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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: A STUDY OF HANNAH SHAH’S THE

IMMAN’S DAUGHTER.

ABSTRACT

Domestic violence is global issue. It is made as a situation supported and


reinforced by gender norms. It is the power misused by the family to control
another. This violence can be taken in the form of psychological abuse, sexual
harassment, sexual assault and economic depression. Women are always
considered weak. Violence against women is a violation of basic human rights. It
is shameful for us that we fail to prevent it. Domestic violence is still prevailing
and women were less aware of the laws and organization dealing with domestic
violence. But Hannah Shah prevented this violence emerging from her bad
experience and revolted against her own community. This study reveals the
domestic violence against women and explains the physical and mental sufferings
faced by a young Muslim girl.

Key words: Violence, Abuse, Supremacy, Psychology and Depression.

The Imam’s Daughter is an autobiography by Hannah Shah. Hannah Shah is a British


woman of Pakistani parentage. Hannah has a helping mind to support who were all struggling
quite common to her situations. She uses the pseudonym ‘Hannah’ for her own safety. Hannah
renounced the Muslim faith to escape from her home rather being forced into an arrange
marriage when she was 16. It was a growing issue during her period. Even the blood relatives are
ready to murder their own family members in the name of honor killings which was followed as
a belief that victim has brought shame or dishonor to the family or has violated the principles of
a community or religion. In order to rebel against this, she converted her religion by escaping
from all these religious issues. She went to work for a Christian Charity in Greece. She is a
social worker especially for women.
Violence is bursting almost everywhere. It is more intense right behind the doors
of our homes. Behind closed doors, people are being tortured, beaten and killed. The term used
to describe this exploding problem of violence is Domestic Violence. This violence is towards
someone who are in a relationship with, be it a wife, husband, son, daughter or any family
member. It has a tendency to explode in various forms such as physical, sexual or emotional.
Domestic Violence has been an intrinsic part of the society we are living in. The contributing
factors could be the desire to gain control over another family member, the desire to exploit
someone for their personal benefit, the fare to be in a commanding position all the time
showcasing one’s supremacy and so on. Violence against women has been clearly defined as a
form of discrimination. United Nation’s declaration, 1993 defined violence against women as

“any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual
or psychological harm or suffering to a women, including threats of such acts, coercion or
arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life” (3).

Domestic violence against women is most common of all. One of the reasons for it being so
prevalent is the orthodox and idiotic mind of the society that women are physically and
emotionally weaker than males. But Hannah never considered herself as weak, rather than that
she overcome the sufferings and sets herself as an example for other girls who were under
various pain and agony. In fact, the number of rape cases has been rising for last few years.
Approximately, 85,000 women are raped in England alone every year; 30% of young women
have experienced sexual abuse since childhood. The Imam’s daughter brings to life the pains,
humiliation and cruelty inflicted on a Muslim girl by her own father in England.

The protagonist of The Imam’s Daughter is Hannan, which was her original name given
by her parents was the fourth child of the family. Hannan had experienced different forms of
domestic violence from her childhood. She considers her father as a ‘scary Monster’ and she
used to hide herself under the stairs. Hannan’s family belongs to Pakistan. Her father recreated
their Pakistan village existence in East Street of England. She lives in an orthodox Muslim
family. She considers England as her home country rather than Pakistan.

Hannan was scared of her father. She doesn’t have dreamt of asking him a question too.
Her father, Imam of a mosque never showed equality among her daughters. He informs to her
directly that she was an evil, cursed and unworthy to Allah. He usually lashes physically at her
mom which turned into a daily routine. Even physical violence towards women were wrong, no
one dares to speak against her father. Her father was erratic and unpredictable especially in his
food. He used meals as an excuse to attack her mom, both verbally and physically. At the age of
four, her mother handed him a dish. As soon as he put it in his mouth his face turned dark as
thunder and with that, he hurled the food at the wall and started to become screaming at her. She
was pleading him to calm down, but he went storming after her into the kitchen. He beat her
again and again in the kitchen. Soon, it was pattern of his violent behavior and it goes on
continuously. Her father was a cruel man who has the concept of patriarchy and never let off
women to be independent. Being a Pakistan, he hated British people and forced his community
to e away from white people. Harsh punishments were given if his family had a contact with
them. But Hannan’s mother loved English and wished to grab much knowledge about it. A
teacher visits their house for teaching English. Soon her dream also gets collapsed when her
father came to know the arrival of a British woman. As a format of violence, her mother was
again into the trap and she was harshly beaten resulting in bleeding.

Soon her mother got released from her miseries and the narrator Hannah becomes prey
for this Domestic Violence. When she was five years old, she was unable to bear her mother’s
sufferings and she went between them trying to stop it brought a turning point in her life. There
started Hannan’s pain and sufferings. Since it is an autobiography, she pictures her afflictions in
a detailed manner.

I felt like a fraud and betrayer. And it was then I realized that my body, and my life, were
no longer my own. Dad owned my body. He could do whatever he liked with it. And I
had no control over it whatsoever. I was just something to be used (87).

She became the object of her father’s aggression. Everyone in their house pretended not to hear
her cries and no one dares to help her. Her father always cursed her saying that she was going
straight to hell. He made Hannan to believe that she was a sinner.

The style of abuse changed and it goes on beyond extent. She was being raped by her
own father. But he put the blame on her that she made him to do this shame. He keeps on
blaming that it was a punishment. Even though, a part of her mind still wanted his love, he
neglects her love and made her as a victim of rape. She feels completely alone and he had the
whole family in his control.

It seemed that Dad rapidly developed a taste for this abuse. The next week, the same
thing happened. And the next week. And the week after that. It was as if my father
couldn’t keep his hands off me. I never knew exactly what it would happen next, and I
dreaded it. I lived in a state of constant fear (53).

Soon he made a separate place for his abuse so that no one disturbs him. At the back of their
house was a cellar and he made it the place of her abuse for next ten years. She was locked in the
room with no food and no water. She was imprisoned there for many days being naked in the
cold and damp.

Shah was threatened by her father not to reveal her abuse. She was “a victim of rape is
often seen as the guilty party, having somehow tempted the man into sexual excess. And
likewise, my father blamed me for tempting him into the abuse” (55). Her father had taken her
laughter, innocence, purity, chastity and abused her. But Hannan tried to revolt against this.

Many times a woman feels that the abuse he goes throw is her fault, that she has made
a mistake. This deduction is false; abusing is the abuser’s fault not the victim’s. A study
conducted by psychologists saw that the small children were the victims of extreme abuse.
Domestic violence becomes a learned behavior and vicious cycle. There were various facilities
had made to protect themselves from abuse and women can use it accordingly. A victim’s
freedom is snatched from her and she is made to feel in competent and doesn’t have the
confidence to leave him. A victim needs counseling to regain her sense of self and individuality,
to make her more independent and self assured. The abuses can be stopped with the application
of the right methods and getting the right help.

To conclude, women are still in sufferings. Shah, without any hesitation, explains her
experience to create awareness. She feels that her situation should be exist and her novel The
Imam’s Daughter succeeded to an extent in familiarizing the readers the sufferings of women the
pain and horrible situation experienced by an young girl.

WORKS CITED
1. Shah, Hannah. The Imam’s Daughter. Rider press, 2010.
2. Youth Ki Awaaz. “Domestic Violence in India: Causes and Remedies”
http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2010/02/07.
3. “United Nation Definition of Violence Against Women”.
Stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/definitions/united-nations-definition-of-violence-
against-violence.