Twenty Five percent of Northwest British India, what constitutes Pakistan today, used to kill off half their female infants in the 19th century. Statistics from the end of the 20th century state that 3.1 million girls are missing in Pakistan and according to Edhi Foundation, the number of female infanticides is on the rise. Laws, societal pressures and religious injunctions have stemmed the prevalence of this homicide so that the figures are much lower than in the previous century.
However, the other side of this picture is that these females now come into this world to a cacophony of wails, self-recriminations on the part of the mother, threats of a second marriage explicitly or implicitly made by the father and/ or his family and commiserations from relatives and friends. The sad truth is that I am not even talking about the lower income strata, rather, the middle and upper classes.
Since their births they are taught to treat their brothers as superior beings who cannot be questioned. They serve as surrogate mothers to their younger siblings, are supposed to cook, clean and wash clothes before they reach their teenage years. They are repeatedly told that their education is worthless and everything their parents (especially their dads) are doing for them are favours they are expected to return with interest.
Apparently, the fact that my dad paid for the hospital visit when I needed stitches was his Ehsaan (Beneficence) and I need to repay his favours by clearing my schedule at his whim. Here I am not even talking about having to give up meetups with friends or any fun pastimes, rather, preparing for mid-term exams because although I have cooked lunch, it isn’t fancy enough for dad’s friend whom he invited over without as much as a say-so. My time is not important enough to warrant considering alternate choices. I am simply supposed to bow down to his diktat. The funny bit is that I am still expected to ace my studies as well as ensure that my younger brothers do the same.
Kill them Slowly Instead
These girls had no say in their “unfortunate” births but spend their entire life questioning why they were born as the inferior sex. Their mobility is restricted, they are expected to find joy in menial household tasks and their entire social circle comprises of their immediate family. They are told that there is no need to meet their friends and they should keep their distance from their relatives. How can one logically expect a living, breathing human being, with desires and goals in life, to be content with spending her entire life imprisoned in a house- first her father’s, then her husband’s?
Innocent actions are given horrifically debasing connotations while their brothers can have girlfriends galore. If a guy stalks you, you must have encouraged or seduced him. He follows you, contacts your friends and colleagues, calls and messages you and ruins your reputation telling everyone that you had an affair with him that you ended abruptly. And in all of this, you are the party at fault. Even your own mother blames you in most instances and when women do not support other women, the situation is pretty dire. If a woman blames another when she gets raped, stating that she must have worn revealing clothing, stayed out late or frequented unsavoury places, you cannot expect anything from the male members of this society.
A girl is not supposed to wear flattering clothes in front of her own fathers and brothers and is supposed to put up with the male members of her family ogling her friends and even random women. The sad part is that Pakistan is supposedly a Muslim country, therefore, cultural and religious customs mean that women usually cover their heads, wear baggy clothing or even cover their entire bodies and faces when they go out. So if men are believed and women deliberately present temptation, why can they not desist their lecherous behaviour in such a society?
Respect is key here, when girls are conditioned to respect their male family members but not expect a reciprocation of that, they are essentially taught that they do not deserve that basic consideration. Women enable men in their domineering and controlling habits, since men have not experienced any resistance in treating their wives and mothers abysmally, they do the same to their daughters and their sons do the same to their female relatives.
A girl is not allowed to have an opinion about her own life, her only goal in life is to get married and have children. She DOES NOT want that, she has had enough! She has already sacrificed her life bringing up her siblings, why would she willingly sign up for perpetuating the vicious circle and give away even more of her life?