Hurrah! Pakistan has criminalized domestic violence against women and children. Offenders will face a minimum of six months behind bars and 100,000 rupees in fines.
Every time I hear news of a man using physical force on his wife and children, I become furious to the extent that my face turns red. For a man to react this way is deemed strange. For some God forsaken reason it is widely accepted that it's a man's prerogative to correct women by force, especially if they are ungrateful (whatever that means) and if they don't obey the commands of their husbands.
Women who have been in such situations tell me that a wife can be beaten up for something as trivial as excessively salting food.
What astonishes me is the feedback I get on having strong views against domestic violence. While men try to justify abusive acts by putting the blame on the hypothetical woman for making the man go berserk, women tend to give me sympathetic looks, assuming that, perhaps, I grew up seeing my mother battered.
In reality, my upbringing -- which was predominantly happy, thank God -- has nothing to do with my views on domestic violence. In my view, violence toward women and children is the most heinous act a man can commit. Period. The need to overwhelm a woman by exerting force leads me to conclude that there's a deeper problem with the people involved, more specifically with the man, and the nature of their relationship.
Though I am not married, I have had my share of quarrels with friends. The only way it is possible to have a healthy relationship is to curtail the ego and listen intently to one another. The act of beating your mate with the intent to cause bodily harm epitomizes a monster of an ego. The perception that a woman in marriage is property of the man is the root of the problem.
Every so often, I see men -- educated men -- who boast about not giving their wife the right to seek divorce. I don't particularly understand the thinking behind encaging a woman who wants a divorce. Perhaps, it's the sadistic mentality at play.
There's another facet of the "women as property" mindset that is hard to reckon with. Marital rape is seemingly quite common in Pakistan according to anecdotal evidence, though I don't have the statistics and there is no way to get an accurate number in a country where beating a woman is deemed OK, but filing a complaint against an abusive, overpowering husband is a taboo.
A woman may feel the dire need to protect another woman, but men should be equally concerned about the abuse of women.
Paradoxically, men who don't think twice about taking a swing at their wives often get worked up if a man beats the heck out of their loved one. You're a hypocrite if you think that it is OK for you to bash your wife, but not OK for your father to beat your mother or for your brother-in-law to beat your sister or for your son-in-law to beat your daughter. The woman you're married to is someone's daughter and most probably someone's sister. And it is very clear in my mind that you should treat others in the manner that you would like you and yours to be treated.
What irks me the most is when abusive husbands use religion as a license for beating (so to speak) ungrateful and disloyal women. Read the last sermon of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, which says in clear words: "Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers." There is really no room for misinterpretation here.
Those men who mock their partners in life by saying that they've learned from the local mullah that there will be more women in hell because they disobey their husbands should consider reading up onwhat the religion actually says.
Turning a blind eye to the rights of women is an immense disservice to the woman who gave birth to you, your sisters, your lover and your daughter.
I have been thinking about how certain men perceive women since my college days. I remember a disturbing encounter with two men, from a feudal background, one of whom said: "Women are like toilet paper, we use them and trash them." I instantly asked: "What about your mother and sisters?" and the dynamic of the conversation dramatically changed.
That evening my mother saw me contemplating on a leather recliner in my lounge. If my memory serves me well, the year was 1999. That mind-shaping encounter led me to think about morals and ethics more deeply. And there is one thing I can say with finitude: Your life partner and your children are precious and should be treated in the manner you would treat something precious.