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Spousal Abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
Transcript of Spousal Abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Jessica Oliver
One of the main characters, Mariam suffers from abuse throughout her entire life. It starts with verbal abuse from her mother when she's living at home and continues with other types of abuse throughout the rest of her life from her spouse, Rasheed. Rasheed puts on an act at first, pretending to be kind and caring but when Mariam is unable to carry his child, he becomes temperamental, abusive and impatient. He verbally abuses her by calling her stupid, a "herami", and saying rude things to her that are hurtful and downgrading. For example, when Mariam asks him a question about the communists, Rasheed responds with,
"You know nothing, do you? You're like a child. Your brain is empty. There is no information in it." (Page 98)
This is incredibly rude, hurtful and equivalent to calling her "dumb" or "stupid". Over time Rasheed only gets worse and verbally abuses Mariam more frequently. He believes he is superior to her and that she has no power, rights or authority. Mariam does as she is told without question and receives his insults without a fight. She is submissive and does not stand up to him until she is fighting against him for Laila.
Verbal and Physical Abuse
Growing up, Laila never faced any sort of abuse. She was neglected by her mother who barely acknowledged her existence, however, she was always treated well, especially by her father. When she met Rasheed and Mariam, Laila was practically forced into marriage due to the fact that she had no other options. Her parents had just been murdered, her friends had all died in the war or moved away and she cannot live alone as an unmarried woman in Afghanistan. Rasheed puts on his kind and friendly act again for her until she has Aziza, her beautiful baby girl. Rasheed is upset that she does not provide him a son and he starts to become abusive towards her. He's verbally abusive by disrespecting their daughter and calling Laila rude names, however it is not to the same degree that he verbally abuses Mariam.
Rasheed, however, does physically abuse Laila relentlessly and because she tries to fight back, he only beats her more. One day he abuses her more violently than ever because Laila talked to Tariq. She spoke to another man, allowed him into their home and showed him her face. Rasheed believes a women's face is only her husband's business so he felt insulted and disrespected.
One of the major themes explored in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns is spousal abuse. Spousal abuse can occur in many different ways, a few of which are exemplified in the novel. Men and women can both suffer from spousal abuse, however, in this novel, women tend to suffer due to the patriarchal system. Throughout the novel, Khaled Hosseini explores many kinds of domestic abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns as well as showing the affects on each character; Mariam, Laila and Rasheed and their reactions.
Types of Abuse
- Starts as threats, proceeds to violent actions against other objects and escalates into violence towards spouse. Forms of punching, slapping, kicking, etc.
- when the abuser forces their spouse (or another person) into intercourse without their consent
- verbal abuse, harassment, possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, depriving of economic resources as well as destruction of possessions or pets.
- persistent yelling, nagging, name-calling, threats, beating down of confidence, calling them ugly or dumb, etc.
- separating the victim from support of friends or family. Also not allowing them guests, work, telephones, etc.
- not allowing spouse to look after own finances and therefore giving one spouse power and authority over the other
Destruction of possessions or pets
- a tactic used to threaten spouse by breaking valuable or sentimental objects or by hurting pets.
After Mariam is unable to provide a family for Rasheed, he becomes physically abusive. He slaps, kicks, punches and even whips her with his belt. Mariam is terrified of him and what he would do if she were to fight back and that's why she doesn't. Sadly, Mariam allows him to do this to her, making him believe that this is alright to do to another person. She is submissive and obedient and takes his beatings as a regular routine,
"Downstairs, the beating began. To Laila, the sounds she heard were those of a methodical, familiar proceeding. There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten." (Page 268)
One of the few times she ever fights back is when Rasheed finds out that Laila invited Tariq into their home. Rasheed is so infuriated that he intends to kill Laila.
"But in Rasheed's eyes she [Mariam] saw murder for them both. And so Mariam raised the shovel high, raised it as high as she could... And, with that, Mariam brought down the shovel. This time she gave it everything she had." (page 349)
Although Mariam was very obedient most of the time, the physical abuse that she and Laila endured became too much and in effect she acted defensively to save them both.
Rasheed is a very religious and controlling man who believes that men are solely in charge and abuse is an effective form of punishment.
- He does not allow Mariam to have her own visitors and when he does, she must stay quiet in her room.
- He forces Mariam and Laila to wear burqas and to never reveal their face to another man.
- He does not agree with the ways of the modern Afghan women who wear makeup, talk to men without their husbands and are allowed more freedom.
At the start of each of his marriages, he is friendly, kind and a caring man, which is later revealed to be an act. When he is not given a child from Mariam, he begins to verbally and physically abuse her. He abuses his second wife, Laila, as well when she cannot provide a son for him. He follows the Islam religion and sees these women with no romantic interest but only as beings meant to provide a family and serve his every command. When they disobey him, he punishes them,
"Then she was being dragged by the hair. She saw Aziza lifted, saw her sandals slip off, her tiny feet kicking. Hair was ripped fom Laila's scalp, and her eyes watered with pain. She saw his foot kick open the door to Mariam's room, saw Aziza flung onto the bed. He let go of Laila's hair, and she felt the toe of his shoe connect with her left buttock. She howled with pain as he slammed the door shut. A key rattled in the lock." (Page 268)
Rasheed abused Mariam, Laila and Aziza for trying to run away. He locks them in for 3 days without food and water. He punished them for trying to find freedom. This example displays Rasheed's, as well as other Afghan males corrupt ways, ideas and opinions of how women should act and be punished.
There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. Here are a few listed below:
Fear: Many people stay in an abusive relationship because they are scared of what their spouse may do if they found them. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, for example, Laila and Mariam actually find the courage and bravery to escape from Rasheed. However, they are caught and taken home by the police. Rasheed abuses them and locks them away for doing this and deprives them of their basic needs, food and water. After this, Mariam and Laila never attempted to escape again, out of fear, since he threatened to harm them even more next time.
Lack of resources, financing and housing: Most of the time, women in abusive relationships are deprived of these things and if they have been isolated from friends and family, they cannot even ask for help. In Mariam and Laila's situation, they stole money from Rasheed to escape, however, they do not have the money to try again, a house to live in or anywhere to go.
Another major reason why Laila and Mariam could not leave is because women were not allowed outside unaccompanied by men during this time period, especially when the Taliban came into power. Even if they were to escape from Rasheed, they would not make it past the Taliban.
Other reasons for not leaving an abusive relationship are shame, religion, children, feelings of guilt, love for spouse and a few others.
After watching this Youtube video, it is clearly evident that women are still mistreated in Afghanistan even today, 13 years after A Thousand Splendid Suns was set. This clip reveals horrifying stories of women who have been abused by their spouses whom their fathers have married them off to. Some of these women were even in love and wanted to marry the man of their choice but due to the Islamic law, they were forced into marriages chosen by their father. Women today still have very little power and very little choice for themselves. Men who still follow Islamic religion, such as Soheila's father in the video clip says,
"Our religion, Islam, does not let a women do whatever she wants. According to Islamic law, a daughter must marry whomever her father chooses. Islam says whenever a father wants to marry away his daughter 8, 9, 10 years old, it doesn't matter. The women belongs to him. A woman has no right to refuse."
This video clip also says,
"The enemy never wants women in Afghanistan to advance."
"30 years of war have eroded rights for women. Today tribal traditions are in strength, most notably cases of fathers forcing their daughters into early marriage."
Sadly, women in Afghanistan are not moving forward and if men under the Islamic religion continue to fight for their beliefs, they never will. The Taliban along with other leaders enforce the strict laws of Islam religion and if they are not overpowered, women in Afghanistan will never be able to choose a life for themselves. They will be forced into marriages, abused by their husbands and will always "belong" to one man or another.
It is clear that women in Afghanistan, even today are not given any rights or choices. They are forced into marriages with men who abuse them and supposedly have every right to do so. This is a terrifying issue and a concern for these women in Afghanistan. From reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini gives the readers a sense of what it is like to be in these women's position and what exactly they go through. We see the affects that abuse has on two very different women and how they react to the situation at hand. Mariam is very submissive until she finally stands up for her friend Laila and kills Rasheed out of defense. Laila on the other hand has always been rebellious, which only gets her into more trouble with Rasheed. The author shows us how barbaric and unfair women are treated in Afghanistan and it is certainly an issue, even today, that must be addressed.
1) Do you think Mariam was right in killing Rasheed and do you think her punishment was fair?
2) How do you think we can make a change and help these women in Afghanistan?
3) As someone who lives in a free country, how do you feel about the Islamic laws and how women are treated in Afghanistan?
Below are the findings of research done in 16 provinces in Afghanistan from 4700 women.
All information below is directly from :
"The findings of this research are alarming:
-An overwhelming majority of women, 87.2%, experienced at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage
-Most, 62.0%, experienced multiple forms of violence
-Overall, 17.2% of women reported sexual violence
-11.2% experience rape
-52.4 % of women reported physical violence
-39.3% say they had been hit by their husband in the last year
Women who experienced psychological abuse totaled 73.9%, while 58.8% of women were in forced marriages, as distinct from arranged marriages. There were broad variations between provinces with 100% of Kochi women living in Kabul reporting at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological violence; 42.6% of women in Kandahar experiencing sexual violence; and 91.6% of women in Khost experiencing forced marriages.""