By Afreeha Jawad
COLOMBO (IDN) – Having grown up in a biological family unit that upheld male domination, envied and resented female intellect, with a mother that declared in no uncertain terms that even though crestfallen a male is a male, Fathima’s ears soon were not alien to such sexist remarks but the bitterness that swelled inside was inexpressible.
Maternal discriminatory insistence that even vehemently once asked, “if they can tame a wild elephant then why not you?” simply threw this child off board. There was no one in whom she could have faith to spell out all her agony. Fathima’s utter consternation, dismay and disgust over maternal sexist expressions licensed continuous harassment even assaults from her biological membership which term she even resents to this day.
“They all ganged up – a set of female devouring hooligans,” she recalled, referring to whom she recalls biological brothers. “They were very envious of my intellect. They spat on my books, shouted all kinds of names, bullied me and assaulted me till I fainted and I ran out of home when I was 30.” She saw no hope in a gloomy household that made her sick. Her father to this day, she recalls, was a man of intellectual eminence, very kind yet helpless in the face of marauding below bestiality.
“Four decades ago, the Sri Lankan police did not take women’s issues so seriously as now. If it was today they would have ended up being jailed,” she declared. Raising her hands to “the seventh heaven,” all she does is to “thank the lord” that Sri Lanka is not a Muslim country.
“I do not wear the veil and the social whole does not view me as weird. Many Muslims here are of the view that one is not a Muslim if she does not wear the hijab and I tell them that I am a universalist which includes all religions and even going beyond the framework of formal religion into eternity.”
One of the ‘biological drops’ in the presence of the mother even assured, “I will harass her till she swells.” It’s well past 35 years since all this moral incongruity, and Fathima has returned home establishing her legal right to do so.
Just one of them, indeed her one and only kind brother (Fathima’s conscience does not permit her the sarcastic reference to him as being of the biological mould), passed away recently. Mounting peer pressure every now and then snatched away his most hidden treasure – humanity, though there was intermittent display of elegance much to her surprise.
In June she left home having handed over the keys of her part of the house to him in hospital to be given to them and went into hibernation to her preferred retreat in the north western province. Intervention of kind friends, futile phone calls overseas, numerous text messages, calls that went unanswered, their law firm representative that made unkept promises were the bitter repeat of the harassment that once was, this time coming in the form of the unreturned bunch of keys – a moral and legal right to her property. Her last resort was a Sri Lankan politician of unimpeachable integrity that waved the magic wand. Just one call and the never to return keys landed right on her doorstep with those closed doors that flung open far and wide.
Well, what does this signify? The UN may stand atop roof, cry their hearts and lungs out on discrimination of women, but the fact is it continues to this day with greater vigour and intensity than ever before. Withholding another’s keys is a denial of right of entry, it falls short of the best of moral standards, it is by no means moral eminence and by all means a distant wail from gentlemanly behaviour.
Who ever told that slavery does not exist today? The only difference is it does under modern environment one better than the slavery of a differently oriented socio/political/ religious/economic order of bygone times. Had she polished their shoes, washed their clothes, and cooked their meals, been docile, submissive and passive, she says, she may not have been victim to such ignominy.
Having gained her rightful entry into the house, a servant / henchman is now engaged to frighten her by giving loud thuds on the gate so that she will give up on the property enabling them to take possession – a failed tactic adopted following the futile attempt to retaining her keys. Her singlehood is now viewed as a viable economic venture. “No way,” exclaims Fathima, “I will put all these assets into a trust to perpetuate the memory of my father,” she insisted when contacted.
The world has for too long travelled the path of male domination, power, hegemony, male sexuality, stratification of all sorts – economic, religious, cultural, political, social. Peace is difficult to arrive at amidst conditions that wrought not egalitarianism but disarray. The world, acclaimed Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, cried out from the depths of his being for a world not “broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls” when sectarian tendencies, stratification, dominance and control eliminate the very peace he earnestly sought – and which ironically is an objective difficult to realize by the United Nations.
Tagore suffered internal conflict when he watched this divisive pageant take control of the world where emotion and reason remain conflicting elements, where words are withheld from the depths of truth and the clear stream of reason meanders into the dreary desert sand of dead habit. The poem (Where The Mind Is Without Fear) itself is worthy of UN recognition to be read out at every ceremonial inauguration to be imbibed by member States the dangers of power, control and elitism.
Power is a great repository to breed inequity and moves away from the highly principled, much sort after yet unrealized egalitarian concept. International and intra-national elitists wield enormous power. It all starts within domestic confines where domination is rampant. Women are subjugated and an unyielding woman more likely to be harassed: In the bus, on the public highway, in office, in whatever place one encounters, they are humiliated. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 August 2017]
Image credit: Asia Foundation | United Nations
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