Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Pakistani women face unspeakable horror

Published:Sunday | June 3, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THATHA PIRA (AP):After six years of abuse, Allah Rakhi was walking out of her marriage when her husband struck again.

Snatching a knife, he sliced off her nose. "You're no longer beautiful!" he shouted.

He then slashed at her foot - brutal punishment for leaving the house without his permission.

"A woman is only a woman inside the home, outside she's a whore!" he yelled at Rakhi as she lay bleeding on the dusty street just outside her home.

That was 32 years ago.

All that time, Rakhi hid her disfigured face under a veil.

Then in March, a surgeon took up her case. He cut flesh from her ribs and fashioned it into a new nose, transforming her life.

"Thank God I did not commit suicide," Rakhi said. "Life is a blessing!"

While the details of every case of violence against Pakistani women differ, many are based on a concept of 'family honour'. Women can be targeted for suspicion of an affair, wishing to divorce or dressing inappropriately.

Hundreds of women are murdered each year because of mere suspicions.

Symbol of family honour

The nose is considered the symbol of family honour in Pakistan - explaining why a woman's nose is often the target of spousal abuse.

A popular plea from parents to children is "please take care of our nose", which means, "don't do anything that tarnishes the reputation of the family".

Pakistani courts have a history of letting off offenders or giving them only light punishment, assuming the cases get to trial at all.

Rakhi's husband, for example, served just 10 months in jail before being released in exchange for a commitment to pay her medical bills. He never did.