This is part of our series, “Tales from The Dark Side“, about the deepest, darkest, harshest realities of Pakistani society that should serve as lessons.
Apparently, a woman saying Qubool Hai to a man in Nikkah is considered equivalent to her saying yes to whenever her husband wants to have sex, for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the social taboos surrounding sex and consent are so well-rooted in society that nobody wants to talk about them openly.
Tending to one’s husband’s all kinds of needs is considered to be a wife’s unspoken duty and even the idea that marital rape exists is unimaginable for many.
“Most of the women were very extremely reluctant to even admit the existence of marital rape, I had to coax them to get cloacked yeses and opinions out of them,” told Aisha Hamid, while talking about her university project on marital rape, with Mangobaaz.
Legally, it is not even explicity recognized by the Pakistan Penal Code under the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment Act) 2006 as a crime possibly leading to 25 years of sentence, it has implicit recognition but is on the mercy of legal interpretaion.
More often, women belonging to a dars or religious institution consider it against their religion for a pious woman to refuse any kind of advances of her husband, even if they are forced.
Momina Khan, a 34 year old single woman with a bachelors degree from the US and a 2 year Taleem-ul-Quran [Knowledge of the Quran] course from Al-Huda, was of the opinion that wives shouldn’t refuse husbands from physical intimacy, and if they do and their husbands force themselves on the wives, it isn’t rape.
She said, while being interviewed, “It is difficult to give a definition of marital rape. Both the husband and the wife have sexual rights, but if she lets her husband go to another woman because she was being unfair to her husband’s needs and purposely not having sex because she’s not interested in doing so, and if the husband forces himself on her then it isn’t marital rape because the wife was being unjust to her husband and was doing zulm [injustice/cruelty] on him.”
Many women think that it is better to compromise and submit to the husband’s sexual demands
Anila, a 41 year old housewife with a Masters degree in Political Science, said, “marital rape, according to me, is when, for any reason, you are not willing to do it but you are forced. However, it is important in a marriage to compromise and give in for your partner’s happiness and it is not just the woman who should be willing to submit to her husband whenever he demands it, but the husband should do the same for his wife. Since men’s sexual demands are more than the women’s, it is often the woman who has to make the compromise and this is how you make a marriage successful. Battering and inflicting violence on the wife cannot be justified though and that would be considered marital rape. Even if a wife does not want to have sex, she should fulfil her husband’s need otherwise woh idhar udhar mu marta phiray ga ”
“Even if a wife does not want to have sex, she should fulfil her husband’s need otherwise woh idhar udhar mu marta phiray ga.”
The women interviewed also think that it is their fault if husbands cheat on them.
Bakhtawar, from Lahore, was of the view that refusing to tend to husband’s sexual desires lead to them cheating on their wives.
“It is a general belief that if a guy has an affair, the wife is blamed too because clearly she was not able to satisfy her husband and that is why he went to another woman. Although adultery is not justifiable but we should keep in mind that this could happen with us too and avoid creating such circumstances in our marriage,” said Bakhtawar.
Another respondent Hafsa Khan, a 48 year old housewife who has married since she was 21, believes refusing to have sex with your husband when you don’t feel like it can lead to a chaotic society with cheating husband.
“If she is not depriving her husband of his sexual right or violating that right, then it would be marital rape because a couple goes into a marriage with the expectation of having sex. If she refuses, she is killing that expectation. She should give in, if she wants to keep up with the bonds of marriage. Otherwise, the husband will go elsewhere [to fulfill his sexual needs] and iss tarhan society kharab ho gi [this way, immorality will spread in the society] and the wife will be the loser,” says Hafsa.
In a survey of women in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, about 97% women have accepted being subjected to domestic violence by their husbands
The study, conducted in 2003 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, assessed domestic violence within a marital setting. A questionnaire was filled by 216 married women and a question regarding non-consensual sex was also asked. Out of the total respondents, 96.8% said that they have experienced some form of domestic violence in which being yelled at by their spouses was the most common one.
Almost half the women in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have reported to being forced into sexual activity by their husbands while no cases ever reach the courts.
46.9% women reported non-consensual sex, which is a significant percentage, and shows that while there is no law on marital rape, it does not mean that it does not happen,” states the project.
Neha Gauhar, a teaching fellow at the Shaikh Ahmed Hasan School of Law at LUMS says, “cases on marital rape need to come to court to give the judiciary space to interpret the current law on rape and to get the debate on this issue started. Such cases would also spark a debate on consent which is always a contentious topic in rape cases. Relentless pressure that translates into forced consent is also seen as consent on the part of the wife. However, ‘an absence of ‘no’ does not mean ‘yes'”.
In conclusion, it is, indeed, a horrible realization that a majority of women have internalized marital rape as their own fault without realizing that everyone has only their own right to their bodies. It is never okay to accept abuse even if it coming from your ‘loving’ husband.
Acknowledgment: Research for this article has been extracted from a project carried out by LUMS students, Aisha Hamid and Myra Ahsan Khan.
Note: The names of the interviewees have been changed for the purposes of privacy.
For more of the deepest, darkest realities that plague our society check out ‘Tales From The Dark Side‘.
Cover Image Via: nigerianpilot.com