Maryam’s eyes shone with the awe of her own achievement as she nar-rated her story. The thick golden hoop piercing her left nostril con-trasted with her dark skin and the tattooed name of her husband on her right wrist peeked out from beneath her orange sleeve.
Maryam’s story is one of inspiration and remorse. Maryam was an aban-doned child taken in by a childless family from Larkana, Sind. At the age of 14, she Was married off to a man who was 35 years older to her, as a second wife. She became a domestic slave to her husband, his first wife and their family. Over the next 6 years, she gave birth to four boys, till the older wife forcibly got her tubalired (Tubal Ligation).
As a woman in a male dominated world, Maryam lived in the shadows of the dictatorial men in her house. She lived a life of oppression and indignation against her husband’s first wife and their children. Maryam always felt uncomfortable around her husband’s oldest son, whose advances made her uneasy as she continued to face the pressures of a hostile marital environment. Maryam’s suspicions about her stepson proved to be correct when one unfortunate day, he raped her. Distraught and haunted by this experience, she turned to her husband to protect her, when she was appalled to discover that her husband, instead of standing up for her, blamed her and beat her up, and threw her out of the house. Panic and paranoia gripped her as she left Larkana, seeking refuge from the insanity of the world she could not comprehend.
Maryam’s world began and ended in her courtyard. Once she walked out of her house that February day, the only sanctuary known to her was Bilawal House, the place where Benazir Bhutto came from, and where she was told, justice is dispensed. Driven by her own despair and by the generosity of a few strangers, she made the envelopment who made arrangements for her to be transferred to Panah Shelter Home.
At Panah, a lawyer was assigned to her and a custody case was registered. She was informed of her marital rights. She yearned for her children and eventually, with an unyielding spirit of determination; she got the cus-tody of her two younger children through a habeas corpus petition, and they were united with her at the Panah Shelter.
Through a court settlement, her husband agreed to a set of conditions for her return home. She was to be given a separate house and a stipend of 5000 rupees every month. He signed an undertaking to treat her with respect and dignity and report bath to the court every 3 months. For Maryam, this was a victory She hopes to rebuild her life and return back home with her children without fearing the violence that has haunted her throughout her life. One has to immerse in her world to understand how contentment can be built on a measly mound.