Volume 15-01 No:181
Woes of the fair sex? It is all not rosy in the Muslim community, as it is also plagued with atrocities on women. While dowry is one part of the story, desertions in various forms has increased many folds in the past few years, and the trend is alarming. While the social scientists and the women activists attribute this to lack of education and economic backwardness, the situation is much more grave when it is looked at the grassroots level, particularly in the poverty ridden society. The so-called leaders of the community are unaware of these happenings or even if they are aware about some of these complexities, they prefer to look the other way. In view of this, will the efforts to contain these atrocities by a few organisations or individuals be effective, or a concrete plan is needed to counter the present trend? Will the community rise to the occasion and present solutions before the victims of such atrocities?
Atrocities on the better half are a complex term to define. Atrocities such as divorces, desertions and discarding of the women continue to rise in the Muslim community like a contagious disease. Though in the past, the atrocities on women were confined to the lower strata of the society, but the recent trends indicate that the atrocities on the better half are no longer confined to the poorest of the poor, but this plague has spread at an alarming level both among the middle class and also the creamy layer of the society. The growing tendency of a man to obtain a secure home and status have also aggravated the existing atrocities against the fairer sex. Under these circumstances, young Muslim girls are falling prey to the whims and fancies of the men.
For the ever-increasing atrocities against women, the first and the foremost factor is lack of education and ignorance. “Lack of education has triggered off problems such as desertions, divorces and discarding of the women to a great extent” asserts Iqbal, a counsellor at the women’s cell of police in Bangalore. Sajida Begum, president of Tanzeemul Mohsinath a women’s organisation says that lack of religious knowledge is a root cause for atrocities on women. “If a women is educated, she will fight against the atrocities,” says Farrukh Khaiser, a noted women activist in the city. The deserted women are considered as available commodity and these women feel insecure even in their own homes. When it comes to re-marriage, again these women face in-human treatment from the in-laws.
The economic factor has played an important role in the break-up of marriages. Increasing cases of extra-marital relations are resulting in desertions and divorces. Sometimes, mere suspicion on each other’s loyalty has also resulted in divorces and desertions. “Majority among the lower strata of the society feel that they can treat women as they like” says Farrukh Khaiser. Khaiser narrated an incident where a post-graduate girl from a highly educated family, married an engineer hailing from an uneducated family. The marriage resulted in divorce which was neither pronounced before the witnesses nor it was obtained purely as per the Shariah, moreover the husband’s side were armed with the ‘talaq nama’ issued by a so-called institution of Muslims in Bangalore. Similarly, a girl was married to an NRI residing in London, after a few months, the girl was divorced without being given any valid reason for the same and was sent back to Bangalore with a meagre sum of Rs. 10,000 with her.
Gowharjan, a resident of Padrayanpura in Bangalore says: “My husband’s contribution to the family is nil and with two more wives to care for, my future is bleak.” Waheeda another battered woman from the same locality says: “My husband, Farooq is a chronic addict and he does not support the family in any way. My family is being looked after by my brothers and mother”.
Haseena, a very young girl, hardly 16 years old was married at the age of 14, she was divorced after 2 years of marriage. Now she sells wood apples on the roadside to support herself. Anjum, putting a bold face says: “My husband Iqbal does not care for the kids, he only knows how to produce kids and not to take care of them, now I don’t allow him even to enter the house”. This woman is the sole bread earner in the family. A strange case of Farzana, yet another very young victim of desertion in Goripalya in Bangalore explains: “My husband deserted me just because I delivered twin-baby girls, is it my fault? My husband has not come to me for the past one and half years, I do not want to stay with my in-laws as they ill-treat me”.
Vajeeha, 35, a resident of D.J. Halli in the city broke down while narrating her tale.; she has two daughters to feed. Her husband does not bother about the family and has another wife with whom he stays. Zareen Taj, 32, has been under psychological agony. Her husband does not contribute anything to run the family, the lady works as a housemaid and earns about Rs. 300 a month and another Rs. 500 is contributed by her father every month.
The atrocities on women in Mumbai is all the more horrifying. Rehana Amin, 32, is today a self-sufficient proud woman. A mother of four children, she is providing them the best available education and is all set to get her eldest daughter married in March this year. She is managing all this on her own without financial assistance from anybody.
The situation was entirely different when Rehana’s husband Ashraf deserted her to marry another woman, five years ago. With no financial support even for the basic day-to-day needs, Rehana was on the verge of going broke. But she refused to surrender to her fate. “ I started making pickles and masalas and sold it to friends and relatives and then I was able to take care of my children.,” she says. Today Rehana has prospered and is an entrepreuner with canteen contracts with two schools in south Mumbai. Ironically, her husband Ashraf who deserted her five years ago is now desperate to come back to her as she is prospering. But Rehana is adamant. “ How can I trust a person who although is my husband, deserted me and my four children without even thinking what would happen to us and how we will survive,” she says.
Unfortunately, all deserted women are not as courageous as Rehana. For many of them, life is one long struggle for survival. Saira Ahmed, 26, mother of three is unable to give a reply when asked “where is your husband Safi?”. First she says he has gone to the village and then she said she does not know. “ I have no knowledge about his whereabouts since two years, he left without informing me,” says Saira. She works as a domestic servant and her two daughters and a son wander around in the slums of south Mumbai with an uncertain future. Zulekha Shaikh’s tale is all the more tragic. Her husband Khalil divorced her when their fourth daughter was born. Khalil is a lecturer in one of the prestigious colleges in the city. “ After the birth of the fourth daughter, the attitude of my husband and in-laws became very offensive and they blamed me for giving birth to four daughters in a row,” says Zulekha.
Today, she is emotionally bankrupt and as she is not educated, has to depend on her brothers for financial assistance. “ Even if I want to work, I cannot as I have four daughters to take care of and who will look after them if I go out to earn,” she asks.
Zaitun Banu, 32, got married at the age of 19 and within two years of her marriage, her husband Rauf deserted her after he got addicted to drugs. Her in-laws closed the doors on her and she came back to her parents. Zaitun has a 12 year-old daughter to take care of. She works as a compounder with a dentist. “ I had to work 12 hours a day to secure the future of my daughter. Although my mother insisted that I get married again, I was apprehensive about my daughter’s future,” she says.
Rabia Patel married Asif, a businessman three years ago and she converted to Islam prior to her marriage. But Asif’s parents pressurised him to divorce her within a few months of marriage. “ I was left high and dry by Asif and I was in a dilemma. I could not go back to my parents as they insisted on me reverting back to my previous religion. After I had studied Islam, there was no way I wanted to go back to my old religion. My friends helped me overcome this crisis and helped me to get a job,” says Rabia.
Shahid Amin, 39, has seven children to take care and her husband deserted her for another woman when she was 30. Shahida had spurned all family help preferring to rely on impersonal aid from community Trusts. She relied on her embroidery skills and managed to earn for her survival. “ Since I had no resources to fight for my rights, I surrendered to my faith and left the rest to Allah,” she says.
Dr Yasmin Baig, a general practitioner from Bandra East, recently sold off her one- bedroom flat at Kurla as her husband Salman took loans running into lakhs in her name and vanished. “ Almost 60 per cent of my earning is going towards repaying the loans and I am struggling here as I also have two sons to take care of,” says Yasmin.
Uzma Shahab is just 27, but the lines of worry make her look older than her age. Her etiquette and refined manners reflect that she belongs to the upper class educated family. After graduation, she married Shamim Khan against the wishes of her parents. Just second year into marriage, Uzma was divorced as she could not meet Shamim’s demands for procuring finance from her parents for his business expansion. Today, even her brothers refuse to give her the share of the property. “ My brothers divided the family assets and property amongst themselves after the death of my father and left me with nothing to fall back upon,” says Uzma.
In 1999, Farzana came to Mumbai as Afzal Husain’s bride. Last year, Afzal divorced her for no valid reason. She refused to return to her father’s house in the small town of Rander and instead chose the anesthesising anonymity of the big city of Mumbai. Farzana is on the verge of breaking into the big league of entrepreneurship as her tiffin service is in big demand. “ Since I lack experience and adequate finance, I am still apprehensive about expanding my tiffin service despite demand. But gradually after gaining experience and saving enough money I will expand my service,” she explains.
Irrespective of class, profession, education or background, these brave women suffered due to the negligence of their own near and dear ones in particular and society in general. But they have learnt their survival skills from being left to their own devices and dodging the gratuitous attention of the mohalla busybodies. They all could lay claim to the greatest empowerment, but each one of them extricated themselves from misfortune and plain mediocrity on their own. All of them were remarkable, whether it was headstrong Farzana who brooked no opposition to her determination or whether it was the resolute Shahida who despite her own shaky life became the anchor of her extended family. Even when bronchitis had tattered her lungs to the texture of old lace, Shahida had the incredible courage not only to stand on her own, but also rush off to help anyone in need.
These women did not make any recognition beyond their circumscribed domain, but they were individualistic, independent and indomitable.