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.
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