Inequality

Some would have it that we are all born equal, which is nonsense. Men and women are not equal in all manner of ways. Even women are not equal in attributes, or how life treats them. Take me, and my friend Salima – we were both born and raised in Salford, attended local schools and had arranged marriages at seventeen. By rights we should be near equals as our backgrounds are very similar…

Salima‘s husband was also born here, and he works as a waiter in his cousin’s restaurant. She is a dinner lady at the same school where I am a classroom assistant. We have always been friends, although since my marriage, there is a wedge between us, in the shape of my husband.

Imran and I were married five years ago in Pakistan on a visit to my extended family. I came home with a husband who was a stranger to me. It was apparently a long standing arrangement made between two uncles when I was just a child, to consolidate accord after disharmony between two branches of the family. Although I resisted, the ceremony went ahead, after much weeping and cajoling from my mother and stern talks from my father about upholding the honour of his family line. Our union is not a success.

To sweeten the deal I was allowed to come home and not live with his family. Imran followed once his papers were sorted. My parents bought us a little terraced house so we had our independence and did not have to live with them. It was the worst possible thing, as it instantly gave Imran the sense that he could rule the roost at my expense.

He had a little English from school, but was otherwise not familiar with life in the UK. It was both a revelation and a shock. He has much personal freedom to do as he pleases but the ‘wickedness’ on television and in society generally, appalls him. Immodestly clad women, sometimes drunk or loud in the street, disgust him. He barely accepts that I can venture out on my own..

To him, I am his chattel and even now, he expects me to do his bidding at all times. He is an upright man, not overly religious but enough so that we observe all the rites of the muslim faith every day. Where I had a loose scarf to cover my hair before, he insisted that I wear a proper veil and even tried to make me cover my whole face, when outside. We had a blazing row about that, which resulted in a black eye for me and bruised ribs. It was only the intervention of my parents that saved me from several other similar incidents, for what he considered, my own good. I now wear no makeup or jewellery, or even bright colours…

He eventually found work as a taxi driver after my father made him several introductions and even bought him his car. Imran comes and goes for hours on end; I have no idea where he goes or what he gets up to. We lead separate, often silent lives and I avoid his company… Where Salima already has two beautiful babies, I am holding out on Imran.

People ask us about starting a family. To Imran’s shame, I have not yet conceived. Nor will I, for as long as I continue taking my pills…

Author: Lucy

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