Recently, I came across intriguing research claiming that power, control over their own self and other resources (financial, food, status, recognition), tends to make a person less attentive towards other’s emotions.
This leads to people using more stereotypes and increases the objectification of others.
The simple ability to influence someone else while staying uninfluenced by them makes a person more likely to engage in socially unacceptable behavior. Adam. D. Galinsky through experiments proved that power reduces our capacity to take the perspective of others.
The results from the experiment suggested that power decreases one’s ability to experience empathy and I believe there could be no better explanation for the high number of cases of violence against women.
It is important to state here that the link between power and negative behaviors is by no means an automatic one. Power triggers inappropriate behaviors among those who already have a tendency to behave in a certain way.
Simply put, not every man is going to abuse the power our patriarchal culture bestows upon the male in our society but the thought does little to comfort when you think of all the men, with possible criminal tendencies and serious personality disorders that enjoy complete supremacy over the females in their families; their cruelty continuously fueled by the fact that no one can question their authority.
The uncontrolled and unchecked patriarchy prevailing in our society allows them to make major life decisions for their wives, daughters, and sisters, without any consideration of their consent.
They can marry off their adolescent daughters to 40-year-old drug addicts, kill their sisters for rejecting a marriage proposal, beat their wives black and blue in fits of outrage or throw acid on the face of a lover they consider promiscuous all in the name of male honor and ‘vani’.
Vani is a custom followed in rural areas Pakistan i.e interior Sindh and Afganistan where girls (minors) are married off or given as servitude in agreement to another family. This is usually done to settle financial or personal disputes.
“I could do whatever I wanted with her” don’t these words sound a bit too familiar?
These were the words of 21-year-old Bashir Ahmed when he was inquired about Gulzaraan, the 6-year-old bride he had attained through ‘vani’ 2 years ago, who was admitted at district Sukkur hospital for sustaining internal injuries.
After establishing that he was the rightful owner of Gulzaraan since they were married, Bashir Ahmed added that he had divorced Gulzaraan and sold her to another man, Rasul Baksh, for Rs. 87,000. According to police officials, Rasul Baksh had intercourse with the now 8-year-old Gulzaraan and she was severely injured as a result.
This is not an isolated case. Incidents like these are quite common in Pakistan, young girls are traded like stocks to compensate for crimes that men of the family have committed.
Our society has reduced women to the status of a mere commodity by shackling them to traditions and depriving them of basic social justice. They are harassed, battered, raped, subjected to both physical and emotional abuse in their own homes.
They are burnt alive or killed in the name of honor by their own family. People committing such atrocities are always unrepentant, just like Bashir Ahmed and Rasul Baksh.
After all, they are only exercising the power this society has granted them. The idea of having irrefutable rights on their wives, daughters, and sisters was instilled into their minds by this very society so why should they expect any confrontation from it now.
On the contrary, they only expect facilitation and understanding from a society that is reluctant to condemn an acid attack on a woman whose character it deems less than crystal clear as if it somehow justifies the atrocity.
A society that after all this progress cannot proclaim that women have just as many rights as men; the right to respect and basic civility, the right to choose the state of their life, to express themselves, to choose a life partner, or to choose a career.
It is one thing for men to consider female subjugation their birthright, but what is even more despairing is that the women in our society have also internalized this belief and consider themselves inferior to men in every aspect. They believe the dehumanizing behavior they are subjected to in their day-to-day life to be a part of our culture, tradition, and religion.
According to a survey conducted by the Punjab Commission on the status of women (PCSW), half of the victims of domestic violence in Pakistan avoid reporting domestic abuse in fear of bringing dishonor to the family. They fail to be reported because they are not recognized as serious transgressions, not by men or even women themselves.
Let’s suppose if a woman does stand up against the injustice and inequality, the misogynistic society that more than often shares the mentality of the offender is always there to put her back in her place and our flawed justice system. Already too weak to discourage the preparator, she is rendered useless by this patriarchal mindset of the society.
Sadly, we can make place for ‘vani’ and ‘karo-kari’ in our customers but not for empowered women, better equipped to fight these horrors.
I fail to comprehend what it is about a strong woman that scares us so much that we can tolerate women being traded like sheep and cows but recoil in horror at the word feminism.
“There is no place for feminism in Islam.” A statement more than often uttered confidently by men with Islamic knowledge limited to hijab and man’s rights over their women.
It has become a popular belief among people in Pakistan that gender equality cannot be achieved within the context of Islam and also the most used argument to vilify feminism, for once secular feminists, tend to share the opinion and believe term “Islamic feminism” to be paradoxical.
I beg to differ, I believe it is the misogynistic mindset and oppression of women that Islam doesn’t have tolerance for, as women we are often told that Islam has given women more rights than any other religion yet continue to be subjected to grossly unequal treatment.
No one can deny the great difference in the rhetoric, how women are held in high stature in Islam and the bitter reality we see all around us where women are forced to lead the lives of second-grade citizens in their own country. There could nothing be farther away from Islam than this ill-treatment of women at the hands of the very men Islam has declared as their maintainers.
If there is something that Islam has no place for, it’s not feminism but ‘vani’, ‘karo-kari’, harassment, acid attacks and the overall social injustice that women face in Pakistan.
Feminism is the need of Pakistan. The only solution to correct the imbalanced power dynamics between the two genders that stimulate violence against women. In the current situation if we want to bring about any change to the condition of women in our country, first and foremost we need to change our mindset, which is the biggest facilitator of oppression of women.
To reshape this society and make it a safer place for women, we need to identify and establish women’s rights and diminish the inequality between genders, which gives men an unfair advantage over women. by providing women with the same access to health, education and financial independence as men.
Men and women are not the same but they are equal in rights and dignity nevertheless and it is very possible to achieve absolute gender equality in Pakistan that accounts for the gender difference, keeping with Islam. Only by getting rid of the taboo that surrounds the word feminism in our society we can convince women to stand up for their rights and to do that we all need to call ourselves feminists.
Understand that feminist are not loud angry females that hate men and want to put them down, feminism does not mean being anti-male or anti-Islamic, nor does it call for immoral and anti-religious practices, it is a movement to fight for the equality of rights between men and women, nothing more and nothing less.
Men or women, everyone should be against the oppression of women, even if it somehow does not affect them, especially if it does not affect them. Simply because it is only the decent thing to do.
So be a feminist!
To create a change in Pakistan, we all need to be feminists, and proud, to let every predator of women know that we do not share their mindset and will no longer let our silence facilitate them in their crimes.
Confidently declare yourself a feminist and let women know that the society is ready for them to speak up against the horrors of ‘vani’, child marriage, rape, sexual harassment, ‘karo-kari’ and domestic violence. it will not use cultural and religious blackmailing to silence them, this time it will stand with them.
Contributed by: Sarwat Boota
I have a degree in pharmacy, an adorable two-year-old daughter, a profound love for literature with an aspiration to become a published author one day, I enjoy reading romance, chic-lit, contemporary and adult fiction. And write about things that tick me off.
Follow my instagram for book rants @sarwatboota