The new bride sat alone on the lawn, unusually quiet for someone so lively. Her new home was as of yet, not really a home, but she was trying to settle in and to a stranger’s eyes she was doing rather well. Anyone who knew her would know that although she put up a good show there was something troubling her on the inside.
So, the mother-in-law traipsed across the lawn and went to sit next to her daughter-in-law, the latter of whom was still preoccupied with her thoughts.
“Sarah, won’t you greet your mother?” she playfully accused her.
Sarah snapped out of her reverie and grinned at her, “You’re so slim, were it not for your dazzling aura I’d never notice you step into the room.”
The elder woman examined Sarah’s young face. Her smile was a little strained; the edges of her mouth tight and it didn’t reach her eyes. Dark circles that could not be hidden underneath makeup. She had observed a similar look in her daughter’s eyes once, and she was loathed seeing it again on the lovely addition to the family.
“Is something the matter?” she gently inquired, “Do you miss home?”
Sarah bit her lip, and tears sprung to her eyes. Attica instantly enveloped her in an embrace.
“Oh dearie, I know it takes time to settle in,” she crooned, “how about we visit your parents soon? That’ll make you feel better.”
“It’s not that…” Sarah hesitated. Her mother-in-law gazed expectantly at her.
“It’s just that, when he comes home,” she began, “and then at night, he… he doesn’t listen and he just – I don’t always want to…” she trailed off. She peeked at Attica, and sobs erupted out of her.
“He doesn’t take no for an answer, and it’s not nice,” she wailed, “It hurts and I don’t like, I don’t want to do it, but he won’t listen!”
Attica was experiencing Déjà vu. Her daughter had said the exact same thing once.
“He’s your husband,” she quietly stated, “Just relax and follow his lead.” and instantly regretted it. She had said the same to her daughter, who had passed away due to internal bleeding.
“I’ll have his father knock some sense into him,” she promised.
At Sarah’s watery smile, she hoped that while it was had been too late for her own daughter; there may still be time for her new daughter.
Somewhere else, 50 year-old Afia quietly wept in her room. Her husband had been in a car crash on the super highway. There was barely anything left of him to show to the relatives. His parents had died long ago, and all he had were siblings, Afia, and his children. So, she wept all day and all night. Sometimes, she could only gasp; her mouth opening and closing like a gaping fish.
Her son had had enough of his mother’s grief so one day he entered her room. Her room, he thought, no longer his parents’ room. She was still weeping, her shawl clutched to her chest.
He went and lay down, his head in her lap. She stroked his hair with one hand, and wiped her face with the other.
“Mama, he’s gone,” he spoke, voice choked with emotion. He had seen his mother quietly sob her way through life, sometimes secretly and sometimes out in the open but no matter how many times he saw her cry, his day would always turn out miserable. Today, though, he felt better looking at her cry.
“He’s not coming back, it’s over.” He repeated himself until her body no longer shook with the force of her tears.
“He’s finally dead,” she said.
She was hit with sudden relief. After years of rape and abuse, her husband was finally out of her life. Her son had only been witness to the beatings, and she hoped he would never know what had gone on behind closed doors.
The next day, Afia put on purple lipstick for the first time since her marriage. The small smile she gave her son restored his hope. They’d be all right.
In Sudan, 16 year old Noura was forced to marry her cousin, and ran away. After being lured back under false pretenses by her father, and returned like property to her husband.
She kept refusing his advances to consummate the marriage until one day, he raped her while his family members held her down.
The next time he touched her, he lost his life. Noura ran away to her parents hoping for refuge, but they turned her in to the police for stabbing her rapist husband. In May 2018, Noura was sentenced to death.
It took 400,000 people who demanded justice for the girl through Amnesty International to repeal the sentence from death to five years of imprisonment. Noura was a child forced to marry a man, who raped her with the help of his family.
These are not just stories.
This is our sick, sad reality.
This is a world where child marriages still occur, and marital rape is not considered a crime.
A world where some men are encouraged to beat and rape their wives to keep them on their toes.
This is not a world we want to raise our children in, so it’s time we start teaching our boys to turn around and walk the other way, whenever someone says, “No.”Women should not have to put up with behavior that violates their rights. They shouldn’t have to remain quiet because of how society deals not just with rapists – pardons them, glorifies them, justifies their actions – but how they deal with victims of marital rape: as used goods, impure, damaged, and blames them for not satisfying their husbands. Women are expected to just lay there and let the man do whatever he pleases. Furthermore, religion has always been used as an excuse. In Islam, women are not supposed to say no to their husbands, in fear of displeasing God and the husband turning to other illicit methods of finding release.
It is high time the state recognizes marital rape and punishes all those who violate the rights and bodies of women who have entrusted themselves enough to sign the contract of marriage. We cannot tolerate such sickness in society any longer.