No, it’s not normal or virtuous to withstand violence

Parents having a history of violence, later on, in their lives come to accept violence as a normal practice, suggesting their children to emulate their parents in enduring violence at the hands of abusive partners.

The daughter called her mother complaining about the incessant physical abuse by her husband, she had been putting up with for five years. She wanted her mother to clue up her father about any possible solution to put an end to that toxic affair. Mother, on the contrary, took a mundane road, reminding her about the compromises, a woman makes to survive. With starting from “so what? If he abuses you little, he is your husband” to “you are not the first or only woman on the earth facing such petty squabbles in life, even I endured” she was able to persuade her daughter into lulling the matter. However, just six months later, parents of the daughter were told on about the alleged suicide of their daughter. Struck by the shock, parents were not ready to accept the account at the prima facia, fear of the societal stigma, however, steered them into believing the story. Burying their daughter in silence, they moved on with their lives.

The daughter in the story was not some illiterate, downtrodden, having no means of survival letting her cling to an abusive marriage but was a highly educated girl bearing to a well-off family. Yet, she was attentive to her mother and tried to work on her beyond-repair relationship, culminating in her death (murder or a suicide, who knows). A considerable amount of work has already been written on gender violence and how it continues to be prevalent in Asian countries, evolving it into a quotidian practice. It would not be a hyperbole to assume that gender violence has been normalised-cum-internalized to the level that now it seems to be the part of our genetic makeup, though metaphorically. As per, Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, In 48 population-based studies from different parts of the world, ten to sixty-nine per cent (10- 69%) of the women reported having been physically assaulted by an intimate partner during their lifetime. In Pakistan, domestic violence is presumed to be a private matter between husband and wife or in-law, to begin with, resultantly, subjecting approximately 70 to 90% of Pakistani women to domestic violence. According to another survey conducted on 1000 women in Punjab, 35% of the women admitted in the hospitals reported being beaten by their husbands.

Gender Violence continues to be prevalent in Asian countries, evolving it into a quotidian practice. It would not be a hyperbole to assume that gender violence has been normalized-cum-internalized to the level that now it seems to be the part of our genetic makeup.

There are various forms of abuse, from physical to mental abuse, my focus, however, would revolve around physical abuse in an intimate relationship. In Pakistan, as I said, abuse by a spouse is not even considered to be a crime. Most of the times, parents suggest their own son-in-law to correct the behaviour of their daughter suggesting a slap or more. To flag up fault-lines in my own Pashtoon society, I am extremely ashamed to confess that in our tradition, parents wash their hands of their daughter once she is declared in the name of her husband. Like garbage, once thrown, not to engage with ever again. Every daughter at the time of marriage is filled with one essential lesson;

اب اس گھر سے تیرا جنازہ ہی نکلے گا، تو آسکتی ہے اپنے میکے مگر ایک مہمان کی حیثیت سے، میزبان نہیں

Another sentence that I heard from many families considering it perfectly normal to tell the husbands of their daughters;

ھڈوکی دی زما دی او غوخہ ئی ستاسو دہ
( only her bones belong to me, the flesh is yours).

Having acknowledged this carte blanche, husbands, turn physical-abuse into a useful weapon to correct the conduct of their wives. They abuse them with confidence in mind, that they won’t be questioned for their problematic behaviour (level of impunity, baffles my mind). More often than not, parents have been discovered showing indifference when the daughters approached them for help. “He is your husband, you should seek ways to quench his aggression” and “keep your matter to your home”, reinforcing the belief that now they are the property of their husbands. This apathy on the part of parents, in turn, makes the abuser confident enough to violate the woman over and over again while compelling his wife to don more subdued behaviour. It doesn’t mean, parents never intervene, THEY DO, however, in the most extreme cases, when they fear the collapse of their daughter, altogether. Before hitting that threshold, parents commonly exercise highly contented composure.

In our tradition, parents wash their hands of their daughter once she is declared in the name of her husband. Like garbage, once thrown, not to engage with ever again.

In the above-mentioned case, the daughter was putting up with the physical abuse for five years, yet she chose to brook one more time when her mother instructed her. Here, not just the troublesome compliance of the daughter but even the internalized misogyny of mother merit our attention. Why the parents shy away from helping their daughter? From the pressure of the society of ” Log Kia kehengy” to the particular mindset, prevailing the abandonment of the daughters and the countless explanations resorting to religion; I would narrow attention to psychological theory deciphering the rationale behind such parental attitude, INTERGENERATIONAL CYCLE OF VIOLENCE. According to this theory, traits of violence are passed from parents to children or siblings to siblings.  Children exposed to violence in their childhood, are likely to develop acceptance of abuse later in their lives anticipating them to come to be a docile (victim), or the perpetrator.

The mother in the above-mentioned case, probably, had witnessed her own mother tolerating the violence, or her father, perpetrating violent behaviour; and the man inflicting violence had possibly seen his own mother enduring the violence at the hand of his father, trapping them into a perpetual cycle of violence (passing on to their offsprings and so on so forth). Now, this doesn’t necessarily imply that every victim of the violence or culprit is made to witness violence in one part of one’s life, the existence of the other several variables adding into problematic mien should likewise be borne in mind. On the other hand, the learning process- observing parents/elders exhibiting different behaviours and translating them into practice- and “Childhood’s events influence the mental development of the child” to quote, Sigmund Freud, cannot be ignored when it comes to interpreting the behaviour of the child.

This vicious transference of the violence would continue to thrive and pass onto generation-to-generation unless we make efforts to break the very cycle, lending it oxygen. Not undermining the trauma of parents (if they suffered), however, they will have to break with their past. Social support to psychological counselling parents will have to acknowledge and explain their children, how it’s wrong and dangerous to tolerate any kind of abuse. To their sons, the lesson should revolve not abusing their wives or children, and to daughters not to tolerate or practice abuse on their children. The normalisation of the violence will have to be done away with. Unless we understand the roots of the problem, we can’t discover the solution to unravel it.

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  1. I Akbar says

    Thank you Ayesha once again for raising an important yet very sensitive issue that everyone is aware of but no one discusses out in the open. The women of the house teach and expect the same of their daughters and sons which unfortunately is a big hurdle to a positive change in near or far future. I am glad you voiced it very well with excellent structure! Well done

    1. Ayesha says

      Thank you so much, for your kind words.

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