My Sex Education as a Pakistani Muslim Woman
I am 23 years old and in the car with my fiancé. It’s mid-winter, but we never get extreme weather in Karachi, Pakistan, so it’s quite pleasant. He asks me if I know anything about sex; I shake my head from side to side (No one has talked to me about sex before. I feel embarrassed and shy). This is what he says next:
When a man is aroused, his penis gets erect; he then penetrates a woman; ejaculates and then it goes back to normal.
The lesson is over; my sex education is complete. That’s all I need to know to fulfil my wifely duties.
In Pakistan, it is extremely important that a girl is a virgin and innocent at the time she is married. When a girl child is born, it is her parents’ responsibility to keep her innocent and ignorant. She is to be kept away from all sex conversations until two days before she is to be married. A married woman is assigned to “inform” the bride of her sexual duties. The “sex talk” is more about how a woman needs to be, to support her man’s erection and ejaculation, rather than about her rights or pleasure.
I was only a child at the time. We lived in a neighbourhood where most of the people were Shiite (a stricter sect within the Muslim community); girls were instructed to cover their bodies, their hair and even their faces. Most of my girlfriends wore a kind of hijab that only had a small slit for their eyes through which they could see.
My mother didn’t insist on us wearing a hijab but it felt weird to not hide my body and my hair. Every other girl was doing it. So I asked my mother if I could wear a hijab too. She didn’t mind.
I borrowed one from a friend and I wore it.
The whole world looked different from behind a hijab. Men on the streets were no longer looking at me. I was completely invisible. In fact, I felt invisible. I didn’t have to do my hair; I didn’t have to change clothes; I didn’t have to get ready. I simply had to hide behind the hijab and I was completely safe and secure. I felt that I could do anything… because no one could recognise me.
This phase lasted about a month and then I got bored. I didn’t like being invisible. I wanted to walk the earth with a presence but the hijab took away my presence; my individuality; my sexuality. I stopped wearing it.
As soon as I walked the streets with just a scarf covering half of my head, I became visible. Men on the streets started staring at me; singing dirty songs while I walked by. They asked me to spend a night with them; they would call out things like “come here beautiful, come to me”. If there was a group of men or boys, they would all look at me from top to bottom and smile.
I felt naked. I felt ashamed. I wanted to hide. I didn’t understand but it felt that my mere presence in the society was bringing shame to me and my family.
I didn’t understand why men wouldn’t give me respect and dignity. What had I done, that was so wrong and that required them to strip me naked with my eyes while I walked to the bus stop?
Weren’t these all Muslim men?; why was I instructed to wear a hijab and follow the rules of Islam but these men had no obligation to respect their fellow human beings.
Maybe I wasn’t a human.
I realised when I was invisible, men didn’t dare to look just in case I was someone their family knew. But when they could see my face, there was no stopping them. I had committed a sin by showing my face and I had to be punished with cruelty, disrespect and abuse.
Then, It was no longer enough just stripping me naked with their eyes.
I am around eight years or so. I am at my auntie’s house, which is on the 2nd floor. I have come to visit and play with their children (my cousins). Mostly, we were playing hide and seek and running up and down the stairs
My cousin hid and I was trying to find her. I was walking down the corridor and then I saw an open door. I looked inside, hoping to see my cousin.
I saw a man lying on the bed and the bed was just in front of the door
He was fat and wearing a moustache. He looked at me and smiled
Next, he took his penis out and showed it to me as if offering it. He smiled even more and invited me in.
I ran away…
I am the only one from my school to go to St Joseph’s College of Women.
The walk from the bus stop to the college is about 20 minutes through a congested bus station.
I get off the bus and walk to the college. Suddenly, a man on the street passes by and tries to grope my vagina. He does it so quickly that I don’t even have a chance to protest. By the time, I have gathered my senses, he is gone
Other men keep walking as if nothing has happened.
I keep walking as if nothing has happened.
The shame that I carried as a “Muslim Woman” went very deep. The scars of this shame penetrated my mind, my body, my sexuality, my psyche and my soul.
And I am still the lucky one because I was able to free myself from these chains (and continue to break more chains every day). There are many women who don’t have a chance because they are stuck in a country with men who continue to disrespect and shame them. And this disrespect and shame continue to hold women in “their place” because women don’t dare to speak up and don’t dare to rise against the unjust patriarchy.
But their plan will fail. It has to.
(** Image courtesy: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/478226054153737840)