Burning Wives

saving_face_posterBy Hanna Ingraham

Rhuksana’s husband threw acid on her face and then her sister-in-law lit her on fire. Shortly after, one of her children got sick and she was forced to move back in with them because she couldn’t afford to feed her kids.

Zakia was divorcing her husband and just leaving the courthouse when he found her and threw acid on her. She is now disfigured and has lost an eye.

I learned about Rhuksana and Zakia in the documentary “Saving Face” which tells of the many Pakistani women who are victims of these attacks — about 100 cases each year. Women who consider themselves “the living dead.”

A patriarchy that devalues women appears to be the culprit.

Men who feel disgraced or embarrassed because of an argument over the dishes, or discarded advances, or who hold a generalized hatred of women, lash out. If women don’t do what men want, they deserve it.

These men want to ruin the women’s lives. And they succeed.

Agonizing acid burns through skin and fuses it together, making it difficult to eat or breathe. It blinds and kills. Women who survive become ashamed of their bodies and are ostracized. They are emotionally wrecked from being burned alive by their own husbands.

Abuse is rife in Pakistan with 65% of men saying they were abused as children and about half now say they abuse their wives. Through generations the men become diseased with a lust to harm women.

For years Pakistani women had not fought back because they had no voice. They may have believed that this was life and there was no other way. But recently the scales are falling from their eyes and the women are seeing possibilities and working to end the abuse. The government is listening and passing bills to protect them.

Here we see the cycle of abuse and how it can be broken. We see women once disempowered and blind to the possibility of change gaining both sight and muscle.

I’m inspired!

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 8, 2013, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Amazing article! it really touched my heart so see the lives of these unfortunate women, but really, they don’t have to stay unfortunate! Women are just stuck with the old mindset, that they’re women, no one is going to listen to them, this really needs serious review, because its a false statement, obviously a male wouldn’t want to go through that, than that leads to why should women go through that? there’s simply no reason.

  2. Natthinee Sutjaitham

    Truly horrific and and beyond heinous. This is breaking my heart! Who is teaching the Pakistani men these crazy things they are doing ?They should ask themselves would you like that done onto you? I know not all of them are doing that. I just don’t understand how you can be at that level of deep cruelty towards another. People in Pakistan should protect their own women’s rights as human beings. Women aren’t property. Those beasts can’t handle not having complete power over their women. Only a stable and just government and people can do so.

  3. I find this story to be absolutely heart breaking but at the same time inspiring; the fact that 65 percent of men were abused as a child, and now they abuse their wives in order to gain power and control is unbelievable to hear. The lady in this story is not only physically broken by her ex-husband but mentally and emotionally as well. Her self-esteem is now broken, and like meme03 stated before abuse never leaves someone’s mind. There is a constant fear of it happening again and again. I could never imagine the trauma and embarrassment these women face on a daily basis. Their faces become burned and disfigured as a result of wanting to escape from their husbands, yet they are forced to go back because they can’t bear from facing society after the acid burns. It is very powering to hear though that these women have decided to take a stand against the violence and pushing for the country to pass laws to stop these horrible acts.

  4. Alexandra Holmes

    I have heard terrible stories about how the women in Pakistan are treated and it is incredibly upsetting. It surprised me that there is still 100 cases a year of domestic violence an cruel acts towards the wives in Pakistan. The fact that 65% of men were abused in their childhood and half abuse their wives today is very disturbing. I can not comprehend why someone would put another human being through abuse after that individual grew up suffering with abuse. I also can not understand why throwing acid in an innocent woman’s face could help one feel less embarrassed and make them feel like they have more power and control. I am glad to hear that the government is now helping these women and signing bills to protect them. I hope for the sake of all women in these countries that have to live in fear of this violence that the government will put a stop to these cruel crimes.

  5. It’s depressing to hear that 65 percent of men were abused as a child, and now they abuse their wives in order to gain power and control. I can’t even imagine the trauma and embarrassment these women face on a daily basis. Their faces become burned and disfigured as a result of wanting to escape from their husbands, yet they are forced to go back because they can’t bear from facing society after the acid burns. In addition, they feel they can only live with their husbands because they are blind and feel there is no other way. What is even more alarming is that their sisters in law support their brothers when they are women themselves.

  6. Kind of bouncing off of meme03’s comment, unfortunately, throughout the world, there are men out there that will want power over their wives as opposed to loving them. This story is a classic example of how men can display power as opposed to love. What I find interesting though is that though the action is intense, the thought of power and control is not all that much different in the animal kingdom. Males in the animal world will fight for control with other males and sometimes, though its not seen to often, even females. We forget that we too have a certain animal instinct, but at the same time, it doesn’t excuse the actions given our overall nature as humans to love and to care.

    • Depends on the animal.

      Also, the higher you go up the evolutionary ladder, the less we are ruled by our genes, anyway.

      I’ll be posting something in the next couple of weeks on women preferring beta men.

  7. this is such a sad story it breaks my heart. one thing that i just find repulsive is abuse, this lady emotionally will never be the same, he took her life in his hands. there were a few other cases like this but it was toward “pretty Girls” and on the way out of grocery stores and gyms they were throwing acid in their faces. Its disgusting. they will have to remember that moment for the rest of their lives. For any lady when she is hit the memory will never leave, that feeling, and fear will never go away. Especially when the person that does it to you is supposed to be someone you trust and love.

  8. There is this incredible foreign film I think you would like called When We Leave. Without giving too much away, it is about how a very traditional Turkish family living in Germany reacts when their daughter decides to leave her abusive husband. I think both this film and your documentary highlight the ramifications of women who dare to to go against the grain in society that tell then they are property and meant to be subservient. It breaks my heart but at least it seems as though this problem is getting more attention.

  9. I’d like to see an article on domestic violence in Russia – it is hideous.

  10. Thanks for drawing back the veils and exposing evils to the light of day.

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