Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"When you were born I prayed you would die"

I watched an amazing movie, Pinjar last week. (It has subtitles so if there's an Indian store near you, it's worth a watch) To me the major message of this movie was the treatment of women in the eastern subcontinent. I refer not to any particular religion because the culprit of the acts against women are not religions but people. Though based on the 1940's, the helpless status of a woman portrayed in the film remains true today.

If a woman in the eastern subcontinent is raped, more often than not is cast away from her family, worse still sometimes sentenced for adultery. This situation has come to the world's attention with the brave Mukhtar Mai. Her teenage brother was accused of flirting with a woman of a different family, in retribution the men of the woman's family kidnapped and gang raped Mukhtaran Mai. Typically a woman in such a situation kills herself. Instead, Mukhtaran went public bringing to center stage the shame that countries who avert their eyes to such practices must face.

Honor killings, another henious practice, justifies a family murdering their own daughter for
indecent behavior oftentimes as simple as a relationship, or a smile which leads townfolk to wonder more. If people talk, its as good as if you did it. Kill your daughter, protect the family name. The men are rarely implicated or face any reprucussions for their behavior.

Stories like Brick Lane, Arranged Marriage, show the despair of the ordinary housewives trapped by the system and limited in the ability to fly to the heights, unrestricted they could. Dancing Girls of Lahore shows as Mayya pointed out, only in the red light district is the birth of a girl truly valued... and only for the saddest of reasons.

Even today "wife burning" continues where a woman whose family didn't come up with the "dowry" to pay the groom's family will gas the woman in the kitchen and light a match. whoops. "Accidents" happen they claim. Governments turning their eyes. It is not right.

The rights women in the US were afforded very recently in the span of humanity such as working outside of the traditional "nurses and teachers" and the right to vote, to choose, etc. are still light years from reaching most of the developing world. In India with the advent of sonograms, baby girls are aborted before they are born leading to an unusually high boy to girl ratio in many cities. It's too much work. The weddings can bankrupt a family.

I can't imagine what it would be like, for my birth to have been a day of sorrow. For my role as a wife to be one of servant, and child bearer, the caterer to the needs of everyone in the joint family system. Sometimes as I drive my car simply to visit a friend for lunch... I can't help but stop to think of women who will never even know such simple freedom.

In Pinjar, the mother weeps as she holds her daughter and says, when you were born I prayed you would die. The saddest part of the movie is you understand. The movie does not seek to play one side as right and the other is wrong. The movie shows the mindset of the people. Why they make the decisions. They are working with the cards they're dealt with. No one sleeps with peace at night.

* I don't mean to generalize millions upon millions who do not sanction such activities. But I speak of a problem that does exist. The women of these areas have no voice. Without attention, it can't be solved *


say what? said...

heh, movie got you maudlin :))

its true but the voices are being raised and its not the treatment that matter. attitudes need to change. we need to sympethize with the victims not to shun them..

que sera sera said...

Pinjar is indeed a beautiful film. If you enjoyed it also watch "Choker Bali", based on Tagore's play. It is also about women but from a different perspective. In addition while a majority of women in the Indian subcontinent definitely are deprived of many basic human rights I was amazed to see that Korea and China are no different either. A Korean friend that importing brides from China to Korea is a regular happening. The sad thing however is the way in which the "anti honor killing" legislation was recently defeated in the Pakistani parliament. The opposition came mainly from the religious right and included several women. Access to education is perhaps the only solution to all this.

mayya said...

aishaaaaaaaa *hugs* that was sooo well put :/ and girls like us are soooooo lucky that we aren't subjected to so many of the injustices other females go through even small things like our brothers getting more food to eat than us :/

In China, women were subjected to the painful practice of foot binding for so long, in india women were forced to become Sati by drugging them since they were an economic burden!

We can't thank Islam enough for saving women from so many injustices if viewed from the right perspective and spirit and yet people complain its so non-liberating :/ In parsi communities, women when unclean are forced in a small room where food is literally forced in through a small flap *sigh* *sigh*

Its really great of you to write about it, creating awareness and education is one major thing which can help change mindsets. keep it all up :)

Jane said...

Having been born and raised in the US as a white Protestant, I cannot imagine the life these women are born into, if they are allowed to be born at all. Although there are still gender inequities here I know that because of the brave women who came before me that my life is so much better than the lives of women elsewhere. One must remember that it has been less than one hundred years that women in the US have been able to vote. My heart goes out to the women that you speak of. Hopefully more women will be as strong and brave as Mukhtaran Mai and changes will follow. Bless you for this insightful post, Aisha.

Sohnii said...

Aisha! Lovely movie haina... unfortunately it haunts you for the rest of your life...things like these happen in real, in karachi which is one of the pretty developed cities of pakistan...im still scared using public transport cuz of the horror stories abt girls bein abducted and raped... and the sad part is they arent just stories...they are true.

Anisa said...

this makes me sick. so sad.

Shabina said...

I agree with que sera sera (cool name, btw), that education is probably the best way to fix some of this stuff.

Aisha, you alluded to this, that lots of desi women strive to uphold the double standards that bind them, and that's one reason why things are still so jahil in the subcontinent.

here in the states, i think lots of moz chicks kind of do that, too - we have ppl at my masjid who demand the partition, who blanche when women run for board positions, etc.

another example: the Bible thumpers who voted for Bush. Economically speaking, that really jacked them. But it's a great trick, for the status quo to convince the downtrodden that they belong there, no?

mezba said...

When Musa (Moses) pbuh came, he and his Companions led the Jews into a golden time, but soon his people fell back to their uncivilized ways where women's rights were suppressed, honor killings common, until the fairly recent times. When Isa (Jesus) pbuh came, he and his Companions put forth all laws to protect everyone in the society, but soon his people fell into a moral abyss where women were burnt at stake for being accused of being a witch, imprisoned for ages for small crimes, and not until the renaissance did the Christians begin to turn things around. We Muslims are now following a similar path. Prophet and immediate leadership ->good. Then follow->bad times until->renaissance.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "You (Muslims) will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would follow them." We said, "O Allah's Apostle! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?" He said, "Who else?" Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith, Narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri

The Muslims of the east are uneducated (the first instruction in Islam - Iqra). So the revival must start with us. Three simple steps we can do as a start

1) if we have any family back in subcontinent who we see practise something in the name of Islam that is wrong and unIslamic, we should tell them.
2) if we have any scholar who comes to North America and sprouts something we disagree with, and consider unIslamic, we again point it out to them (with proper adaab ofcourse).

(As a sidenot check out Safiyyah's blog's forum's discussion on clapping in Islam - a trivial issue but has become controversial for no reason at all).

3) try to be good ourselves and pray to Allah for good of everyone else.

Aisha said...

Vox, exactly. Its not the movie that brought my awareness of the situation... but it is a touching movie that is hard to forget.

Que Sera Sera, you are sooo right. The status of women is not just low in desi countries, it's bad in China where baby girls are overwhelming nurseries as parents quickly abandon them, and many other countries too. I will have to check out the movie you suggested.

Mayya its good to be appreciative you are right for what we have that many don't. People may use it to justify themselves but its not religion. It's people.

Jane, a lot of people forget how recently we women in the US got our freedoms relatively speaking. Barbara Walters was absolutely groundbreaking for helping women to join the workplace and a symbol of independence...

Sohni, when the poor woman are abudcted and raped... do their families accept them back? Is the practice of disowning your daughter after such an act decreasing?

Anisa: I know... :(

Shabs, I think women are their own worst enemy in these situations. And you're right this status quo is even to some degree upheld here. Look at how we are pressured to marry as soon as possible, how the man has to approve and approach us, etc. how people talk if a girl dates a guy. If they break up, the girl may as well walk around with a big scarlet letter but the guy? He'll be married off by next week. Double Standards are still here....

Mezba, I agree... Muslims are certainly in their dark ages and the behavior... btw- about the clapping... that's so funny b/c I was thinking of it a little while ago at a wedding... I noticed that the more conservative the event the less people clap. Funny stuff...

Raheel said...

Pinjar was a great movie.

The thing is we won't get out of our comfort zones. The people following Islam in a conservative way would never allow such freedom. Its sad that Mukhtara Mai gets award abroad and still in Pakistan she hadn't get full justice. Ironically Mushi says that bahar jaakar aur chila kar mulk ka naam kharaab naa karo. All these bloody hypocrites will never understand that men are incomplete without women and vice versa.

ASH said...

Women in every society regardless of Western or Eastern are subjected to cruel and nasty treatment. Whether it is a Western woman beaten by her husband, or an economically challenged woman who ends up in prostitution. My problem is the treatment of women is a major issue but the West trivializes it by only pointing at how awful women are treated in the East....they love to throw rocks at glass houses in Afghanistan and elsewhere but do not look at the fact that the windows are broken in their own house.

I still find it amazing to this day that in simple conversations my Western colleagues still believe that hijab oppresses women (even though they have never, ever spoken to a woman wearing hijab)....and they have a double standard, if a Presbyterian man (I just picked Presbyterians for no reason..btw) beats his wife it is a "domestic disturbance" if a Muslim man beats his wife it is Islamic. Phooey.

Baji said...

Once again, thank you for such a thought-provoking post. I must check out the movie. I went to the library to check out Dancing Girls of Lahore, but it was not avail. I will eventually get my hands on it.

Mia said...

This was a fantastic post and thought provoking as well. Especially for me. Tomorrow NYC will be getting it's first WOMAN City Council speaker and to boot she is gay as well. I'm going to make it a point to check out the movie Aisha I think it's right up my alley, thanks for the tip.

Champ - Love Hound said...

Such a Touchy subject, I don't understand how Cruel people can be. I'm not into Indian movie stuff but I 'll sure get this one.

God bless you....

Aisha said...

Raheel, well said. It's not religion anyways. It's people who behave using religion to hide behind.

Ash, you're totally right. Women have a struggle be it east or west though the struggles may vary. Certainly hijab is no symbol of opression to women.

Baji: I hope you'll be able to check out dancing girls, its great! :)

Mia, its worth a watch! Congrats on your first woman city council speaker. About time!

Boxin Champ: I dont watch Indian movies either, my mom told me to make an exception for this one and I'm glad I did. You should watch it if you can.

Anaa said...

very good post aisha!and i m totally agree with ash that Women in every society regardless of Western or Eastern are subjected to cruel and nasty treatment.

mystic-soul said...

I think its not only limited to woman. The basic problem is in the fact that whenever society loose the rule of law and accepts to live with philosophy of "might is right" (jis ki laathi us ki bhens)..all weak species including women particularly red-area tribe, minorities, gays, transexuals (as hijras in SE Asia), poor, atheists (a-the-ist,who does not believe on 'the'), mentally retarded, mentally ill and any other who is away from main stream or so called 'normal' get treated like sh*T.

Its a perpatual war of human 'good' n 'evil'

Sobia said...

It's so sad.

Aisha said...

Anaa- thanks and yes Ash is right

Mystic- yes the underdog in every facet of society is treated worse. But women seem to have gotten the raw end of the deal mainstream wise and throughout history. We compose the other half of the human race so not a minority faction..

Sobia, yes.. it is.

Tee said...

That sounds like a great film. I've read about Mukhtar Mai. There needs to be more women like her. Maybe in time, there will be. After reading books or seeing films about these topics I always realize how privledged we are in the Western world. Thank you for being a voice, Aisha, and for bringing more awareness.

Here is a site I think you'll like:
Muslim Women's League...

Though I know, this is not nearly only a Muslim issue. PBS had a special called "Beyond the Veil" and the website has an excellent quote concerning this:

"Many of these oppressive practices, however, do not come from Islam itself, but are part of local cultural traditions. (To think about the difference between religion and culture, ask yourself if the high rate of domestic violence in the United States is related to Christianity, the predominant religion.)"

Aisha said...

Tee well said. I always admire you for your ability to love and practice your faith devoutly, but also to have an open and tolerant mind towards those of other faiths. Bless you for that.

As I depart now to the airport in a few.... let's pray the computer is fixed soon :( *sob*

Champ - Love Hound said...

Thankyou for such Nice comments on my blog.

Gues what, I just got this movie from one of my Movie Freak friend, I must say Indian movie Freak. So I 'll watch it tonight.

I hope you 're doin' good 'n' do visit my blog again.

God bless you....

Mansoor said...

"In India with the advent of sonograms, baby girls are aborted before they are born leading to an unusually high boy to girl ratio in many cities. It's too much work. The weddings can bankrupt a family."

Are you saying that, in India, female fetuses are aborted because their parents are concerned about the cost of their weddings?

This topic has been covered often in the news, magazine articles, and movies, most likely because of its shock value. Unfortunately, it's rare to see any real suggestions about what to do. It's even more rare to see anyone really working on it. And, maybe, that's the problem. Maybe, even in the eastern subcontinent, people shake their heads and say, "That's terrible", but do nothing. I agree that "Without attention, it can't be solved", but that doesn't mean it can be solved by attention alone.

estarz said...

Very sad story out of Pak. I cannot believe in this day and age...people are so barbaric. What is wrong with the system?

I am glad you brought the subjec to light. Pinjar sounds like a powerful movie...up there with BLACK (the bollywood flick).


Hasan Mubarak said...

I've still have to watch Pinjar.

As far as Mukhtar Mai's concerned, it was a brave standing that she took. But, in my opinion, she has now become a victim of NGOism and Commercial exploitation of media for promotion purposes...

Sohnii said...

Hm... the girls that get raped Aisha, families except them... but isnt it sad that when your parents are excepting you back some part of them is wishing you had died instead...???
its true tho... someone told me abt a girl who cried when she got back and kept saying i wish i had died before they touched me.

Emory said...

I will look for this film.

I do keep up with these events, and am disgraced by them. What I cannot understand is the both Pakistan and India have had Women leaders. Benazir Bhutto and Indira Ghandi, must have had a positive impact for the women of the sub-continent. These incidents always seem to happen in the remote agricultural areas, where educational access, and Police protection are limited.

But to your point, women in general don't fare well in most societies. Gender manipulation is epidemic in many Nations, and not confined to the sub-continent.

Rape, battery, assault occur more than we would like to imagine here in the US. How many stories of women do we hear where they have benn so totally emotionally abused that they are nothing more than broken slaves.

Sex trafficking is a growing and massive problem in many parts of the world.

It is another mystery of women to me, why they (all women) don't take control.

Suroor said...

that's my cause - women's issues. So sad is the life of some. Inshallah, I'll bring the film. Thanks for this.

And now I can flood your comment box!

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