Well, while the rest of the world is growing human muscles in laboratories and searching for a second earth in another constellation, in our part of the world grown men are sitting around thinking about how best to beat their wives.
Long story short, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has deliberated and finally given the verdict on the matter of the Punjab Assembly’s allegedly ‘unIslamic’ Women’s Protection Bill.
Verdict: Give your women the rights that you think are their rights, but please beat them lightly whenever you feel like it. Because, frankly speaking, this is your right for giving them their rights. And this is the story of the best human rights bill in the history of the universe. Enjoy.
And while I froth and fume not knowing who to beat lightly somewhere on the head, my Ivy League qualified male friend says I am all but missing the point. He is of the view that there are many things in the CII’s proposed bill that empower women, and that I in my misguided and brainwashed-by-Western-education feminist mind, have been unable to notice.
“For instance?” I ask.
“For instance. Women can inherit property and bequeath it.”
“O Wow, thank you Mr Man for giving me what is already mine,” I clap my oven mitts.
“Women can marry whoever they want as long as they are mature enough.”
“Define mature,” I inquire.
“A punishment is proposed for giving three consecutive divorces in a row,” I’m told. “Divorces given by whom?” I ask. “By man to woman or by woman to man?” “A woman can’t give divorce silly, but she is fully allowed to take it. It’s called a khula,” offers my friend. “As long as she forfeits alimony!” I remind him.
“Ok, but dowry, honour killings and blood marriages are banned and punishable.”
“Punishable how? By death?” I ask. “Or by beating slash patting lightly the man on the shoulder while kissing noises are made to encourage him?” I am angry now.
“Well, a woman can move court in case of excesses by the husband,” my friend says.
“You mean the same woman who is being beaten by the husband?”
“I think women argue too much,” says my Ivy League qualified male friend. “And by the way, the phrase is ‘lightly beating’, and you should stop over reacting.” “They are banning baby formula ads!” I tell him.
“Oh, I didn’t know that.” My friend is finally amused. “At least women are allowed to take part in politics thanks to this bill.”
“Well as long as they breast feed their kids for two years and don’t take birth control without a man’s permission,” I glare. “Hey, don’t look at me. I didn’t write the bill,” says my friend.
“So tell me, what kind of a politician is required to make herself invisible when foreign dignitaries and state guest come to town. Talk about omission and talk about exclusion. And also, why are we assuming that foreign dignitaries and state guests are going to be all men? What if Hillary Clinton comes to Pakistan? Who will receive her then? Men or women? What does your bill say about that?”
“Hillary Clinton will never come to Pakistan.”
“Don’t change the subject, man. Admit that this bill of yours is very sharamnaak.”
“Not so much. Women can become judges according to this bill.”
“But not soldiers.”
“Well, because according to our bill it’s a crime to kill women in war. That is why.”
“Well, then don’t kill the women. Just let the women kill you. At least don’t kill their potential.”
“Very funny,” says my friend. “At least the bill has punishments for forced religious conversions.” “But why ban co-education?” I ask.
“Well, we all know the dangers of co-education,” says he.
“Really? Because I don’t. And why are they forcing women to wear hijab? We don’t force them to wear kilts, do we?”
“I think you are totally confusing things now.” My friend looks a little baffled.
“Typical man!” I glare at him. “They are telling female nurses not to attend to male patients. What is the worst that can happen if a female nurse feeds potato soup to a man in a coma?” His reply: “Well, first of all there is no mention of a man in a coma here. So stop inventing stuff. Second, depending on the female nurse’s healing touch and other abilities, the man-in-a-coma could actually come back to life.”
“See, this is the problem,” I finally reach a conclusion. “You men invent all of this in your head and then the women have to pay the price for your dirty minds.”
“But at least we are willing to thoroughly investigate acid attacks,” he says. “Thoroughly investigate and find out what? That the non-breast-feeding, birth-control-popping, non-hijabi, non-compliant, female nurse of a woman invited the acid attack on herself because she was giving ibuprofen to a sick male man in a co-education emergency room while watching baby formula ads on TV?,” I ask.
“Ok, now you are becoming paranoid.” My friend takes a step back. “What do you want now?” “I want these men to stop racking their brains over how long a woman should nurse a child and how not to say no to marital rape. To think that these men sit there thinking about this stuff all day long just makes me sick.”
“Hmm. Let me see if there is something for sick in the bill,” he says. “An abortion after 120 days will be considered murder,” I offer. “I think you are right,” says my friend. “There is a sick Bill somewhere in the bill.”
My dear readers, some of you might think that the title and the content of this column don’t make any sense. Well, in my defence, neither does the bill. Amen.
PS: Reality check: some of the conversation reported above is fictitious but it bears a striking resemblance to reality.
Lightly beaten of course.
The writer teaches at LUMS and freelances as a writer, editor and translator.