Reactions to Pakistan’s “Anti-Violence Against Women” Bill – Part II

The other day, I wrote Part I on Pakistan’s (actually, Punjab’s) anti-violence against women act. Here’s part II.

it goes without saying: abuse against women isn’t a Pakistan-only issue; it’s all over thew world, including and especially in the supposedly more “civilized” countries like the U.S.

I’m not going to make this about the presence and power of patriarchy in every country and society, but because I don’t want anyone to misleadingly think that protests against a women’s protection bill is something that happens only in Pakistan, I have to point out the following:

In the U.S.,
– “On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.” (And this is only in the case of the women who report it, or try to report it. Countless others are never learned about.)
– “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”

The difference, of course, between violence against women in the U.S. and those in Pakistan (or any Muslim country) is that we give it a fancy name when it’s outside of the U.S.–“honor killing” or “honor crimes against women.” That way, we think that’s a more urgent problem than what we’ve got at home.

But that usual disclaimer aside (because people, ugh), I just learned that “a recent report for 2014 by a non-profit women’s rights organisation, the Aurat (Woman) Foundation, said that every day of the year, six women were murdered, six were kidnapped, four were raped and three committed suicide. Dowry-related violence and acid attacks are in addition to that.”

responses to the main criticisms against the bill.

The concerns against the bill? Here are some genius minds at work (the first two are responses to Sharmeen Obaid’s tweet supporting the bill):

  • “but this will lead to higher divorce rates in Pakistan!”

? Then let’s stop letting men think it’s okay to beat up their wives. Problem solved. Women won’t feel compelled to report abusive men, women won’t feel unsafe with men, women won’t leave marriages.

But good God, this is pathetic. Why can’t we make sure that men not abuse women *because* that violence can and will and should lead to divorce? Why is it always a problem when a woman speaks up to protect herself? This is a blackmail against women – warning them not to report the violence against them because otherwise, their abusive husbands will divorce them. Do people not understand that the woman actually will be much safer without an abusive man? No, no – don’t get me wrong. I get it that most women in Pakistan are so disempowered financially, educationally, emotionally, and otherwise that the larger society still thinks it’s better for a woman to be married to an abusive monster than to be single. Because of the complete lack of respect we give to single (and divorced and widowed) women. Instead of fixing this problem by actually empowering women through education and independence, we keep repeating the same nonsensical ideas that women are better off married to men they’ll be miserable with than to be single. Instead of providing single women resources and rights and protections from different sorts of harms–like allowing them to live on their own and not have to rely on their brothers or parents, giving them property and inheritance rights so they can utilize them to their benefit–we’re going to just take the easy way out and make women feel like shit for being single. Or maybe we should also make it so that we raise our boys in ways that would make it impossible for them to even IMAGINE disrespecting women in any way so women don’t fear the possibility of a horrible marriage and so actually marry if they want to.

  • “this will lead to men’s insecurities.”

Then let’s stop letting men think it’s okay to beat up wives. That way, their insecurity and manliness will never be under threat. The threat comes once women have to retaliate, anyway. As we say in Pashto, wach pa wacha no (or “not out of thin air”).

But whoa? If a man’s sense of security and manhood and masculinity lies in beating women up, or at least having that right and power to beat a woman up, we’ve got bigger issues – like why on earth a society can believe so strongly for so long that a man’s security can be measured by violence. This is a terrifying consequence of patriarchal messages sent to men. What has always been fascinating to me about this idea that a man’s masculinity can be judged by his ability and power to beat a woman up is that these same people will also claim that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never hit a woman. How the heck are we supposed to reconcile our idea that in order to show you’re a masculine, real, secure man, you must beat up women with the example of the Prophet? Or is that “Well, he was a Prophet. He was infallible. We can’t really be like him”? Funny how that works, ai – we don’t try be like HIM as men, but when it comes to controlling women, we’ll invoke the example of the Prophet’s wives by telling our women “cover! The best of women are the Prophet’s wives and they covered!”

  • “the bill is against Islam! In Islam, a man has the right to beat up his wife.”

Oh? Where do I begin with this one.

a) There are a LOT of things that are allowed in Islam that Muslims don’t do. There are also a lot of things that are not allowed in Islam that we do all the time. Killing women is also completely unacceptable in Islam. But we don’t see these mullahs ever speaking up against those. Islam has granted women the rights to education, divorce, inheritance – all of which are hardly practiced in Islam. But our mullahs conveniently forget about these.

It should make us pause and be suspicious of these guys who remember to use Islam only to harm, limit, and attack women. Religion is unfortunately the most accessible tool used most commonly to keep women as restricted as possible in any given society.

b) Traditionally, Muslim scholars (that I totally disagree with) claimed that a man gets to demand his wife’s obedience in exchange for taking care of her financially. There are many serious problems with this–and this claim has been butchered by women scholars recently (see point C below). This would mean that only some men have the right to beat up their wives, meaning only those who take full financial care of their wives and children. But this is completely unacceptable. Men don’t take care of women financially because they’re good creatures; they do it because society expects them to, that’s how they measure their “manliness,” and they in most cases won’t let women work – women don’t have the opportunities and resources and support to work and provide for themselves. Besides, while men who work to take care of their wives/kids financially, what the heck does society think women do? Just sit there doing nothing? Really? Which women are these? Every woman I know whose husband works and who has kids is tirelessly working day and night, never gets a break to take care even of herself, never has a day off unlike most men who work, and so on. How dare we not take her labor into consideration just because it doesn’t produce monetary value like a man’s labor! The point is that we don’t get to think that a woman owes it to a man to treat her mercilessly and disrespectfully because we made it obligatory on him to work and won’t allow the woman that same right, access, opportunity, space, need, etc.

c) perhaps most importantly, you’re completely wrong. See this review of a book that discusses and challenges this whole “in exchange for fulfilling his financial responsibility to his wife/kids, the man gets to demand obedience, and if he doesn’t get obedience, he can beat his wife” nonsense;  this article on 4:34 discussing the ethical problems that result from the existence of 4:34 and debunking myths that Islam requires the obedience of wives to their husbands, this article re-examining 4:34 (contact me if you don’t have access to it), and the book Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition, a comprehensive study of 4:34 as it’s interpreted by different sorts of scholars throughout Islamic history, including today’s ones.

  • “you can’t trust women; they’ll make up lies about innocent men.”

And you know this because? And you can trust men more than you can trust women because…? Listen, folks: This sexist idea needs to die asap, okay?

There’s going to be abuse of the law and opportunities everywhere. Men do it *all* the time. And that’s horrible. But, dude, Pakistan is generally not one of those countries where a woman can comfortably report an abusive man to the authorities. (Most women don’t feel safe doing that even in countries where relatively more protection is available to them.) So to already feel that that will be a problem isn’t really about the potential problem itself but more a reflection of your fear of an empowered woman. Still, just for that fear, we can’t oppose a bill that’s likely to protect women in huge numbers.

  • “women are emotional; now they’ll just use this law emotionally and then regret it afterwards.”

This is more falsehood. More nonsense. Just think: We allow men to divorce a woman *without any reason whatever* by simply uttering the word “talaaq” three times, and we don’t think that’s emotional, however he might regret it afterwards, but we think a woman standing up to an abusive man is “emotional”?

And is it not “emotional” (in the horrifying way) when a man rapes a woman claiming he was “sexually provoked” by her because of what she was wearing or the way she was behaving?

Is it not “emotional” (in the horrible way) when a man yells, fights, kicks, hits a woman, but you’re telling me it’s emotional of a woman to stand up to a man?

As I’ve started saying: The next time a man yells at you, tell him to calm down and that you can’t be around him when he’s being so emotional.

Man, people, you tire me. Go away. May your mindset be extinct asap so I can direct my energies on other real issues instead of having to explain to you how backward your thinking is for not supporting a simple act that seeks to protect women!

4 thoughts on “Reactions to Pakistan’s “Anti-Violence Against Women” Bill – Part II

  1. Pingback: On Pakistan’s Anti-Domestic Violence Bill – Part I | Freedom from the Forbidden

  2. Pingback: Why are women so picky when it comes to marriage/relationships? | Freedom from the Forbidden

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