This is just beyond sad. Being a woman has never sucked more.
Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus, who was attacked by her husband, an ex-lawmaker and son of a political powerhouse, and permanently disfigured undergoing more than three dozen surgeries over a decade, finally decided that she no longer had anything to live for and committed suicide on March 17. She reportedly jumped from the sixth floor of a building in Rome, where she had been living and receiving treatment.
As is to be expected, her ex husband Bilal Khar was acquitted on all charges.
Pakistan, a male dominated society in which women are apparently less than second class citizens and human beings, is notorious for such atrocities against women. According to the The Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization, more than 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported in Pakistan in 2011 and these numbers are suspected to be an undercount because the group relies mostly on media reports.
Fakhra Younus was only 22 when her husband of three years, Bilal Khar, a member of Pakistan’s politically elite Khar family, threw acid on her face when she was sleeping in her own home. Younus was a teenage dancing girl working in the red light district of the southern city of Karachi when she met Khar. The unusual pairing was the younger Khar’s third marriage. He was in his mid-30s at the time.
The couple was married for three years, but Younus eventually left him because he allegedly physically and verbally abused her. She claimed that he came to her mother’s house while she was sleeping in May 2000 and poured acid all over her in the presence of her 5-year-old son from a different man.
Tehmina Durrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar’s ex-wife and his son’s stepmother, became an advocate for Younus after the attack, drawing international attention to the case. She said that Younus’ injuries were the worst she had ever seen on an acid attack victim.
“So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn’t breathe,” said Durrani, who wrote a book about her own allegedly abusive relationship with the elder Khar. “We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together.”
She said Younus, whose life had always been hard, became a liability to her family, for whom she was once a source of income.
“Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed,” Durrani wrote in a column in The News after Younus’ suicide.
The Washington Post noted that Yunus became the face of violence against women in the country after Pakistani activist Tehmina Durrani, author of “My Feudal Lord,” helped Yunus escape to Rome and get treatment for her disfigurement. Durrani is known to speak out against the injustices women face in Muslim society. Over the years, Yunus underwent 38 facial reconstructive and plastic surgeries after the attack.
Durrani wrote of Yunus in The News Daily, “I have met many acid victims. Never have I seen one as completely disfigured as Fakhra. She had not just become faceless; her body had also melted to the bone. Despite her stark and hopeless condition, the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was not in the least God-fearing. She was provided nothing…but disdain…and trashed.”
Acid attacks are prevalent in certain parts of Asia. According to the New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof, who reported in 2008 that attacks were then at an all-time high in Pakistan, they are often the work of husbands who attack their wives as a form of revenge for refusing sexual advances or other proposals.
Yunus’ body was buried Sunday, according to News Daily, which also reported that she left a written message saying that she was committing suicide because of the silence and atrocities committed by Pakistani leaders.
Women Under Assault
It is one thing to be oppressed something like 500 years ago but to still endure such things in 2012 is beyond comprehension and worse actually than what happened 500 or 200 or 100 years ago, because back then we as human kind didn’t know better, but now we do.
Yet women are still treated like second class citizens and human beings. Pakistan is one extreme of the spectrum, where women are regularly physically assaulted and disfigured and spit on, with no rights whatsoever, but make no mistake about it that woman are under attack, physically or emotionally, directly or indirectly, even in so-called enlightened western cultures and countires. The Planned Parenthood debates of late, as well as the issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, including legislated vaginal ultrasound probing of women who want to get an abortion, are just a few examples to the point. Violence and injustice come in man y forms. Don’t think for one second that simply because you are spared from acid attacks, you – as a woman – are not under attack in the U.S.
I do not, by any means, want to trivialize Fakhra’s horrible situation. Getting vaginally probed, paid less salary and just generally treated like a liability is nothing, and I mean nothing, compared to what she had to endure. The point I am trying to make, however, is that all womanhood in general has become a liability and is under attack. This is all part of the same problem.
I was just reading an article in the Marie Claire that women, over the course of their lifetime, pay more than a man for everything from dry cleaning to deodorant, mortgage rates and cars. Even health insurance premiums. A 25 year old women who doesn’t smoke pays more than a 25 year old male who does smoke. And this is in our own country. As the article states, despite the civil rights laws prohibiting job and housing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation, there’s no federal law banning discrimination in the sale of goods and services, so women – naturally – get the shit end of the stick.
California, which in 1996 became the first state to ban gender pricing, found that women paid about $1,351 annually in extra costs and fees. Apply that figure to the rest of the women in the country and the total burden is staggering — roughly $151 billion in markups, more than what the federal government spent on education last year and greater than the budgets of 43 states.
Discrimination is actually costing us money. The startling thing is – as professor John Banzhaf of the George Washington University Law School pointed out – that “Even though it’s well recognized, people sit back and go, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’ Gender pricing is standard industry practice and they get away with it, because no one says anything. Men sure are not going to object and as long as woman adhere to the doormat “well it is just how it is” mentality, nothing will change.
The far reaching, long term consequences of such forms of discrimination that have been firmly institutionalized and engraved in our society, its practices and even our minds, is the general undermining of women in all aspects of life and society, not to mention that such practices become a habit so ingrained that no one even stops to think to question them. We only go after the low hanging fruit, the truly blatant and obvious forms of discrimination, such as sexual harassment at the work place or getting fired for being pregnant. But we are not going after the not-so obvious ones. Gender pricing is just the beginning – the seedling. You leave it untouched, that seedling will grow into the most atrocious monster Miss Fakhra Younus had the misfortune of meeting.
Yeah, being a woman never sucked more and it doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon.
Human kind is a failed experiment, that’s for sure