Societal attitudes towards violence against women
By Zoia Tariq
Shahida woke up with a start. She could hear her husband yelling and calling out her name. One quick glance at the clock and she knew she had overslept. As she rushed to the washroom to get ready, she could feel her hands trembling and the previous night’s headache returning, in intense waves. It would be one of “those” days, she knew.
Dressed up for work, Shahida woke up her kids in the next room and headed towards the kitchen, carefully avoiding the furious stare of her husband,Rehman who was waiting at the dining table, all ready for the office. She swiftly put the kettle on boil and opened the refrigerator for eggs and milk. “You know, I have to drop you and the kids on my way to the office? Why didn’t you wake up on time?” roared Rehman at the kitchen door. Shahida replied with a tremor in her voice “Sorry. I had a nasty headache last night. Slept around dawn. But don’t worry, I am only 15 minutes late.”
“You are sorry? Do you have any idea how precious my time is? But of course, you know nothing. Why did I marry a stupid cow?” Rehman went on and on. Shahida murmured another apology, praying that the kids didn’t get out of their room until the “worst” was over. But Rehman was beyond furious now, “Is this a dog barking that you aren’t responding to?” And with this, he twisted Shahida’s arm. Down went the breakfast tray with a crash.
Shahida looked at her kids who had entered the dining room, looking terrified. She looked her husband in the eye and said with clenched teeth, “Stop fighting in front of the kids.”
“What? I am fighting or you are annoying me?” And with this came the inevitable punch on Shahida’s cheek. But the tears had long dried up and Shahida helplessly swept the floor and went to the refrigerator to get some more milk on the table. The children avoided looking at each other or their parents. They were sad but not shocked. They were used to this ongoing violence in the safest place on earth for them — their home.
During the drive, it wasn’t humiliation that bothered Shahida. She was more worried about her colleagues’ reaction to her split upper lip and bruised cheek, which she tried to wipe off with a tissue and then applied some concealer. Another bruise would be difficult to explain.
As Rehman talked to the kids as if nothing had happened, Shahida stared in the hand mirror and thought about the time when she has stepped on by her abusive husband.
She could still hear her mother telling a black and blue Shahida that she shouldn’t argue or answer back to her husband. And should stay with him for the sake of her kids. And herself. There is no place for a divorced woman in Pakistani society. Take abuse of one man, in order to save yourself from being abused by the whole society, was her logic. And Shahida was sent back within a week.
As her work place came near, Shahida tried hard to conceal the damage. God forbid, if her colleagues or students came to know that she was regularly beaten up, punched, kicked, slapped and yelled at, they would never respect her.
This was the beginning of an ordinary day in the life of Lecturer Shahida Rehman, Masters in political science and world history and currently teaching at one of the best universities of Pakistan.