I happened to watch “A thousand girls like me” a bone-chilling film documented in real life on the 25th of November. It is a day to end violence against women. Even after two days I am unable to fathom monstrosity of a society that breeds these kinds of predators. Violence against women is not new but what is more painful is the approach of a society or a system that incriminates women.
Post-Taliban state of women
Therefore when we think about war-torn Afghanistan, the picture that emerges in our mind is not so pleasant. But if you are a woman in Afghan society, then this unpleasantness increases to thousand folds. After the demise of the Taliban’s regime, women in Afghanistan are still fighting against violence and injustice. The sad part here is in this situation, the family that is meant to protect you is ought to kill you.
What “A thousand girls like me” is about?
It is a film by Sahra Mani Mosawi, which centers around an Afghan girl. Khatera is 23 years old Afghan girl who like 90% of Afghan women was subjected to domestic abuse
. But what makes her story more heart wrenching is that she was raped and abused by the same man who was meant to protect her, her own father. The incest went on for 13 long years resulting in a number of pregnancies and abortions.
Physical and sexual abuse
Khatera suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Zainab is 3 years old daughter of khatera and also a sister to her. Pregnant with another child by her father, khatera demands justice for her children and herself.
She lives in safe houses with her mother and daughter in Kabul. In a television program, khatera shared her story with the world. But it isn’t the first time she talked about it or sought help.
How khatera finds help?
She repeatedly told her grandmother and uncles who used to live with her in the same house but everyone shunned her. She managed to report to police but they too refused to believe her.They said how a man who is so pious and prays 5 times can commit such a sin.
“I went to fourteen mullahs, no one helped me. The fifteenth one told me to go to media and said it was my only hope.”Says khatera.
Khatera wants her father to be punished for the atrocities he committed. She is struggling against a society which blames women even if she is the victim.
Khatera’s case is the first reported in Afghanistan about incest. But does that mean that incest is not happening? The answer is so bone-chilling that it leaves you shocked.Khatera was the first one to come forward. But many women are silenced by their family so they don’t bring shame to their family “Honour”
Sexual abuse statistics of Afghanistan
According to a report, 90% afghan women are subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
“I think I did right, because one day my daughter will grow up and become a women and I don’t want her to ever go through what I went through” said khatera. Her father Halim was charged with death sentence by the court. He has charged a petition against sentence and is awaiting the verdict.
SIMILARITY BETWEEN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
Pakistan and Afghanistan shares many similarities between them. Even if the situation in Pakistan doesn’t seem so dire, the reality is different. The truth is that Pakistani social system has many things in common with Afghanistan. In Pakistan too, numerous cases of incest have been reported. All this abuse and violence against girls tracks back to one main problem,PATRIARCHY AND VICTIM BLAMING.
SOCIAL AND FAMILIAL PRESSURE
Often time’s girls have to face immense pressure from society and their own families to stay silent and not utter s single word against abuser. Even if some brave women try to free themselves from the torturous shackles of abuse, they are blamed by others to not come forward earlier. Either way a woman’s life is made miserable in this patriarchal society.
Situation in Pakistan
According to a report published by a Pakistani NGO, SAAHIL, it is said that in 2010, 2252 cases of child abuse were reported.
“Out of these 2252 case, 144 were of incest”.
However, according to WAR (war against rape) it is a said that almost 60 to70% of these cases are never reported due to many different reasons. These unreported cases prevent the society to feel the true magnitude of the problem.
How abusers get away with abuse?
Mostly the victims in these sort of cases are young children up to age of 16. Children are most vulnerable victims because they don’t know what to say or feel about the abuse. The abuser often retains a position of authority in victim’s life and is usually a blood relative.
The abuser often shares the relation of trust with victim. It becomes extremely difficult for the victim to expose the abuser because of the fear of being judges or shunned by the family or society.
In 2006, a girl named sameen from Karachi was raped by her own father. Her mother, shamim, had gone to attend some family wedding in other city. Sameen’s father, Pervez, raped her and threatened her with a naked wire to keep her silent.
Even after her mother returned, the sexual abuse continued. Until one day, sameen’s mother got suspicious of her husbands intention and interrogated her daughter. Sameen first did not admit to any kind of abuse but eventually she confided in her mother.
Shamim then left the house with her children and went to stay at her relatives. Shamim told her employer everything and asked for help. FIR was lodged against Pervez and he was arrested from his house. The medical exam confirmed that sameen, indeed was repeatedly abused by her father.
The story doesn’t end here. Pervez’s sister Nasim Bibi also confided in her sister in law and revealed that her brother had raped her too when she was a little girl. Upon telling her mother, she refused to believe her. So Nasim made sure not to stay alone with her brother in the house at any cost.
Story of Sameen is just one of “a thousand girls like me”.
HOW TO DEAL WITH ABUSE
We all know that the afteraffects of sexual abuse are very damaging. The only way to prevent abuse is to empower women. So they can speak freely about abuse without the fear of being judged. The victim blaming needs to stop at any cost.
The #metoo movement gaining momentum is a huge win-win situation for women. By this they can not only implicate the abuser but also get a closure. By empowering and believing our women we can end this vicious cycle of abuse.
Asking them for proofs and questions like “why did they not report earlier?” is like giving them a shutup call. Research has proved that it takes an average of 25 years for an abuse victim to speak about their situation.
In the end we need to understand the situation regarding women is not very different in Pakistan. Tribal customs still prevail; women are still treated as commodities to be traded as wani or for saving the honors of families. Film makers and artists can make a huge difference by exposing patriarchy in films like “a thousand girls like me”