This is the story of a young woman – a sister, a daughter, a mother, but most of all a divorcee, dependent on her parents. Naeema (not her real name) underwent an arranged marriage two years ago. Feeling that everybody in the family blamed her for the break-up of an earlier engagement (her fiancÈ had called it off because she refused to have a sexual relationship with him before marriage), she agreed to the proposal despite her misgivings.
The wedding was a traditional one and everyone in her family was happy. And then the wedding ended and the marriage started. The first thing her new husband said to her was, “I need the money you received in salami (money given by relatives); I have to pay all the bills.” She quietly gave it all. The next day Raheel demanded her jewellery, but she gave it without any argument, wanting to make him happy.
Then came another shock. Naeema had looked forward to getting married and leaving her job at the bank but her husband refused to let her quit the job. She then learnt that he didn’t earn and she would be the one feeding him. Her family were unaware of this as they had been told that he had a job and earned well.
She continued working, and giving him all her earnings, fulfilling his desires, thinking life would get better one day. Instead, things got worse. She discovered that Raheel was a drug addict and he would come home late at night and brutally rape her. She bore the pain without complaint. He soon started demanding things like a car, motorbike and property from her parents, and beat her when she refused to convey his demands to them.
After one particularly painful bout of physical and sexual torture, she returned to her parent’s house only to discover after some days that she was pregnant. She immediately assumed that having a baby would save her from further torture. Her parents were happy, thinking she would go back and live happily with her husband. Her father gifted the husband with a motorbike and he took her back.
Despite her pregnancy, Raheel continued to come home late, rape her and demand things. Her health deteriorated and soon she learnt that she had lost her baby. Continuous painful rapes had resulted in a miscarriage. She decided again to leave her husband, the man responsible for killing her baby, but going back to her parents was not easy. She found it impossible to withstand the misery in their eyes. When her mother-in-law came to bring her back, promising that her son would change, her parents agreed to send her back. Naeema went along with their decision.
Unexpectedly after her return, Raheel seemed like a changed man. But it didn’t last long. Everything started becoming what it was. The late night sexual harassment, demands for money, the beatings. After a month or two, she was pregnant again.
In her fifth month Naeema quit the job and her mother took her home and looked after her. She gave birth to a beautiful girl. However, Raheel wasn’t a part of the happiness since he was in jail for being involved in a gang rape case. Soon he was released and happy with the baby, Naeema was ready to forgive and forget. Raheel was good to the baby but his behaviour towards Naeema continued to be abusive. Unwilling to see her baby growing up in that environment, Naeema finally decided to leave Raheel. She filed a case and got a divorce, but he wasn’t ready to divorce her. He filed a case for the custody of the baby but fortunately, the court assigned custody of the baby to Naeema. Even though she had legally won the rights to keep her baby, her ex-husband began terrorising her and her family day and night saying it was his right to see the child whenever he wanted. Sick and tired of continuous harassment, Naeema’s family decided to return the daughter to the father.
Now, Raheel is again in jail for a rape case and for his abusive and threatening behaviour to Naeema and her family. His intimidating behaviour has reached to a point where he is now threatening to throw acid on Naeema’s face once he gets out of jail. But that’s the furthest of Naeema’s worries as all she can think about is her baby living with her sister-in-law. She wants to fight for her daughter’s custody but has no support from her family. They say they want to get her re-married – which will be easier without the baby. Secondly, they don’t want any kind of contact with the ex-husband. If Naeema gets custody of the baby, she will have to allow Raheel to meet her once in a while – a thought that fills everyone with dread. Everyone – except for Naeema – is ready to give away the baby to get rid of him completely. People try to make her feel better by saying it is fate. Naeema doesn’t call it fate: she calls it injustice. She knows it’s her right to get her daughter back and live a civil life without interference from her ex-husband. She knows it’s her right to be happy. But, the rights of women are something that has been long ignored in our country and there still seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
*Names have been changed
The story was originally published in the ‘You Magazine’ dated 6/14/2011.