International Women’s Day, March 8, 2013

Submitted by Malik Rashid

To observe International Women’s Day, InterChange invites you to share your story of resilience in the face of violence and oppression against women and how your efforts or the efforts of those around you are breaking the cycle of trauma.

Of Losing and regaining love and humanity

Story of my efforts to overcome intergenerational trauma and bring more humanity to my life – Malik Rashid

Love that women blessed me with, nourished me and sustained me. Without it I would not survive. In her Nobel winning novel ‘Beloved’, Toni Morrison wrote: “A man ain’t nothing but a man. But a son? Well, now, that’s somebody.”

Physical abuse from in-laws after marriage at the age of 15; bearing a girl child a year later and witnessing her child die of malnutrition within the next year, was the time of her life my mother most vividly remembered and repeated often. Stories from her life before marriage included the death of her father and the suffering that followed under feudal hegemony of her paternal uncles.

For my parents, marrying off their 3 daughters was most important. Marriage vows of my youngest sister were performed when she was only 13 to a man at least twice her age, on the pretext that mom and dad couldn’t undertake the hajj pilgrimage until marriage of all their daughters were solemnized.

From boiling tensions, the political situation exploded into genocide. As my family migrated and faced the challenge of starting a new life, my sister’s in-laws grew wary of the lack of financial support they expected from my parents in return for the arranged marriage of their son.

In her teens, my sister went from marriage to divorce to another arranged marriage. I saw her suffer mentally and physically as she was lugged back to our house from her husband’s, each time she broke down under abusive conditions.

For children, abuse was common to boys and girls. Adult life brought endless suffering for women. Men had to join the fraternity of oppressors. As men became complacent due to their privileged status, women grew resilient after grinding it out under violence and oppression. Among the children my siblings and me reared, girls excelled in academic achievement. Women earned their sovereignty through hard work in adverse conditions. Addiction to aggression and conformity with the system made the boys dependent.

As a young man in the 70s, my life was juxtaposed between enlightenment of the sexual revolution in the west and the environment of aggressive male-domination in Pakistan. My wife, sisters, daughters and others could better tell my participation in exploitation and abuse of women but my aspiration for gender equality survived through love for my daughters. Despite my love for them and openness towards women’s liberation, migration to Canada brought new tensions. Adjusting to independence of women in the family as they assume full control of their lives and sexuality is a difficult process. Through this process I started to regain my humanity.