British-Pakistani writer Reham Khan recently made waves for her autobiography outlining her twin troubled marriages, one of them to former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, now that country’s prime minister. The book put her on the hit list of trolls and invited death threats, besides being called “vile” and “scandalous” with allegations that it was meant to destroy Imran’s political career just before the polls.
While details about Imran’s private life made headlines, it overshadowed the fact that the book also told the story of a woman who suffered, believing she was duty-bound to please the man in her life. In the story of her struggle to rebuild her life lies a message for countless women in the subcontinent, who find themselves trapped in traumatic marriages and silently put up with abuse, blaming only fate.
“Being the woman who tolerates all hardships for her man is a concept that a patriarchal society glorifies. Woh kahin bhi gaya, lauta toh mere paas aaya… says (poet) Parween Shakir. Be it poetry, our films or the very sexist TV soaps, a woman is portrayed as the perpetually crying wife who has to win over the unfaithful husband. The ideal woman is one that suffers quietly, dictates patriarchy. Why does a woman have to make endless sacrifices to win the right to be loved?” asks Reham. “Doormats are rarely valued. Men actually like women who are not that obsessed by the man in their life. I made the mistake of being too agreeable and catering to every need of my man. I had this complex of being the perfect wife. This comes from the subliminal messages girls learn from a young age, so even independent, spirited women like me entertain such notions,” says Reham, who married her first cousin when she was 19. After her divorce, she started working as a journalist, and married Imran in 2015. Their marriage lasted for one year.
The hell that Reham lived in both her marriages helped her counsel other women out of abusive relationships. But the biggest obstacle she faces is that most of them are convinced they are at fault. “Many proclaim to be feminists yet put up with abusive relationships themselves. In an abusive relationship, the perpetrator attacks your self esteem and the victim believes that they are at fault. The victim is made to feel ugly and incompetent. With their confidence crushed, they end up believing no one will love them and their fears multiply,” says Reham, reports Hindustan Times.