Behind The Veil

Pakistani woman seeks to set legal precedence for atrocities committed by husband, in-laws

— Saving Face < > Accessed on October 29, 2013.

The Living Dead

I write this not as a reference to the popular science fiction drama The Living Dead but instead as a reference to a clandestine reality that plagues many in places only known to us through global media.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all mediums through which one can share their life through pictures. Instagram, in particular, has surged in popularity, as it is the most effective way to upload your daily life in real time. But what if you were denied the pleasure of being able to proudly show off your picture because someone had purposely marred your beauty? This is the reality of many females in Islamabad, Pakistan.

I was enlightened about this through the documentary ‘Saving Face’, directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge, which won the 2012 Academy Award (Oscars) for Best Documentary (short subject). Saving Face highlights the lives and trauma experienced by two women Zakia and Rukhsana. Both women suffered acid attacks at the hands of their husbands. Zakia was disfigured because she no longer wanted to be married to a drug-dealing alcoholic and decided to seek a legal divorce. Rukhsana’s story however, was more gruesome. Not only did she suffer an acid attack at the hands of her husband, but she was also doused with gasoline by her sister-in-law and set ablaze by her mother-in-law. Along with having to cope with her new visage, she was forced to make amends with her in-laws and move back in with them, as she could no longer care for her children on her own.

Sadly, these incidents of brutal attack are not peculiar to these women as the reasons for such atrocities can range from a 13-year-old girl refusing to be in a relationship with her teacher to a husband just being dissatisfied with his wife.

A change was signaled when Zakia decided to take action by going to the courts for legal recourse. This was the first time an acid victim would actually seek legal retribution and, if received, would set precedence with acid crimes against women in Pakistan. Her actions also put in effect legislation that would punish offenders with life imprisonment.

This may seem foreign to some, even impossible, that crimes like these could occur and the victim can only live with the shame of having to save face. But the beauty of law is, if used correctly it can effect positive change. Pakistan was once ruled by common law (when it was a part of British India). This means that they have the same tools we have to manipulate the law to satiate the grouses of the common man (or should I say woman). However, Pakistan is also governed by Sharia Law, which gets most of its doctrine from the Islamic religion.

So where did this hybrid law leave Zakia and Rukhsana? Thankfully, through technology you can simply research the documentary ‘Saving Face’ to know for yourselves.

It is always disheartening to know that today there is still a gross disconnect between those who thrive in light and those plunged into darkness through no choice of their own. However, it is up to us who bear the torch of knowledge to illuminate the darkness of ignorance that has settled. It is through this means that we can make the reality of the living dead what it should really be: Science Fiction.

Christal Parris-Campbell


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