In The Beginning :
Soniah Kamal (Soniah Kamal is a widely published
writer from Pakistan. She has been a regular freelance
writer for The Friday Times, Lahore Pakistan, and has
also published a social satire column named "My
Foot" for a weekly magazine supplement of The Daily
Times, Pakistan. Her short stories have been extensively
published in various magazines across South Asia and
USA. Her debut novel, An Isolated Incident, published
by Penguin USA, is
scheduled to release in fall 2005.)
All Jamal did
was look at the girl, but the girl reported him as giving
her the wicked eye and so it was, in a land pledged
to safe guard virtue, that Jamal was led away to the
His mother Alliya wept a bucket. She ran back and forth
"My son is not a future threat," she cried.
But no one listened to her. They reminded her that once
upon a time rape was rampant, that indeed it had been
rabid. Handing her brochures on 'The Mind of a Rapist'
they told her to quit fussing and go home.
It was while nursing Jamal's dismembered body that
Alliya decided something had to be done. The subdued
Jamal encouraged her.
"Mom," he said, "There are many like
us with mothers like you."
Indeed many a likeminded mother Alliya contacted. The
formed the group ‘Dismemberment Be Barred’. They began
to write to the authorities, sign petitions, hold rallies,
raise awareness through speaking at public corners.
"Not every son," they said, "who looks
at a woman has got the wretched one thing on his mind."
A few of the officials, especially those who had dismembered
males in their homes, began to take the DBB seriously.
But where, it was debated, could be found a remedy which
could still safeguard virtue? A contest was held. The
entire nation entered. A woman had the honor of winning.
"Cover us up," said her entry, "from
head to toe."
"Indeed," murmured authorities. "What
cannot be seen cannot entice
When the winning entry was deemed a rule, many a mother
rejoiced and all men threw a party. Women began to shop
for new attire. Cloaks and headscarves, shapeless slippers
and veils too. At first it was a novelty watching the
world through a shutter of cloth: sunlight was pockmarked.
Once vibrant colors cloaked in shadows. Conversations
harder to hear, for lips could no longer be read. However
soon female outings grew infrequent for the new dress
code was cumbersome and left one feeling buried and
Men, on the other hand, began to strut around with
newfound confidence. It was the beginning of a new dawn
and there came a day when no one alive remembered a
time when women went unveiled or male dismemberment
One day there was born a woman who did not like covering
up. "It's hot in this attire," Leela said.
"And worst of all I can't see properly through
the eye holes."
Indeed on the day she was raped Leela was unable to
identify her perpetrator because he used her veil to
cover her eyes. Deciding to do something about it, Leela
approached her Dad.
"Nothing doing," said Dad. He'd seen pictures
of the now defunct dismemberment and could not in good
conscience risk bringing back such a barbarian ritual.
Leela tried to raise public awareness. She spoke at
public corners, wrote to the authorities, went door
to door with petitions, tried to hold a rally. She tried
to form a group, but she was not very successful even
though many women agreed with her- they would like to
see the decree of covering oneself from head to foot
overturned. However they were helpless for the males
in each family had sworn that they would silence the
women rather than watch the overturning of the decree.
"Furthermore," the men all agreed, "the
women lived in excellent times," and here they
would quote with official proclamation: Rape, though
rampant, is no longer rabid. Verily it is safe to walk