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'Frailty, Thy name is woman' -Article

Humaira  Islam

This adage was coined by William Shakespeare in his drama ‘ Othello’. It is said that if you do not like a dog give him a bad name and kill him. In the male dominated society adages and proverbs have been liberally invented and used to reinforce stereotypes to demonize and belittle the role and importance of women. Even religions and social values have been fabricated to generate negative perceptions about women. In this respect Chitrali society is no different. Although in Chitrali folklore Chitral is called awratabad but in practice her standing in the social ladder is no higher than other societies.

In Chitrali society, perhaps, driven by the dynamics of the security or police state that it was during much of its history, a wife was projected as the worst enemy of a husband and he was obliged not to share secrets with his wife, which was meant to be shared with the ruler. Thus state necessity dictated destruction of the most intimate and closest relationship and the society still reels under the negative consequences of this perception to the detriment of family harmony and mutual trust. It is therefore not surprising that wife battering, increasing divorce rates, underage and forced marriages, honour killings and less happiness over birth of daughters still haunt the society, though their intensities are reducing, thanks to the efforts of some brave NGOs, civil society organizations and enlightened elements of the society. However a great deal more needs to be done to change the traditional mindset completely and to usher in a fairer dispensation for women.

It is time that girls got their priorities right. Instead of making marriage as their first priority, they must first be self supporting and stand on their own two feet. Marriage is a convenience to be decided through use of discretion, which is the better part of valour. In Islam it is a civil contract between two equal partners and not a bondage between two unequal partners. What kind of parents would force their daughters into a hopeless marriage situation where neither partner is in a position to look after the other. My father is a great champion of women rights and has four daughters. His only advice to all of us has been to be self supporting. Marriage can wait if it is to be contracted at all. In the modern world women value their freedom so much that marriage has very low priority for them.

It is disturbing to note that even in todays’ world, when restrictions on women have been considerably relaxed, media and CSOs feels shy to report acts of bravery and sacrifice shown by women. A few days back I happened to attend a wedding ceremony in Chitral town. During discussions about recent marriages and divorces (because of the limited social space allowed to us we have no other topics to discuss except petty gossips on issues involving girls).It was amazing to know that inspite of being locked in the pot these girls had given unprecedented sacrifices for their families. A 16 years old girl had married a 65 years old man from down country to unburden her parents and to make life comfortable for them. This man had built spacious house for her parents. People narrated many other cases where girls had agreed to marriages for the well being of their parents or education of brothers and sisters or sponsorships to work abroad. I was surprised that many other girls were also prepared to become human sacrifices either to save themselves from becoming burdens on their families or to improve the quality of life of their families. If the girls are born to give such sacrifices then why are these not recognized? If a father in Faisalabad selling his kidney to buy dowry for a daughter can find place in the first page of a newspaper as an example of sacrifice then why should a 16 years old Chitrali girl marrying a 65 year old stranger in return for ending the misery of her parents go unreported in the media?

The world community has given freedom of choice to all human being as a fundamental human right. Mercy killing and same sex marriage have taken it to bizarre level throwing challenges to our core values but in Chitral many parents are still not to seek consent of their daughters in marriage cases. Many do not express joy over the birth of a daughter and consider her a burden to be given out in marriage without checking his credentials. We do not get tired of giving sermons that Islam allows equal rights to women but in practice we are not prepared to give her share in inheritance or to marry a boy of her choice. Girls who elope to escape unwanted wedlock are punished for life and disowned. Divorce invariably takes place on the choice of husband and the wife can only get out of it after committing suicide. That is why marriage related suicides are the highest in Chitral. Shakespeare uses the adage in irony. The substance is not Desdemona’s disloyalty, it is rather the suspicious mind of Othello but the male dominated society has added it to women stereotyping. This mindset can only be corrected when women liberate themselves through education-genuine education which does not come from cheating or rote system of examination. Moreover they can not do it alone; they need support of enlightened men who believe in gender equality and empowerment. They will have to change their priorities. Instead of making marriage as their first priority they will first have to be independent and self supporting economically. They stand nothing to gain from marriage as long as they remain at the receiving end and at the mercy of a lesser man. Women owe it to their nature as life givers that they must come at the decision making level to save our mother earth from the challenges that threaten its very survival. So woman wake up thy name is sacrifice.


Humaira Islam,

Garam Chashma,Chitral.

22 June 10



'Frailty, Thy name is woman' -comment


With reference to Ms Humaira Islam’s article, “Frailty, thy name is women” I want to express my humble opinion briefly. The ideas of the writer expressed in the article are highly praiseworthy. Women should raise voice for their rights. Though we talk about equal rights of men and women but in practice we are still unable to give due rights to women. Women empowerment is very important to go ahead in life, for this purpose we need to give them the best possible education. It is generally said that when you educate a son you educated an individual but when you educate a daughter you educated a whole family.

For both boys and girls it is very important matter to decide about their marriage.  In this respect boys have sole choice to decide but girls are denied this right. Why  is this discrimination there? Every one’s life is equally precious. Parents must get the opinions of their daughters when it comes to the matter of their marriage. Secondly, the age difference should also not be so horrible as the writer has given example in her article. The growing tendency of the out of district marriage for vested interest should also be revised keeping in view the unique culture and tradition of Chitral.  I would like to ask Ms Humaira to continue her struggle for women’s rights and come up with such articles from time to time in order to create awareness
among the people of Chitral.

Ijaz Ahmad
Mastuj, Chitral,

26 June 10


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