femicide: the intentional killing of a woman by an intimate partner (husband, boyfriend, cohabiting partner, same-sex partner (current or ex), or a rejected would-be lover, as well as perpetrators from incestuous relationships.
Non-intimate femicide: the intentional killing of a woman by someone other than an intimate partner.

This word has been in the limelight most recently because of the murders of women in Turkey however this term has also been applied to other places like Mexico and Azerbaijan. It is actually a global phenomenon and it is predicted to be at an all-time high this year due to the quarantine situation.

How is femicide linked to the black and white picture challenge online?

The Guardian reports that in 2019, 474 women were murdered, mostly by partners and relatives in Turkey. This is the highest rate in a decade in which the numbers have increased year on year.  Very recently, the country was rocked by the brutal killing of Pınar Gültekin, a 27-year-old student, who was allegedly killed by an ex-boyfriend.

The B&W picture challenge was to encourage people to post their pictures to emphasize how pictures of murdered women end up in black and white in the pages of newspapers. Most people who did this were not aware of the reason behind it. Prominent celebrities like Chef Nigella Lawson and Comedian Miranda Hart issued apologies for posting pictures without knowing the reason. I myself am also guilty of doing this.

What are the demands of the people protesting femicide in Turkey?

Turkey was the first country to adopt a 2011 Council of Europe convention on gender-based violence and domestic violence, a legal framework designed to protect victims and prosecute offenders, known as the Istanbul Convention. The protesters think that it is one of the primary laws keeping women safe in the country even though the Turkish Government is looking to do away with it saying it promotes immorality and breaks up the traditional family system.

What about femicide in Pakistan?

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, with cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence recording a rapid rise. According to statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women’s rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases of honour crimes were registered.

Patriarchy is the core reason behind these high statistics of abuse and other acts of violence against women in Pakistan. There are not however enough initiatives being created to address this primary cause of femicide locally.

The WHO report also blamed “unequal power of women relative to men” and the “normative use of violence to resolve conflict”.

What is patriarchy you ask?

In the context of our discussion, it would be defined as, ‘a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.’

There are simply not enough women at the table when women’s rights and protections are being legislated. The system is by the males and for the males and they enjoy rights and privileges that women simply do not. While we do see things improving slowly and gradually, drastic measures need to be taken to reduce if not crush gender inequality in Pakistan.

This gender inequality is reflected in all spheres of life from the moment a girl is born to the time that she dies. It is apparent in all the opportunities she is denied and her male siblings are provided. It is taken from her in the form of the best piece of meat in the food, her education, her property and even her ability to earn an income to support herself.

Let’s come back and focus on femicide.

“Many of the victims of ‘femicide’ are killed by their current and former partners, but they are also killed by fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and other family members because of their role and status as women,” said the UNODC. These killings, it added, do “not usually result from random or spontaneous acts, but rather from the culmination of prior gender-based violence. Jealousy and fear of abandonment are among the motives.”

In Pakistan these types of killings are usually terms ‘Honour Killings’ even though it can be argued that there is no honour associated with killing anyone.

If most of the femicides committed again women are by their partners why don’t they just leave?

This is a question that is often asked when a femicide news report comes up and people wonder why the victim stayed with an abusive spouse or partner. The answers to this question are often simple and quite horrifying.

  • Most of these women have no safe place to leave and escape to.
    • In most cases even their own parents are not willing to take them back if they decide to leave their partner.
  • Leaving can drastically increase their chances of being killed as opposed to staying with the partner.
    • It can often be a former partner or a rejected one that can kill or throw acid at a female he felt rejected or abandoned by.
  • As mentioned earlier it is not always a partner but can also be immediate family members who are a threat to her life.

 What can we do about it?

The first thing we can do about it is educate ourselves about the issue and accept that there is one. Then we can pass on that information to others and educate them about it as well. If you are a blogger or influencer then write about it or talk about it on whatever platforms you have access to.

If you know anyone who is in a problematic situation reach out to them but remember, never ask a victim why she doesn’t just leave, especially not after knowing the information you know now.

If you decide to help her leave the situation, make sure you provide her all the support she needs, like an alternative place where she will be safe.

Keep an eye out for the signs of abuse such as controlling behaviour, violence or threats of violence.

Seeing the surge in domestic violence cases the world over even Pakistan has introduced a helpline. The helpline is operational from 10 am to 10 pm all through the week. The toll-free helpline is 1099 for landline calls and 0333-9085709 on Whatsapp for both calls and texts. It’s effectiveness is questionable as most women are afraid to reach out and ask for help however it was much needed. We can only hope that over time it will prove to be valuable if even one life is saved.

Here are some ways to help a loved one who is being abused:

  • Setup a time to talk.
  • Let her know you’re concerned about her safety.
  • Be supportive.
  • Offer specific help.
  • Don’t place shame, blame or guilt on her.
  • Help her make a safety plan.
  • Encourage her to talk to someone who can help.
  • If she decides to stay, continue to be supportive.
  • Encourage her to do things outside of the relationship.
  • If she decides to leave, continue to offer help.
  • Let her know that you will always be there no matter what.

Honour Killings

Sources of Information:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/31/challenge-accepted-turkish-feminists-spell-out-real-meaning-of-hashtag
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/23/turkey-outrage-rising-violence-against-women
https://www.dw.com/en/violence-against-women-on-the-rise-in-pakistan/a-50550672

Femicide: A global scourge


https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/645699-calling-from-home
https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/how-help-friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Soul Shall Taste Death!

I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was over two decades ago. There were two girls who were best friends with each other and were inseparable throughout college. The looked as different as night and day, Afshan had light hair and skin colour and she was always laughing. Bushra had long black hair and a wheat-ish complexion and she too was always happy.

They were a sight to behold as they laughed and talked together in the corridors of the college. A lot of people didn’t like them and called them cheap and other bad names but they didn’t care at all. They were good people and that is all that mattered in the end.

I had spoken to them a few times and I was acquainted with them but I wasn’t friends with either one of them. It was our second year of college and we received the new that Bushra had been shot and killed by her boyfriend. It was a shock to all of us and we gathered around Afshan to comfort her as she cried.

Bushra’s mother had picked out a pink dress for her to wear on that fateful day not knowing it was the last time she would pick out something for her daughter to wear. Her boyfriend had been her brother’s best friend and had lived very close to her house. It broke our hearts to learn that her body had been carried past his house for the final prayers and her burial. Her brother was abroad studying so he could neither attend her funeral nor take his best friend to task over his sister’s murder.

None of us knew what had actually taken place in that car that day. Had he threatened to shoot himself and accidentally shot her? Had he asked her yet again to marry him and had she insisted on ending things? Had she shot herself to prove her love for him? There were so many questions as there always are around such tragedies. Young love can often end very tragically more often than it ends in happiness.

We sat around Afshan trying our best to comfort her as she talked about her best friend and the pain of losing her, many people came to ask the questions that were not needed. As we all sat there trying to process the shock of losing such a young and promising life, others wanted entertainment. We sat with Afshan trying to get her to talk and register what had happened. There were a few people even at that point in time who wanted her to dish out the dirt on her recently departed best friend.

It made me wonder why even after someone’s death we want to focus on what they did wrong or how they were at fault for their fate. Why does it matter what actually happened that day as she was killed by the person she loved and thought loved her back? Why can’t we just accept that she has died and focus on preventing such things from happening in the future? Why can’t we help her friend remember her fondly instead of casting aspersions on the character of the deceased?

To date when I think about that lovely human being and the way her family lost her, it brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart break. It was a trauma I am not sure not just for her family but for everyone around her too. Everyone whose life she touched had to have experienced some shock or suffering. I remember someone telling me back then that she had been unable to sleep after hearing about Bushra. She had started praying because she had started to fear death and understood that it could strike at any time.

Is this perhaps why Allah allows such tragedies to happen in the first place? So that the rest of us get a wake-up call and realize that death is not far? So that we all understand that death does not strike at a certain age when we are ready and willing to leave the world, which we almost never are? Is that why I had to see an aged woman suffer through pain while a 6-month-old could not survive? Is that why perhaps a young soon to be bride died in a bomb blast close to where I was at that time?

Every death is a reminder for me that mine is not too far away. I was holding my grand father’s hand as he breathed his last along with my cousins. I have participated in ghusals and have felt my heart shake and tremble at the thought me being the one lying there one day. Then again, every death brings with it a sense of relief and gratitude.

I am still alive.

I can still change the way I live.

I can still strive to make a difference in this world to make it a better place.

I can still endeavor to be remembered as a good person.

I can still make every effort to change my destination to Jannah (Heaven).

Day 22

The Istikhara

“I want you to cover your head when you leave the house.” He told me.

“I don’t want any servants in the house so you will need to do all the housework yourself.” He said and I wondered if he had maybe not heard me when I told him I don’t and can’t cook.

“You can only leave the house with me.” He went on. I asked him if I could at least go out with my mother if she came to pick me. “She will come with a driver, right?” I nodded yes. “Then no. I will take you wherever you want to go when I come home in the evening.”

“When do you come home in the evening?” I asked him. “It varies but I usually come home at around 8 because I go to the gym at around 7:00.”

“Won’t you be too tired to take me out when you come home that late after the gym?” I asked him.

My head was a jumbled mess at everything he was laying down as conditions and I wanted some clarity on what he was expecting from me. “I might be but you can’t go anywhere unless I take you.”

“I can to the gym with you, though right?” I asked him. “No of course not. There are men there.” I was getting a little scared of this man my parents thought I should consider marrying. I shook my head and decided that he is probably joking.

“I don’t want you to have any guy friends either. I know you study with guys and you have family friends that you are close to, but I don’t like the idea of you having any male friends.” He told me and I was getting confused again.

I thought about all my female cousins and none of them had any guy friends so I guess it was doable but then none of them had studied in co-education institutions either. I was trying to rationalize his thoughts and demands and I was feeling over whelmed at his narrow mindedness.

“You can’t meet your best friend anymore. I don’t want you around people who drink.” He told me in the same discussion and it felt unreal. “Why though? They never drink in my presence.” I asked.

“People who drink are unpredictable and you never when they will decide to start drinking and how they will act. I know because I used to drink and I was even a bar tender for a while when I was studying in London.”

“Do you still drink?” I asked him worried. “No, my dad doesn’t even let me touch non-alcoholic beer anymore. I got some home the other day and he made me throw it out.” He replied, sounding frustrated.

I was so stunned at some of the things he had said that I actually asked him if he would also beat me up after he married me. To which he replied. “No of course not. I have a sister too if her husband hit her, I would kill him.” To which I reminded him that I have an elder brother too so he better be careful and he just laughed mockingly in response as though I was joking.

“Can I kiss you?” He asked me suddenly. “No of course not! I shouldn’t even be with you right now and you already told me you like to bite so definitely not.”

“I promise I won’t bite.” He said and I just shook my head no.

My parents never introduced me to a guy and his family unless they really liked them and we had all really hit it off with each other. I was getting worried about the things he had said to me earlier and the things he was telling me now.

I had told my mom the things I had seen as red flags, basic things like how I can’t drive or work and how I had to cover my head and she said those are good things. She said he wasn’t wrong and that I should listen to him because she agreed with him on these three things.

I was worried though, I had been okay with the demands he was making while I was with him but when I thought about them later, they filled me with dread especially since he stopped talking to me after saying everything and telling me that the ball was now in my court to decide what I want.

I spoke to my brother and his wife that night. I told them everything he had mentioned and they panicked and called me. They told me that these were all red flags and I should run away from him as fast as I could. My brother was very liberal and he had a love marriage. They lived abroad so he could be over reacting.

I decided to do an istikhara that night because that is what people tend to do when they are having trouble deciding on something. My belief was very simple when it came to the prayer. I prayed it like I was supposed to and trusted God to do whatever was best for me. I never waited for dreams or signs, I just waited for things to manifest themselves.

That night I had a dream though, I dreamt that I was surrounded by hungry lionesses, they pounced on me and I woke up shocked and scared.

The Dream (December 1993 Series)

My mamoo (maternal uncle) used to call my Naani Amma (my grandmother), Apa (elder sister). They were very close to each other and their love for each other was exemplary. She had survived a brain tumor and a subsequent surgery to have it removed. It had been the size of a tennis ball and the doctors had predicted that she would never be able to walk again.

They were not able to remove all of it because some of it was near her optic nerves. She used to get really bad headaches when it pressed down on her nerves. When she had visited them for a follow up appointment a year later, they had been shocked to see her walking independently and managing very well.

She was a very religious & highly spiritual woman who never missed her obligatory prayers and even said extra prayers no matter what condition she was in. She woke up from a really bad dream one morning and called her eldest and favorite son Mian (his pet name) to her side.

She said she saw a road like a highway which led to a mazar (mausoleum) and she saw three evil spirits chasing her. She was really upset and very disconcerted so he assured her that he would take her to Bhit Shah (a mausoleum on the highway) so that she could pray and feel better. He reassured her that it was only a dream and as soon as he was free from a wedding in his in laws, he would take her there.

She tried her best to get rid of the dread and fear she was experiencing as a result of the dream but she was unable to shake it off. Her son left for a wedding function in Hyderabad and they got a call sometime later that he and his family had met with an accident.

A truck that had been overtaking on the highway had run over their car. The side that the truck ran over had no survivors whereas the people in the other half of the car had survived albeit with injuries. My mamoo and his two daughters had not survived the crash on the highway and all three of them were buried at Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi.

Mazar

The Dupatta Dilemma

A dupatta is defined as ‘a length of material worn arranged in two folds over the chest and thrown back around the shoulders, typically with a salwar kameez, by women from South Asia.’

She had always worn a dupatta before she got married but not in the house, whenever she stepped outside. After her marriage her husband liked her to wear jeans and short shirts and she always wore loose fitted clothes for comfort so one wasn’t always needed.

Samra couldn’t understand why her missing dupatta had suddenly become a hot topic for her mother-in-law. She herself also didn’t wear one in the house and Samra always wore a dupatta or scarf when she left the house just not with jeans.

She got dressed one morning, it was a Friday so she wore new clothes. It was the during times of Corona, so she hadn’t tried to look presentable lately and today she decided to look nice. She straightened her hair; she put on some makeup and took out her matching shoes. She went downstairs wearing a three-piece suit and she greeted everyone happily. She was feeling good and confident after quite a few days.

Her son Ali looked at her and smiled. He asked her cutely if she was going somewhere. It was his way of telling her that she looked nice and Samra felt her effort was appreciated. This was when her mother in law told her that he was asking her if she was going somewhere because she doesn’t usually wear a dupatta in the house. It was a simple comment but it had the effect of a slap across the face. It drained all her joy and she wished she wasn’t as sensitive to words as she was.

A few days later she called Samra and told her she wanted to give her a suit. It was only a shirt and a dupatta so she was told that since she doesn’t wear one anyways, she can use the cloth for it as a salwar. Once again, the words stung but she stayed silent and went to her room to wallow in her misery once again wondering if she was indeed reading too much into her words.

Some time later Samra died in a road accident and the house was full of people who came to condole and mourn her young death. What happened exactly? How did the accident take place?

“She didn’t normally wear a dupatta you see. She wore one that day and it got stuck in the motorbike’s wheel. It jerked her neck like a noose and killed her instantly.” Her mother-in-law told everyone who asked.

WhatsApp Image 2020-07-21 at 12.33.23 PM

 

 

Beautiful Companion

I have been coming to walk here almost daily since a few weeks. My son has been posted to the hospital and we have been given accommodation by the employer. It is a huge hospital and my son stays busy with his shifts and being on call. It gets lonely being alone indoors so I come here for a walk every day.

I have been observing her since I started coming too. She just comes, walks holding a green umbrella which has the initials PIA on it but she hasn’t opened it to date so I have no idea what they stand for. She has really long black hair that that she always ties in a braid which goes down to her hips. She is dark-ish and I would assume that she is of Indian descent.

I have been trying to smile at her in the hope that one day she might consider befriending me. I wonder if she comes because she has a child who is a doctor or if she comes to visit a patient. She is almost always alone and she always seems sad and somewhat scared. There is something about her that makes me want to hold her and tell her that everything will be fine. It is like she is asking to be comforted but will get scared out of her wits if a stranger approaches her especially, an old white guy.

She looks like she has been oppressed, a typical third world country woman who probably wasn’t allowed to go to school. She was probably married off to someone much older who she never even met before the wedding, perhaps a cousin.

She walked past me just then and I asked her if I could join her for a walk since I needed some company. She nodded and I stood up to walk with her. I offered her my hand as I introduced myself and told her my name. “Christopher.”

“Rizwana.” She told me her name and shook my hand.

“Are you Indian?” I asked her.

“No. I am from Pakistan.” She answered.

“So, you’re Muslim then?” I asked her. She nodded in the affirmative.

“Are you married?” I asked her then getting a little confident with her responses.

“Yes, very much so.” She responded.

“My wife died a few years ago otherwise I was married too.” She expressed her sympathy.

“You’re a very good-looking woman you know.” I complimented her then, getting braver with each passing exchange.

“Thank you very much.” She replied with a smile.

“Would it be right for me to assume that Muslim women don’t engage in extra marital affairs?” I asked her then dying to play with her hair as I lay with her in bed.

“It depends. I’m sure Christian women don’t ideally want to either so I’m not sure what it has to do with religion.” She replied and she looked like she wanted to laugh at me but was restraining herself.

“Did you get a chance to meet your husband before you got married to him?” I asked her. She burst out laughing and then apologized if she came across as being rude.

“Yes, I did.” She replied still smiling.

“Is your husband a doctor here or one of your children or are you just visiting someone in the hospital?” I asked her. She smiled again and she had a beautiful, full, genuine smile, one that made you want to smile along.

“You sure have a lot of questions. I work at the hospital. I am a senior consultant and have been working here since over a decade now.” She replied and I felt shocked at her response and ashamed for my presumptions at the same time.

“What brings you here?” She asked me then.

“My son Jason also works here and I am living with him so I just come to walk here everyday for a change in scenery.” I told her.

“Oh, you’re Jason’s father? He’s a really good doctor with a lot of potential. He is on my team actually and I expect good things from him.” She told me and I was shocked. She was my son’s boss, this woman.

“I’m so sorry. I must seem like such an ignorant man, I made so many presumptions about you based on how you look.” I told her genuinely feeling sorry and awkward.

“It’s okay. I come across a lot of people with similar questions and I enjoy learning their perceptions about me every time. Not everyone is as nice about it as you are though so that should make you feel better.” She told me trying to put me at ease.

“Don’t you get annoyed at such people?” I ask her then.

“I find it amusing most of the time and I am happy to address their notions, so that they will be more careful with other people in the future. This one time a man proposed to me knowing I am already married because he thought I was allowed to marry four men at a time.” She told me laughing.

I looked at her sheepishly. “I don’t blame him. I was thinking the same thing. I would have loved to marry someone like you too if you were allowed to marry multiple people.” Then she laughed again. She thought I was joking which was a good thing I guess because she called me a sweetheart for being so nice.

“What does your husband do?” I asked her then.

“He is a doctor too. He’s amazing and we had a love marriage. We studied medicine together and fell in love. We moved to America together and have been living here since.” She told me. Her pager beeped and she took her leave.

“It was nice to meet you Mr. Christopher. I really enjoyed your company.” She told me as she left to attend to her patient.

I asked my son about her that night. I told him how I had met her and how she told me about her husband. I asked him what kind of man her husband was and he looked at me like I was crazy.

“She told you about her husband?” He asked me.

“Yes. She told me how he is a doctor as well and how in love they are.” I told him.

“Dad her husband died a decade ago. He is buried in that small cemetery next to the park. She is not a doctor; she is just a housewife. They came here illegally so she had to let the hospital bury her husband in this cemetery. He was a doctor and he was abusive towards her. He used to beat her and almost killed her a few times.

She lost her mind when he died and she had nowhere to go so that hospital lets her stay in her husband’s accommodation. She spends most of the day at her husband’s grave and then goes home at sunset.”

“I think you are talking about someone else Jason. This woman wasn’t crazy, she was perfectly normal and she told me you work in her department and that you have great potential.” I told him.

“Dad, Rizwana is a psych patient. I work in that department and she has started believing that she is a doctor, she plays the part well. She even carries a pager around that a doctor here gave her as a present instead of discarding when he got a new one. Please don’t get fooled by her and stay away from her. She is dangerous and highly unstable. Please do not engage with her ever again.”

“Why do you people let her walk around if she is that dangerous?” I asked him then feeling a little scared now.

“She is always watched, visiting his grave helps calm her down so we let her go everyday but someone is always keeping an eye on her. Always.” He told me.

I wasn’t sure if I had felt like a bigger fool when I had been talking to her or now when I realized she was actually crazy but saner than most people I had ever talked to in my life.

Art Therapy

I was motivated by a TedTalk I saw on drawing which inspired me to start drawing. The talk was about someone who decided to draw something everyday for a year and that is what I also decided to do.
I started with things that I knew how to draw as a child and slowly started experimenting. I saw online videos and posts about art. I tried a myriad of different mediums. I started with simple coloring pencils and then moved on to crayon, markers, water color paints, acrylic paints, calligraphy pens, sponges, beads, etc.
I saw myself evolve from very basic to somewhat interesting. I am not able to draw something everyday but I keep my eyes open for things to inspire me and I eventually end up doing something or the other.
I have used words in my art and I have made art to support my words as well. Sharing a few images with you to show you my journey. This is one of the many ways that I am managing to keep my sanity and find myself during these scary times.
You can see my art journey from Day 1 to Day 59 on my Instagram account as well. [https://www.instagram.com/confused_empath/]

What Feminism Means to Me

I have always been confused with regards to whether or not I am a feminist. The word has developed so many negative connotations that it has become a scary one. The left and the right have both decided on their own definitions of it which are either too diluted, too watered down and sometimes even polluted.

What does feminism actually even mean?
The dictionary defines it as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

The definition seems simple enough right? Both genders should be treated equally, there should be equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunities, equal freedom, among other things. If you start looking at it through the lens of religion it becomes a little problematic but I think that is a matter of individual interpretation and should not affect the overall cause.

Feminism is not about what you do or do not wear in my estimation and it saddens me to think that, this is what we have boiled such an important cause down to. This has become such an important part of the whole debate and it detracts from so many of the real issues. One side says that wearing a head scarf is against feminism and one side says that the freedom to walkout on the street dressed down is feminism.

I say that feminism is being able to do what you want to do without being forced to. I should not be forced to wear a head scarf, that should be my own decision. Similarly I should not be forced to take it off unless I want to. I should feel safe walking on the road in western clothing or whatever I feel comfortable in without the fear of being harassed. Similarly I should not be forced to wear clothes that I do not feel comfortable in, clothes that I find too revealing or scant. It is about the freedom to wear what you want to as opposed to what it is, that you are choosing to wear.

Recently I was doing some research on human rights and that is when I realized that at the core, we are all feminists. We just don’t know it because not all of us actually understand what being a feminist actually means. Let me tell you what being a feminist means to me.

It means that I stand against the different forms of oppression and injustice that other women who are around me have faced and are facing. I consider myself privileged because I have been protected from these sorts of violations but there are horrors that even I as a woman have faced. There are countless stories of harassment and eve teasing that each of us has experienced which has made us feel unsafe. I remember hating places like Sunday Bazars/Mangal Bazars and if you are a woman, you know why.

Let me tell you the many things that made me realize that I am a feminist and why all us should consider ourselves to be one.

In 2019, the Edhi Foundation found 375 newborn bodies buried in various parts of Karachi, most of them girls. The Edhi spokesperson suggested two reasons for this: pregnancies out of wedlock, and the fact that many people do not want girl children. (Dawn News)

– Thirty-two percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared to 21 percent of boys. By grade six, 59 percent of girls are out of school, versus 49 percent of boys. Only 13 percent of girls are still in school by ninth grade. (Human Rights Watch)

Two thousand cases of dowry deaths are counted per year, which are 2.45 per 10,000. Pakistan has adopted a dowry system from Indian culture, which is ranking at the top of dowry violence list. (The Nation)

– Pakistani rights activists estimate that there are about 1,000 “honor killings” in Pakistan every year. (Human Rights Watch)

– Yet Pakistan currently ranks the second lowest country in the world for gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Index. (UNFPA)

These are some of the facts and figures on the condition or women and women’s rights abuses in Pakistan alone. These are the figures that have compelled me to wake up and smell the coffee and identify as a feminist.

We can disagree on so many things when it comes to feminism. We can argue over meaningless issues like the posters used for the Aurat March or the ‘right’ dress code. These however are not the important issues and we waste precious time and energy arguing over them as they detract from the critical issues.

Let’s work together to see how we can help the women around us and empower them to stand up for themselves and stand strong. Let us teach the people around us that calling the murder of any female cannot be linked to honor. There can never be ‘honor’ in killing someone. Let us start to become the change we want to see around us and let us start focusing on the important issues, the ones that are at the center of it all.

Know the Difference

What do they do?
How do they feel?
When it hits them that they have left a valuable diamond for a dirty piece of coal?
Does it hurt more when the coal burns them?
Do they cry out ashamed and alone when their heart starts to recognize how fickle and empty it is?

What do they do then?
Do they understand that they can’t go back and that the diamond deserves another diamond and not the coal that their own existence has become?
Are they selfish enough to come back or do they stay away, out of love for the diamond?
I guess they don’t care about the diamond, otherwise they never would have left it?
Since they only care about themselves it is likely that they will return?

I hope that by then the diamond has realized it’s worth and found a diamond that shines brighter and makes it shine more brilliantly.

I pray for all the diamonds out there to shine on brighter than before and recognize their own worth even if that burning hot piece of selfish coal did not.

Know The Difference