“Women need to speak up for their rights,” said Mr. Faiz Tajwana, a lawyer associated with the NGO Sudhar in Burewala, who frequently aids women who are victims of domestic abuse and violence, such as Nusrat Bibi Nusrat Bibi resided in the village of Sahuka, district Vehari with her husband Ejaz and her two sons. One of her sons was by her ex, husband, whom she had divorced nearly 14 years ago in order to many Ejaz. At the time, her husband had been financially unstable, and Nusrat had had an extra marital affair with Ejaz. Her family disapproved of her actions and ostracized her, and although Ejaz’s family was not overjoyed by his marriage to a divorcee, under pressure from him, they agreed to the marriage anyway.
Nusrat and Ejaz lived separately from her in-laws, and while initially the couple was very happy, later Ejaz began to ‘ become violent. During arguments, he would beat her and of ten threatened to divorce her. Nusrat could not turn to her family for help, as they had abandoned her for bringing shame to the family by divorcing her first husband.
When Ejaz’s brother died, leaving behind his wife and children, Ejaz decided to marry his brother’s wife, to keep the property within the family. Nusrat found this unacceptable and threatened Ejaz with legal proceedings. During one of many arguments over the same issue, Ejaz began beat her and verbally divorced her yet again. ‘ However, this time his father was also present, and the two men threw petrol on Nusrat and set her on fire as she shrieked in agony, they locked the door, and left the house. She saved her own life by wrapping a blanket around herself but was horribly burnt. Ejaz kept her locked up in a room for the next two days without any medical aid; he later supplied her with some medicines but did not take her to the doctor.
As she got better, Nusrat knew that while this attempt had failed, Ejaz would now go to any lengths to take her life. Although he’d kept her under surveillance, she managed to escape the house after about 20 days. She went to her maternal aunt, her only relative on talking terms with her, who heard her out and then took her to a lawyer, Syed Sardar Hussain Shah.
It was through the lawyer’s reference that Nusrat arrived at Sudhar. There, she met Mr. Kich who accompanied her to the court for further proceedings and introduced her to Mr. Faiz Tajwan, who would pursue the case. The two men registered the case in the p6lice station, but the very next day,. Ejaz, who was an influential person, got the SHO in charge of the case transferred, and his own friend deployed instead.
Mr. Kichi utilized the media to spread news of the case, and the media coverage resulted in gaining the DPO’s attention; he registered the case and personally came to see Nusrat, who .at this stage was admitted into the hospital. The police arrested Ejaz, while his father got a pre-arrest bail. Later, Ejaz was also bailed out.
After the first hearing of the case, Ejaz’s friend, the SHO, brought Ejaz and Nusrat both to the police station to settle their dispute. Nusrat had no means of earning for herself and her two children, so she asked Ejaz to give her maintenance and resume their life together. He gave her Rs. 5000 and promised to do so. When he left, the SHO took Rs. 500 from her and sent her back home.
Nusrat withdrew the case against him, and obtained a court order for her maintenance, but Ejaz never returned to fulfill that order. Mr. Kichi and Mr. Faiz, who had been helping Nusrat pro bono, tried to convince her not to with draw the case, but Nusrat had been lulled into a false sense of security by Ejaz’s words. Ejaz did not return to fulfill his promises, and does not provide for Nusrat or the children in any way. He publicly blames her for being corrupt; Nusrat has heard that he Jives at a guest house and still engages in illicit relations with women.
The problems of economic dependence and social apathy have made it extremely difficult for women to extricate themselves from even life threatening relationships and situations. Women are socialized into dependency and the idea that self-sufficiency is an impossible target; it is in fact seen as a symbol of shame for women to provide for themselves.
The culture of stiffing and subduing women must change; the empowerment of women can only take place if people’s behavior changes. Community participation is a fundamental element of a social revolution that must be set in motion if people’s mind set is to change. It is a battle that transcends gender, and needs the attention of communities as a whole. Dedicated individuals like Mr. Kichi and Mr. Faiz deserve to be lauded for their hard work in a field that is often mistakenly perceived to exclude men. It is imperative to remember that change can only come if men and women work together for the same goals.
This article was originally published at: The Nation
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.