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Introducing Sea : a young and aspiring author from Maldives

To mark the International Women`s Day, we are pleased to introduce Sea, a young and aspiring author from Maldives. On her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/soakingpoetry/, she publishes her short but fierce texts, always thought provoking, deep and touching. Sea writes about men and women of Maldives, which she describes as “living by the sea, this country could sink or sink you”.

UN in Maldives is proud to present to you her three wonderful pieces

#IWD2016 #Planet5050 #Maldives #soakingpoetry #CoolWomen #SalhiAnhehun

 

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Mistakes

Ten years old, and you’re living in your Mother’s mistakes. She had never truly learnt to be kind to herself, so she married men who threatened to leave unless she was willing to sacrifice something of her daughter’s that wasn’t hers to give. You watched your older sister running away from their bedroom abashedly every day, with an apology on her lips she uttered like a prayer, but no one came to help. You knew she hid her bruises in her pockets but didn’t understand where she hid her sadness, till she saw her bloating stomach and watched her throwing up on the bathroom floor.

Eleven years old, you’re living in your extended family’s mistakes. They kept the story hush-hush because of the shame it would bring, and when your sister came back from her operation infertile and your brother took her away, they left you with the man who was responsible for the blame. He had a funny way of owning up, of beating your Mother for having had a daughter who couldn’t keep her mouth shut and endangered her reputation. But you, you weren’t going to be like that, were you? At night you crawled between your Mother and step-Father and woke up with his fingers in invasive places. And you shrugged off the pain and told yourself there was a glory in the dirty things, and this was how people became women after all.

Twelve years old, you’re living in your step Father’s mistakes. Your brother had turned up at the door one day, anger and frustration unchecked as he’d watched your sister fall into decay. He didn’t have words for monstrosities and ended up with cracked ribs and a broken ankle. You watched your Mother crying but the lesson you learnt was that you didn’t step up to protect your family when there was someone hurting them. And no matter what, you kept your mouth shut, even if your heart was battering in your chest so hard that you couldn’t breathe. That night, there was more than invasive fingers. And you knew your Mother was awake right next to you, but when you cried out in pain, she held her breath and turned her back on you again.

Thirteen years old, and you’re living in your own mistakes. You can’t wrap your head around algebra or science, so you don’t study from your books as they want you to. You are idle at home but wild outside. You’re already a grown woman in a child’s body. When you meet people your age, you don’t know how to converse with them without getting labelled as a bad influence. Sex is your familiar territory, not education. You wear heavy make-up to cover how you didn’t get enough sleep, or how you have one too many bruises. You carry your body differently. And nobody wants to talk to you, nobody wants you to reach you.

Fourteen years old, and you’re living in your boyfriend’s mistakes. He’s nineteen with too many scars on his arms from injecting drugs. They say he’s bad news, but he was the only one to notice you. Long hair, battered jeans, he didn’t take too many showers but he was good enough. At least you had a say in when you had sex with him. Never mind being the only one. Somehow things like loyalty have become abstract concepts to you. But now you’re throwing up on his bathroom floor and he’s not willing to take responsibility for the child you’re going to bring into this world. His family shuns you, while your Mother wastes her tears on the fact that you won’t be finishing your O’levels. Words spread quickly, they’re talking about you with pity, oh how did you throw your life away?

Fifteen, and you’re living in society’s mistakes. You’re a culprit of rape they didn’t rescue, your Mother should be crying because she wronged you, your sister won’t help because she’s clad from head to toe in black and believes and relies only on God now. How was God going to get you out of this when your reputation is already shattered? At fifteen you’re the bad example others are told not to follow, and still no one offers you help. Abortion is too frowned upon in the name of religion, though you need it like a child who couldn’t bring up a child does. Maybe you could run away somehow. Maybe there would be places you could be forgiven. But when people look at you, they mistake your being pregnant for your mistake. Not for our culture of silence in protecting the culprit in rape cases, not for our inability to offer child services to those that need it, not our inability to empathise before we judged, and not our inability to help. You carry the burden of our blame as you carry your child – and in your guilt and your shame, how’re you going to bring up your child?

You’re not sixteen yet but lately you’ve been wondering if you want to be. People don’t realize how deeply we’re effected by our wounds and how it lives so deeply in our unconsciousness for years to come. You don’t know if it’ll come out in rage towards your children or if you could forgive yourself. You’re too young to want to know. All you have seen is Mother’s who have been demonized for not being psychologically get over their teenage drama. But you – you don’t know if you’ll make it to sixteen yet.

 

***

[…]

She brought it onto herself.

And so the story goes.

Her Father hides his head in his hands, torn heart choking out apologies.

He should’ve known.

She stayed with him, under his guidance because her husband wouldn’t fix the roof in the gifili, and the neighbors could look in while she showered.

And so the story goes.

But that one night, her husband called. He insisted she return, they had to talk. She swallowed her uncertainty, decided to give her marriage a chance. On shaking legs she walked out, never to return.

What are we to know of what goes between a man and woman, when scars are all she has to show? An autopsy is demanded, but does it take death to find out how deep the wounds go? Trauma and abuse leave their mark where the naked eye can see. They burrow deep into the skin, they burn your flesh in heat. Shame and disgrace blister on your mouth, you have no words to explain.

Sometimes giving up on life is easier than standing up to face a society where justice is delayed.

Ziyadha, she was a mother. She bore her kids to the man who’d beat her. In death, we remember her and we mourn. In life, we’re too late to throw the buoy for victims of domestic violence to come ashore.

Aisha, she is nineteen. Her boyfriend strips her down in the middle of the living room while her parents sleep, and calls it love. She thinks he’s the shadows, for he never leaves. He leaves burns on her skin, but there’s no where to run on small islands. She has a dream – for education, for a job – but her life is on hold in his hands. They said, a girl shouldn’t be without a man to look after her.

Latheefa, her abuse is steel. She’s familiar with pipes and begging her children to sleep so they don’t witness her at her lowest. She thinks she can do better, but she raises her hand in anger when her son slips. Cycles are born without support to victims of domestic violence.

Hana, she didn’t know what love could be. 1/3 women are reported to have undergone abuse, but what about the undocumented? The horror stories sometimes don’t wear a mask of bleach. The living nightmare is being broken at nine and barren at thirteen. The emptiness of carrying a heavy burden, none but the victims know.

Because they brought it on themselves, it was said.

Junaina disagrees. On weak knees she stands, covered from head to toe in piety.

The scariest thing about monsters that manifest to abuse the ones they profess to love, is that others might not recognize the inhumanity of the wounds they bestow in the first place.

A system that reinforces victim blame, has it’s hands dirty with second hand crimes of people who’d lost too much.

Abuse isn’t felt only by the direct victims, it perpetuates and cripples society as well.

And so we ask for justice, for Ziyadha, and for the many women who want to end their cycles of abuse but aren’t brave enough to just yet.

You are more than the wounds on your back and the sorrow in your heart. You have never deserved to be treated as anything less than a human. And we will stand up with you, for your rights. Stay strong.

 

***

[…]

The coffee stains on his shirt are clumsy. They speak volumes about the composure he holds. Shaky fingers sketching across blank canvases try to speak the words he fails to – a soft cry of, ‘help me’ or ‘maybe I’m alright but I’m not.’

He listens to the women speak of domestic abuse and his silence is comforting. It’s a little bit awkward, but such topics never come with elegance. His black compass eyes seem to lose direction while they’re holding you together. In his head, he’s reeling back, and your voice is background noise now.

“Hush now,” he recalls.

“Hush. Come sit on my lap.”

The man had arms of a builder and the sarong of a leader but when the child sat trustingly, he turned out to be a breaker. Invasive, uncalled for, unwelcome, yet he promises candy to the boy and makes him swear on his lips he’d never tell.

Rewards are for good children who know how to keep their tail between their legs and their gaze averted.

An encounter repeating through months and suddenly, he’s losing his virginity before he understood what sexual encounter is. It shakes him, breaks him, a memory that hits like a tsunami and makes him incapacitates years down the line. The face of the man above him slowly takes the form of a reprimanding officer – you’ve been a naughty boy, haven’t you? Repent, although you’d never be able to wash your sins.

At twenty-five, his hands still shake and his gaze still lowers when his cheeks flush in shame. A man is supposed to be stronger than that, a man shouldn’t have let something happen like that. The ingrained patriarchal thoughts divide and rule before he ever even opens his mouth. Too many boys will lose their will like that, a voice that’s hushed before they’ve begun to speak.

 

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