“Isn’t it strange? For no fault of mine, I was subjected to torture and lead a life of fear and neither I could unleash my potential nor could I pursue my dreams for a long time. Throughout my married life, I went through harassment and sufferings because of my husband's frustration stemmed from the poor educational background and impotence. Look at me! I am one of those, who survived and stood strong against all odds and rediscovered a new ‘I’.”
Shumaila, aged 24, was a bright, educated lady at the time of marriage. Though, Shumaila got married to a man who couldn’t even complete his college education. Their married life plunged further when post-marriage Shumaila came to know about her husband’s impotency. She couldn’t believe that for no fault of her all her dreams of becoming a mother are going to be shattered. Because of her husband's inability to consume a happy married life and educational mismatch; Shumaila’s husband started suffering from low self-esteem and gradually started abusing her physically and emotionally. Shumaila was in a state of shock and astonished when her family pressurized to compromise so that the marriage can be survived. Though Shumaila’s silence did not change the situation, rather the torture turned more violent. One day Shumaila’s husband sliced off her nose and strangled her by the belt. Shumaila was in unbearable pain and her husband ran away without paying any attention to her sufferings. After almost half an hour, her in-laws came to help her. Later on, police arrested Shumaila’s husband. Shumaila is now fighting for justice and said: “…Because of existing social system and lack of family support it is really difficult to get divorce and to punish the culprit who tortured me beyond anyone’s imagination”
Although divorce is still considered as a taboo and even now society tends to stigmatize divorced women, very recent; there is a rise in the divorce rate in Pakistan. So far no initiative has been taken by the government to collect necessary data related to divorce. A study conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2009 revealed that 70- 90 percent women face some form domestic violence in their lives. Hansar, Robert D. (2007) in his research "Cross-Cultural Examination of Domestic Violence in China and Pakistan" mentioned that nearly 5000 women are killed every year due to domestic violence, and there are thousands of cases where victims were so brutally tortured that they became maimed. Filing a divorce in Pakistan demands lots of courage as the woman everywhere need to face related questions and often subjected to scrutiny in every sphere of life. The situation becomes worse when the woman is financially dependent. Financial dependency often makes women more vulnerable and in the absence of proper safety net, they become dependent on their extended family. There are cases when post-divorce often their own families did not support their daughters. Against all these odds, it has been noticed that in the last two decades many of the Pakistani women expressed their willingness to get divorced. Domestic violence is a major reason for divorce though there are a growing number of cases where mental & sexual incompatibility, mismatch marriages etc. are also cited as the causes of divorce. Marriage can be termed as mismatched when man and woman are in an alliance despite having differences in social status, family background, educational level, cast, religious grounds and physical health.
Shumaila’s words echoed the voices of other Pakistani women who are also silent sufferers of mismatch marriages: “…My husband never endorsed me for my achievements. His reactions were very strange. He had no hesitation in insulting me in front of others. Initially, I thought that maybe my educational background is disturbing him, but once I got to know about medical reports related to impotency, the situation turned worse. Then onwards, he started blaming me for everything and was deriving satisfaction by physically abusing me...” Further Shumaila added: “As I am seeking a divorce from court citing impotence, my life is under threat as it will unfold related weaknesses of my husband and he might face problems in remarrying. I’ll not be surprised to be killed for the same or if out of anger they throw acid on my face”.
In a conservative society like Pakistan, sexual impotence is still a forbidden area to be discussed. The majority prefer not to discuss the topic and people who suffer from impotency they do not care to discuss the matter with a doctor. Psychologist Irshad Siraj while dealt with cases of sexual incompatibilities noticed … "For a man impotency is like a nightmare. A person with impotency loses his confidence, patience and normally become isolated."
The common behavior in such cases is that the ego and pride of a man of his masculinity become more important than seeking medical treatment to ensure a normal healthy life. As infertility is considered as a social stigma so men often turn hostile and have higher chances of committing suicide and to do physical harm to others.
In fear of losing their societal position parents of the grooms often put pressure on their daughter-in-laws, so that they do not reveal the truth. Hence, for women, the situation turns more critical with very little hope to lead a normal life. Families of the groom often prevent women from seeking legal help, as it may open up secrets that might create trouble for their sons’ remarriage.
Society should acknowledge the need of the hour and changing status of women. Now women are pursuing their education and more women are working. Empowerment of women certainly heralds a new dawn. Women in Pakistan are now in a better position to financially support themselves, which further enable them in realizing their rights and entitlements.
Mutual support and encouragement can be considered as one of the major pillars of a happy married life. Things have changed and women are now more vocal to lead a happy life. Parents should respect their daughters’ journey, their ambition and shouldn’t force them to go for marriages with higher chances of marital discord. Treat the daughters as hope for the future, in an equal world they have every right to lead a normal life, do not put them in situations those could jeopardize their lives.