Let’s talk about the ways you can break a woman.
You can force her into a marriage she doesn’t want. It’s even better if she is just 14 years old, and her new husband is thrice her age. Or you can let your eyes wander over her body as she walks the streets of the city you’ve greedily claimed as your own. You could always catcall her, because she is clearly asking for it. And as long as it’s not your mother or your sister, you can pretty much say anything, and that will be okay because these girls with their skinny jeans and the audacity to navigate the streets don’t deserve respect or warrant basic human decency.
If she is your sister or your wife or your daughter though, then your honor and your dignity are so closely intertwined with her being that, should she choose not to play the part of your puppet, you can seize a bucket of acid and douse her with it. Sometimes, even a knife or your bare hands will do the trick. Because the point isn’t how or when or where you do it but why – because you are a man and you are powerful, and that’s all you ever need to break a woman.
And the best part? You can do it in sixty seconds. A minute. Sometimes a matter of life and death rests on that minute where men decide they have ownership over women’s bodies. A minute to kill and maim and break a woman. A minute is also the rate at which women face violence in Pakistan. Every single minute, a woman faces domestic abuse, honor killing, sexual assault, female circumcision and forced prostitution or early marriage.
But talking about it or even acknowledging these events is considered shameful, exaggerated, wrong. When Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy reported a simple case of harassment, abuse was flung upon her: You pseudo-liberal bitch. You’re dishonoring our country. Creating a fuss over a small issue. Using your privilege and power to deprive a hard-working doctor out of his livelihood.
As if a man’s livelihood is ever worth another human being’s safety, dignity and sense of worth.
It is no wonder then that Pakistan ranks 143 out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index. And on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, let’s talk about the ways the patriarchal state and the society perpetuate this horrific violence against women from all classes, race and walks of life. Let’s talk about our complicity, our silence and our role in this violence. Let’s talk about how we break a woman so that we can stop it.