The E-Journal of
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Nonviolence

Vol. 5, No. 2, February 2009
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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The paper below, by Dr. Tanvir Hussain Bhatti, is about the most fundamental form of injustice that still prevails in so many parts of the world. It is about the fact that, in most places and cultures, the patriarchal mentality still prevails. The first issue (May 2005) of this journal was on the theme of "cross-gender solidarity." The lack of cross-gender solidarity translates into many situations in which males are the oppressors and women are the oppressed. It is a universal tragedy: 50% of humanity oppressing the other 50%. Patriarchal oppression leads to the so-called "feminization of poverty," which is easily observable in many regions of the planet, especially in the Third World. To add insult to injury, poverty is often made even more miserable by various forms of persecution, including some of stupefying violence (see, for example Amina's story). Thus we are grateful for Dr. Bhatti's permission to reprint his paper, as we continue to insist that patriarchal domination has nefarious consequences for both men and women; and is, undoubtedly, a major obstacle to sustainable human development.

Muslim Insight:
Poor and Persecuted Women

Tanvir Hussain Bhatti
Lahore, Pakistan

Published in
The Canadian, 8 January 2009

Human history is full of bitter experiences in which women suffered physical torture, mental torment, social constraints, economic exploitation and political marginalization in all avenues of life. Women have always been considered inferior on the basis of gender in several countries of the world. Women’s participation in the mainstream political life into the “post-modern area“, continues to be marginalized. America, for example, as a supposedly “great democracy“, still has never had a woman President and there still have never been a female General Secretary of the United Nations in spite of that Organization’s own cherished Human Rights and gender equality related Conventions.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was ambitious to contest Presidential elections but she lost intra party elections against Barack Hussain Obama who has been elected the first black president of America to enter into White House. Indira Gandhi of India and Benzir Bhutto of Pakistan rose on the political horizon in their respective countries but both were assassinated. Margaret Thatcher who is hailed as Iron Lady in the political history of the world successfully governed the United Kingdom for several years, but did not really in the process advance the status of women in that country.

In Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajid and Khalida Zia have been handling the bridles of political power. Similarly Gloria Aroyo of Philipine and Angela Merkel of Germany are holding top slot posts of their respective countries. In India Sonia Gandhi is playing the role of a kingmaker. These examples testify that there is no flaw in the female community that can marginalize them in the corridor of power but it is the undue gender bias that has deprived them of their genuine political rights.

There is not a shadow of doubt that there have been successful women politicians in the contemporary world. However, if we compare their numbers with their counterpart male leaders on the crown notch posts then their digits pale into insignificance and their involvement in the mainstream national and international political affairs is as low as water in the River Ravi due to control of its head works by India.

To talk about women rights in a feudalist society is to show red rag to male chauvinist feudal bulls. They deliberately keep their women ignorant and backwards to maintain their dominancy in all affairs. The feudalism is the major impediment in the way of genuine empowerment of the women.

Property rights are the main determining factors for persecution of women in the patriarchal and feudal societies mainly in the developing countries. For example in the Sub-continent, due to deep-rooted cultural effects and widespread illiteracy, demanding of property rights by women from their brothers is considered immoral especially in the countryside.

Male offsprings sometimes do not permit the marriages of their sisters throughout their lives so that their husbands and in-laws do not demand legal share of property. Division of property on the basis of gender led to family feuds and the murdering of females. If a female receives her inheritance through legal battle, she is cursed throughout her life as she has committed an unpardonable sin.

In the subcontinent cruel customs of Satti in India and vicious traditions of Wani Swara and Karo Kari in Pakistan are continuously victimizing women. In mutual marriages women are considered commodities to be exchanged. There are several cases in which a person marries his sister or daughter with an old bone to get marry with his young sister or daughter. In one case, the father married his daughter with his friend's son with surety that his son will marry with his daughter in exchange. After two years of the marriage, the son refused to marry with the sister of his brother-in-law. In retaliation, the in-laws of his sister compelled their son to divorce his wife to let her to bear the brunt of this social stigma.

Divorce is considered a dishonour in our feudalistic society. The life of divorced lady remains packed with melancholies and agonies. She returns to her parents' home. Near and dear ones curse her throughout her life. After divorce she is forcefully parted from her children to suffer grief of separating from her own children. Remarriage of a divorced lady is also disliked in our feudalism engrossed society. Due to dominant affect of the Hindu culture, remarriage of a lady even after the death of her husband is not encouraged in our society.

It is tremendously ironic that victims of rape are humiliated especially in feudal societies. The mental anguish through which a modest woman passes after such hair raising tragedy is beyond imagination. There is no solace for her but a lifelong punishment and social disgrace for the crime in which she was sufferer. There is crying need to provide psychological treatment to such victims and the perpetrators who victimize should be severely punished to make them example for the rest of such nefarious elements of the society. The UNO should establish an international institution to assist such victims. The NGOs should genuinely help these victims instead of using these them for their personal agendas.

In feudal societies like Pakistan, gender bias is the major reason for backwardness and illiteracy of women. According to well-recognized social worker and educationist Mrs Fazila Alian, "The major hurdle faced by girls in getting educated was and is poverty. The male child is given preference because he would be the future bread-earner for the family whereas it is taken for granted that the female child would eventually get married and leave -- so why waste money educating her?" [1]

Poverty is also a major problem faced by women community. Begum Sabha Musharraf while delivering a speech at Micro credit summit commenced in New York in November 2002 pinpointed towards poverty of family units, “Inequalities between the richest and the poorest people are widening. Women are worst hit by poverty and with them the family unit gets entangled in a vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance, disease and even more poverty.” [2]

In the western countries, divorce is a very costly procedure; therefore, to avoid fixing the problem of divorce, the couples do not marry and indulge in illicit sexual relations. Millions of couples live in the western society without marriage under the same roof. Therefore, the number of illegitimate children is as rapidly increasing in these states as atmospheric pollution in the squatters of cities of the developing countries.

It is ironic that people in the developing countries idealize this morally stressed and shallow western civilization that has deteriorated the family institution. Due to diverging from socially, religiously and morally acceptable pathways, the western countries are harvesting bitter fruits of promptly growing extramarital relations, frequently progressing sexually transmitted diseases, swiftly mounting gay marriages, quickly increasing divorce rates and rapidly increasing illegitimate children.

The western countries got a lot after American Revolution of 1775 and French Revolution of 1789.They got freedom of expression and democratic culture but they committed two blunders. Firstly, they divorce religion not only from the affairs of the state but also from their own lives. Majority of the people have turned into agnostics and atheists; therefore, they commit sins without any sense of answerability after deaths. Secondly, they adopted capitalistic economy that gave birth to materialism and cutthroat competition.

The degradation of family life and our spiritual interconnectedness with each other as human beings and skyrocketing cost of living pushed women out of their houses to work in offices, factories and commercial markets that gave birth to uncountable social evils. Instead of emancipating women these unfortunate steps have degraded them. Their femininity is being exploited at their working places by their male bosses. Old hand fabulous fat cats employ beautiful women as secretaries. It is an open secret that they use them to materialize their sensual pleasure in return for monetary benefits.

Shameless chauvinistic oriented commercially inspired advertisements have made the women a source of income. Women are projected in such a shameless manner that is against their dignity as human being. It is disparaging that commercial market vendors are exploiting their femininity for the sake of fat wads of bank notes. Telecasting of women in the movies as a sexual commodity has further deteriorated their social status.

Co-education in various learning institutions is another illusory way of empowering women. They are deceptively taught that they can grow more normally with males then females. Let us examine the elite institutions of any country on the surface of this globe. Every sane person can find uncountable social evils in these institutions that are the by-products of these genderless institutions. In co-educational institutions female students are being exploited by the male teachers and vice versa especially for giving undue favour in examination and educational career. The students of these institutions concentrate on seeking proper couple for sexual pleasures instead of concentrating on their education.

Dr Younis did an unprecedented task to emancipate the poor women of his country from the shackles of poverty. The international community has recognized his services by awarding him and his Grameen bank the Nobel Peace Prize. The other countries should follow this brilliant example for economic emancipation of their women. In the Northern Areas of Pakistan and Balochistan, women have great penchant about embroidery. Their handicrafts need to be institutionalized. The government should provide full facilities for this purpose. Feudalism that is major barrier in empowerment of women can be rooted root out through introducing genuine democratic culture rather than synthetic one.

Women have been victimized by dogmatic clergy in the name of religion, exploited by the stagnant minded feudal lords in the name of cruel customs and traditions, and commercialized by nudity-loving liberals in the name of modernism. O’ the victimized and exploited community of the world you have to travel a long distance to acquire your due rights. You should live in graceful and dignified manner and not let sick-minded pornographers to exploit your feminism. You must 'keep hope alive' while marching towards your destiny of honourable social status, educational qualification, political participation and economic emancipation. You have to break the back of feudalism that is major barrier in granting due rights to women. But you must never forget your duty of rejuvenation of family institution because it is perpetually decaying because you have been compelled to turn a blind eye towards this responsibility because a mother is heart of each family.

You must groom your offsprings to polish their constructive faculties to give good nations to the international community. You must educate yourself because only an educated mother can perform a commendable role for his family. Ruby Manikan fittingly attributed, “If you educate a man you educate a person, but if you educate a woman you educate a family.“ [3]


1. Fazila Aliani, cited at, LINK

2. Begum Sabha Musharraf ,cited at, LINK

3. Ruby Manikan, Indian religious leader, given at Twitter, cited at, LINK

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Dr. Tanvir Hussain Bhatti is freelance international columnist, poet and author of the books What Plagues Pakistan? and Live Balls of Fire. He has published hundreds of articles on social justice issues. This is an example of his poetry:

Life and Death

Life is a treasure
      that is not for sale
After kicking the bucket
      everyone turns pale;
No one can do
      anything for the deceased
Although, on every funeral
      there is cry and wail;
Everyone is bound
      to travel a long distance
To get a coffin
      in this death's vale;
Worldly life is everything
      for the atheists
For the true faithful,
      it is merely a jail
Nothing could shake
      the faith of a Muslim
Whether they materially
      succeed or fail.

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Tanvir Hussain Bhatti


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"In addition to the life-death cycle basic to nature,
there is also an unnatural living death:
human life which is denied its fullness."

Paulo Freire, Brazil (1921-1997)
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, 1970, page 171


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Copyright © 2009 by Luis T. Gutierrez

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Both subscribers and nonsubscribers are cordially invited to submit a paper to be considered for publication in the SSNV e-journal as an "invited paper." It should be related to the journal's theme about solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence as the three pillars of sustainable development. Some suggested themes:

  • Gender equality as a positive factor for sustainable development.
  • Successful initiatives to foster solidarity, sustainability, and nonviolence.
  • Removal of obstacles for progress toward any or all the UN MDGs.
  • Management of technologies for social and environmental justice.
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