Monday, February 25, 2013

Muslim Women and domestic violence

This is re-blog from HuffPost Religion

by Samar Esapzai (@SesapZai), Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_), Vanessa D. Rivera (Nasreen Amina @Nasreen_Vr), Ayesha Asghar(@ashsultana) and Hyshyama Hamin (@SisterhoodArt)

This article is in response to a post by Qasim Rashid of the Muslim Writers Guild of America titled, The Islamic Solution to Stop Domestic Violence" published in the Huffington Post's Religion Blog on March 5th, 2012.

Although this post came to our attention a year after it was written, as young Muslim women having worked with and/or written about gender-based violence issues that have personally affected some of us, we deemed it fit to respond. Also, the points discussed in this article are not only limited to the particular post written by Rashid, but rather it addresses similar arguments that have been made by other writers as well on this issue.

It is a concern to us that Rashid uses the Quran verse 4:34 to explain that it therein contains the "Islamic solution" to domestic violence. He states that according to one perspective of an American social scientist Dr. James Q. Wilson, known for his controversial works on the criminal justice system, that men are more prone to stimulations of anger and aggression and less capable of self-restraint. This, we assume, the author took from one of Wilson’s essays, The Future of Blame in which he cites research from neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Louann Brizendine, where Wilson merely states it as a "claim.” Interestingly, Wilson was also a rational choice theorist on the causation of crime and violence; he has made arguments on the terms that individuals make clear, rational decisions after evaluating all possibilities and does that which benefits them the most.

The theories, both biological and psychological, that claim women and men experience as well as react to anger and violence differently is not new. Christa Reiser, author of Reflections on Anger: Women and Men in a Changing Society writes about how there are other variables such as socio-cultural norms; class and age differences; and process of socialization that explain how men and women react to anger. She writes with regards to a previous research that, "Analysis of independent variables shows that men with low-self esteem, traditional gender roles and attitudes, adversarial sexual attitudes towards women, a history of sexual abuse, and who believe in rape myths generally score higher in hostility towards women.”

So, for Rashid to state only one viewpoint about male violence and saying they have a natural inclination to violence against women is not only biased, but it is also playing into the patriarchal stereotype that men are solely dominated by brute forces, and are therefore unable to control their instincts. This is unfair to men, for not all men are like this; we know of many men who are not violent nor are they inclined towards violent behaviour. And though this behaviour may be universal, for we are living in a global culture of violence and subjugation against women, we cannot automatically conclude that it is part of our biological nature. Violence is a choice; it is not genetically mandatory nor is it innate.

Further, Rashid uses the typical examples of stating facts and figures from the United States, whilst explaining that domestic violence is not only a "Muslim" problem. Of course it isn't! Women all over the world experience domestic, as well as other forms, of violence regardless of their nationalities or religions. And we all know this. What becomes a "Muslim" problem, however, is the various interpretations to justify domestic violence, and in the author’s case to seek a 'solution' to domestic violence, using the Quran. Certainly there are many interpretations of the Quran verse 4:34 and even efforts through initiatives such as WISE - Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality and their Muslim Women’s Shura Council, in trying to make sense of the verse. [link]: Jihad Against Violence Digest

Nevertheless, we are appreciative for Rashid having stated that the verse in fact restricts the husband from using violence and thus promotes the adoption of a restraint and reconciliation approach, which is certainly a more progressive interpretation. Yet, at the same time, this interpretation is more of a “preventative” measure and not necessarily a “solution.”

According to our understanding, verse 4:34 is seen as a one-way street when it comes to placing faultlines, as it rests on the prerequisite that the woman has endangered the relationship in some way. In the instance where a husband may be at fault, Rashid indicates the solution as simply - “women who fear harm from their husbands, Islam gives women an even easier path: demand their husbands to stop their egregious behavior or file for divorce.” Here, the author is deeply mistaken if he believes the “easier path” would suddenly put an end to domestic violence. Neither "demanding" nor "divorcing" is an option for many women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. This is because many are highly dependent on their male family members - both economically and socially - especially when it comes to their livelihood, security, and other dependencies. Additionally, there are also socio-cultural burdens around ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, which affects many women at a deep psychological level.
Conversely, we know today that domestic violence is not only limited to spouses, for many children, elderly women, daughters, sisters and mothers etc. are also subject to violence at the hands of their male family members, as well as female family members (i.e. a mother-in-law abusing the daughter-in-law and vice versa).

Hence, Rashid's method of rationalizing a solution to domestic violence using verse 4:34 requires a deeper analysis and review. It is not only exclusionary, it is also inadequate to reach such a conclusion based on the living realities of Muslim women. The root cause of gender-based violence is the imbalance of power between men and women, resulting in gender inequality and discriminatory patriarchal practices against women. And in order to resolve this issue, a greater understanding and promotion of gender equality is necessary at all levels, including the promotion of positive masculinity (which the author appreciatively touches on) and shared gender roles. The most highly erroneous assumption is that women are solely to blame for allowing domestic abuse and violence to occur, and this perspective needs to change.

Thus, men and women need to work collaboratively to address these issues at both the domestic and local levels, as well ensure that they raise their children in a community that believes - truly believes - that men and women are equal. And this will only be possible through meaningful, rational and open-minded dialogue in order to gain a deeper understanding of the living realities that exist within the communities we live in.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stories of courage: 10 out of 15

We have another guest post today. This is a personal account of my reader's to emphasis the need of reproductive rights. The Author has requested not to mention his name, and he is a resident of Pakistan.

She asked them to tell about the worst thing ever experienced so far in a five minute speech. Five minutes - that’s all they got to express, fancy and deliver.

It was a nice tactic to know their weaknesses, distractions of life, bothersome details and hindrances. There might be someone who had a failed love story. Someone might have remained a victim of any harassment. There could be a patient to an incurable disease.

All of them spoke well - some with the full conscious to gain sympathies, while others blatantly put forward the negligible moles to illustrate how perfect they really are.

She was glad - passing remarks, tossing sad faces when required, a little clapping to show she’s involved and constant nodes to impersonate acknowledgements. Everything was going so smooth, being wrapped and waxed with heavy philosophical words. Then suddenly someone started throwing stones in the still water, someone not worth listening.

He moved up to the stage as lamely as anyone could and started:

The worst thing ever happened to me was not actually happened to me. Also, it has nothing to do with the rejection of my need-based-scholarship as I failed to submit necessary documents which include CNIC (national identification card) of my father and utility bills of my residence. I had none of these.

That worst thing is not related to the hard labor I do while loading trucks with furniture and milk cartons on Muree Road at nights to earn some bucks so that I could buy some extra meals and university notes. No ma’am! It wasn’t related to that at all.
It’s not associated to the ignorance I face due to my bad body odor as a result of excessive sweating during labor. Similarly, it has no association with discrimination I faced for a disgusting hairstyle, pathetic clothes and travelling on local transport.

I’d also like to mention here that though I was hilariously weak in pronunciation of certain words, had weak grammar, but the worst thing ever happened to me was not the laughters which my speech and writing brought to my classmates and teachers.

When first came to Islamabad leaving back those hills, this city mocked me with the stunning paradoxical situations for the fact that there were broad roads but narrow minds, a lot of green patches but barren souls and huge infrastructure but little space in hearts. Yet it was not the worst thing ever happened to me rather that dated back to much earlier years of my existence.

I was brutally disturbed by the hypocrisy as they write in about-section of their facebook profiles that they believe in the formulation of the classless society; they believe in forgiveness, change, revolution, love and a lot more fancy things. But in real they ignore people of not having an equal status; they reject them because of not holding a car worth 2 million rupees for delivering them Subway sandwiches during classes’ breaks. But anyhow, that too was not the worst experience I witnessed.

I could not become an applicant to join Pakistan Army because of not holding a domicile. No hospital held my birth record – a genuine flaw. Later, I was told that I cannot hold a bank account to keep alms and charity I receive occasionally to pay my university dues. I was not entitled to hold a valid identity card, family registration number and a passport. But all of these do not constitute the worst thing I ever experienced.

I did not get attention of my father when I was growing up. I still do not know who he is. But I loved him all my life. The worst thing ever happened to me was actually happened to my mother. I never got to know who she was, where she lived, weather she fed me her milk before abandoning me or not but I do know one thing – I know that I’m deeply saddened, I regret and often wish if she had a choice to "choose" me.

For a while everyone in the class felt humiliated, puny and naked.

Then a voice raised “10 out of fifteen for a hard try, plus 2 for the confidence; and improve your pronunciation.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bollywood Movies & Rape Culture: Why am I rising?

Lovely readers, today's guest post is in honour of "One Billion Rising" and by Maya Sharma.

She is Indo-Canuck based in Montreal. She describes herself as crusader for truth & justice and is severely intolerant of rapists, rape apologists & Mullahs of all religions. If you want to drop by and say hi, you can reach her on twitter @mayanchocolate0


Bollywood: responsible for increase of rape in the subcontinent, needs to be held accountable for the message it sends to its audiences in the form of misogyny it churns out in the name of entertainment and art.

Ladies and gentlemen this is entertainment!

Bollywood's saving grace always has been it's songs. Other than that they have been using the oldest story in the world. A girl and a boy fall in love and that is the the sole purpose of their existence.
Bollywood may not be the only nanga in this hamam but it is responsible considering it has a huge platform. It's rape culture is not new. It has always stereotyped women and has been instrumental in promoting the rape, subjugation of women and misogyny. I, for one, can not think of almost any movie that was made in 70's,80's & 90's that did not have a rape scene or didn't promote street harassment. Still this is used as a tried and tested funda in movies. The bad guy is the rapist and the hero was the good guy who woos the heroine by stalking her and pestering her. Bollywood perpetuates this myth that women are coy and like to be stalked and are flattered with these advances. As per Bollywood the only way one can get laid if he can sing and dance around trees, in the middle of a road and stalking the girl and not take no for an answer.

Can Bollywood get real ? Can it promote a message of respecting women to our mard hazrat who think they are Kam Dev's (God of Lust) gift to women. Ladki phasana patana (seducing women) bollywood cashes on impressionable teens who have been told to feel guilty about sex and their bodies.

It seems parents ka only role is calendar chaapna and that's it folks. They do not engage their children in talking about healthy and safe sex but shirk away from this responsibility. So what do raging hormones do? They rely on bollywood for love, sex and romance advice.

Anyone who has watched bollywood movies can not deny the fact that street harassment is glorified in these movies. Comments like

"kya item hai",
"kya dikhti hai" ,
"aye chamiya chal chal"

are common dialogues that can be heard on the streets. Eve teasing, stalking, lewd comments, groping, "accidental " touching, cat calls, whistling is too common in trains, buses, bus stops, schools, malls everywhere.

Our society pays lip service and moves on. No one talks with clarity on this subject. If anything families recommend their daughters walk away, ignore instead of servicing these assholes with their chappals [shoes]. 

Is that the only subject bollywood has? No matter where you go there is a roadside romeo claiming that he can rock your world. This sick kind of "love" that is promoted leave mental and physical scars on women. It is not enough that she has to put up with these people but has to explain to other men in her life (father & brother) why are boys stalking her. What did she do to encourage them ? Character assassination just because she is a girl. How many times have we heard or read the news of street harassment leading to murder or throwing acid in the girl's face. Are we just going to perpetuate "all goes" attitude?. Since when is street harassment, sexual innuendos, domestic violence and rape entertainment? People are getting the wrong message and bollywood needs to stop.

The very beautiful and very talented Rani Mukherjee gets beaten by her pati parmeshwar (husband) while she is pregnant. She cries and leaves the house. He cools down, seeks forgiveness, she breaks into a song, goes home with him and opens her legs. I can understand make up sex after an explosive argument, cooling off, resolving the issue like adults and make up sex but a getting beaten to a pulp and then singing a song glorifying his anger is nothing but being reduced to the doormat status. Manipulation sex is not consensual but it is rape!

Item songs that make us bobble our head to their catchy tunes are nothing but young toothpicks running around in glittering mini skirts heaving their chests and thrusting their pelvises towards these a 40 year old "star" show nothing but sexual frustration of our society.

Bollywood seems to be only interested in raking in crores by getting so called "star" actresses to shed their clothes and calling them Sheila, Munni, Jalebi bai etc. This is chawanni chaap entertainment for dawanni chaap audiences. Less clothes and shaking booty is what is considered modern by bollywood.

Now bollywood apologists defend it and say it has become bold in terms of sex scenes because the public wants it. It merely is reflecting the society. This argument does not carry any weight. Now I do not have outdoor plumbing for genitalia but can someone who owns one explain to me how hard can a dick get ? How much misogyny does bollywood need to serve just to keep the dick hard ? Choli ke peeche to Karishma dancing on sexy sexy and other David Dhawan type masala, to sheila, to munni to jalebi bay and now this fevicol song.

Is that all a woman is to bollywood ? A commodity , a doormat and a device to keep a 2 inch dick hard ? She was bandini pia ki yesterday and today she is merely reduced to an orifice. When will bollywood explore other avenues ? Just a designer sari and latka jhatka and that's it folks ! Is bollywood not providing enough crap that we also have to be assaulted by TV's non stop breaking news about these "stars" personal lives ? These self proclaimed stars are one eyed kings in a blind kingdom. What they eat ? What they wore and who they fuck ? The entire nation has to stop with these star weddings, child birth and other useless shit that they do.

Should we not be concerned that street harassment and rapes are on the increase rather than decrease. Should we not be concerned that 3 - 4 yr old are up for sale? The numbers are discouraging. What about the unreported rapes and rapes within family where the victims are told to hush in the name of family prestige and honour. The rapist / molester gets away with it and has no shame in becoming a repeat offender. Often we hear men are pigs and it is a woman's responsibility to protect her self. One can achieve this by wearing modest clothes, not going out alone, not going out at all at night and by throwing herself at the mercy of rapist and call him Bhaiya. Is this really what we want to tell our daughters ? That we are impotent when it comes to punishing rapists ? More than bollywood it is the fault of parents who fail to engage their children, fail to teach them about dating and healthy sex life and how to take no for an answer. Calendar chaap diya and responsibility khatam ? This chalta hai attitude needs to stop as the price is too huge. Society has reduced the status of women to joke using guilt. Women get subjugated in the name of honor, religion and tradition.

The word westernized & modern is thrown around a lot by our older generation and almost all the time their definition of modern means wearing small clothes. No doubt our self proclaimed God men and the thekedaars (moral brigades) of our society get away with blaming the victim. Lip service is paid to suffering of the victim. She is called abhagin, kal munhi, and told that she is damaged goods. She is forced to marry the rapist as no self respecting man would marry her. She is forced to kill herself because this happened to her. Lakshman rekha only applies to women not to men. Any dhongi gets elevated to the baba hood and shoots his mouth off and then sends women follower to defend him ? Govt needs to take a stern stance against these babas and not let them get away it. Same applies on politicians who make these statements and expect women to vote for them.

If you are a parent please stop calling your daughter paraya dhan who should not wear a skirt . Do not give into duniya kya kahegi. Duniya kuch na kuch kahegi cos it has nothing better to do and just because duniya doesn't know how/when to stfu does not mean my daughter should suffer and not get a chance to explore her life. Bowing to the twisted sense of morality and nodding in agreement with rape apologists means you have failed as a parent. Teach right values to your son. Parents should not feel shy talking to their children about love, romance and sex. Men need to learn NO means NO. Even if Poonam Pandey is sitting naked on your lap and says no to sex it means NO.

Most of my white friends have asked me time and time again why are brown men so perverted ? Now I know for a fact that they do not mean all brown men but the ones who can not stop staring and glaring cos a girl is a wearing shorts. I have no choice but to defend the respectable brown men and then hang my head in shame because some of them think white women are easy because they wear short clothes and go clubbing. Mr. Bharat himself when he made Purab aur Pashchim showed how white women were loose just because they were wearing small clothes compared to traditional sati savitri who lived in India and was a clad in a sari. Is that what Sati Savitri really is ? A woman wearing modest clothing and letting men decide her fate till the day she dies ?

I have travelled in CTU rush hour bus most of my adulthood. Several hands rob you off your dignity because you make a mistake of taking the bus. It's getting dark and you need to get home. How many rakhis does one travel with? I'd like this bapu to answer me what should a victim call the baap who raped her ? What should she call the pati parmeshwar who rapes her ? Should he be tied a rakhi ? Or she should accept the fate that she does not have the option to say no ?

Bollywood should make a movie about street harassment and show the role of media. They might do it if they can get Katrinas and Kareenas ( modern women) to wear just a fig leave, ride the bus and get all their orifices filled up with these 2 inch willies who think they are big dicks !

Asaram "Bapu" & the kumaris who worship him can get an item song " Told you so".
We are to blame because our culture has been reduced to Main to tanduri murgi hoon yaar , Gatkale saiyan alcohol se oh yeah.

Get real please ! Our society can not afford to devolve any further and get manipulated by religion, tradition and patriarchy. Name and shame child molesters within family, rapists and rape apologists. Evolution is the only way out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Day Dilemmas

The only day when you feel betrayed by your guy friends: Valentine's Day

The reason I say that as the number of random messages, "Will you be my Valentine?" increase like 5x times the usual amount of nonsense, and Valentine's Day is the only day where most of my "new" buddies/acquaintances think that its OK to send messages.

That is totally fine and I am flattered by the fact and I am cool about it. Its just surprising that all of them miss you out of nowhere just cos you are single. They end up asking you out just cos you are single and here I thought we were all cool.. lol... its kinda very disappointing.

The problem arises when you joke about it and you turn in down, some of the usual response which arise from the matter;

"Ermmm... well.. who else will ask you out?"

Oh my, ash sadqay ash wari, ash ko tou kisi ne aj tak poocha hi nai -.- And here I was just waiting for you cos my whole life revolves around you, didnt you know that, my prince darling -.-

"You are so mature, man -.-"

I apologize that your cheesy one-liners failed on me lol

"Yeah, I texted my ex, she didnt reply so what are you doing tomorrow?"

I will be dancing in a bar with my lesbian girlfriends and you can just keep imagining all the great possibilities lol

"You know how a woman can get her man. If she is not hard to get, its not a chase enough for us."

Oh kiddo, you have got it so wrong but then I know a lot of doormats who play the game and then get played later :)

"Well you know you are leftist and you are "HAWT"!"

And then there is a commie lot, dude you know I can introduce you to drop dead gorgeous women who are leftist and who are really "HAWT" -.-

"I wish you were here, you know...."

Oh you wanted to be my Valentine, how convenient is that we dont even live in the same hemisphere... lol

I recognize the fact that I am not a porcelain doll diva cos honestly I dont need to be and thats a fact. People huddle around me even for my "jhalli" self, so I never needed to be anything other than what I am.

I am sure such responses are said as a joke and thats how men are and all the usual nonsense of "boys will be boys" but in my personal experience, it just shows that how people in their true moments view other people.

I am not saying these people are 100% douchebags, they are not cos no one is 100% evil. We all have our own scale of sleaziness which we observe and to which we are normalised to and something which we observe. I just dont have much patience with it.

I do let them know I am not into them in my own way but its kinda disappointing tht people you thought you were cool with, their ultimate goal was to get in your pants. I am a skeptic and I prefer it that way.

I know I am an angry head strong person who is seen as a challenge to be taken down and trust me when I say numerous people try it. Some try it with their douchebaggery and nasty ways while others try it with "love" cos at the end of the day, the point is to score. Its unfortunate and its true.

And as my girls say, I am a douchebag magnet... lol... so till the situation is rectified, I dont mind being a "tease", "heartbreaker" or "Femi-Nazi" that I am popularly named cos two can play that game ;)

Happy Valentines' Day!

Open letter for "Pashton Women VP"

I was really excited when you folks were launched. I was able to read and skim through most of the material and I really enjoyed some of the material. I was really happy that it was a collective of women publishing something from the space where we mostly don't see anything critical of the system.

I was surprised with you guys when I read "5 years in Parliament - a dream came true"

I mean did anyone in your collective bother to ask critical questions like what did PPP to do for people, where did it bring Pakistan in 5 yrs and where did it bring KPK and where did it bring women esp Pashton women in 5 yrs [yes the exotic area which is known for sex trafficking in Pakistan]?

PPP is all about feudalism, it has never been about grassroots and it never will be, praising them is like praising the enemy who has burnt down your home. It will support the tribal system and Sardars that are already in place so where is the voice of grassroots in all of it? Not to mention PPP is and has always been biggest violator of women rights, so you see my dilemma.

And "Tarek Fatah" was a very bad choice to be speaking on Pashton issues, the reason so he is already a reknowned person, his voice doesn't needs to be heard by anyone. You should had brought people who are working on grounds, who are critical of their system and seek their opinion and esp who are Pashton who have experienced the culture.

I am not here to school you cos at the end of the day no one needs a nag, I am here to express my disappointment. Some of the material that you have published so far is extremely important and I feel that work will be tainted if such trend continues.

Honestly either you are in academic ivory tower or you dont represent grassroots anymore which was your initial initiative.

In either case, I wish you all the luck, wherever you go!

Website last updated 2013