I was inspired to write this article after following a well publicised story for the last couple of weeks about famous British-Pakistani Boxer Amir Khan whose wife Faryal Makhdoom Khan has taken to social media accusing her in-laws of abusing her. On Christmas Day, Amir Khan’s sister accused Faryal of banning her parents/family from seeing their 2 year old granddaughter/niece. Even though Faryal Khan has denied banning Amir’s parents from seeing their granddaughter, I would not blame her if she had. In fact I would encourage her to ban them from coming anywhere close to her and her daughter.
One of the most abusive practices in Zimbabwean culture is that a woman is supposed to reverence her in-laws, especially the mother-in-law when she gets married. This culture is often used by a lot of mother-in-laws in Zimbabwe to abuse their daughter-in-laws, treating them almost like slaves. I have come to learn that this is not only a problem in African cultures but in Asian cultures too as I have seen lately on social media.
Before Christmas Amir’s wife Faryal went on ITV’s This Morning to talk about the abuse she has suffered in the hands of Amir’s family. No women rights activists came out to support her because according to society, being abused by your in-laws is rather a private family feud. Women in Faryal’s position are ridiculed by society and told to “sort out their family issues in private”. But if it was her husband beating her, it would not be a “family feud” but it will be classed as domestic abuse.
Below is a video clip of Faryal on ITV This Morning explaining why she went public about the in-law’s abuse.
Tina Turner’s abuse life story was made into a film and she was hailed a heroine who inspired millions of women across the world. This is because spousal abuse is recognised in the society, but not in-law abuse. No one told Tina Turner not to “air her dirty laundry in public”. Asian and African women are told to suffer in silence because their culture is oppressive towards women when it comes to in-law abuse. However a few Asian women took to social media to thank Faryal for standing up for Asian women who are abused by in-laws but are helpless to do anything about it, with one Tweet saying; “Faryal has shared the story of thousand of Asian girls who face so much shit from their in-laws”.
Why There Should Be More Asian/African Women In The UK Like Faryal Khan
When I read about Faryal’s story, my heart bleeds because I feel every emotion she is going through in the hands of in-laws who despise her. I see a woman who has no real support from her husband Amir Khan. If he supported her, there is no way he would have allowed his family to treat his wife like that especially the stuff they write about her on social media.
On Christmas Day, Nino bought me a very special gift. A pen! Well it wasn’t just a pen, but a luxury Balmain Paris pen. “You must continue to write Jean” Nino told me… So on Christmas day as I sat there reading Faryal’s story and some of the nasty comments she was getting on social media, I was prompted to write. Why are women not encouraged to speak about abuse from in-laws, though it’s very rampart in African and Asian communities in the UK?
I lived for 13 years in the UK with an abusive Zimbabwean family. Like Faryal, I also got married very young. I had just migrated to the UK at 17 and I found myself marrying the first man who expressed interest in me, which has been one of the biggest mistakes I have made in life.
I Suffered Physical And Emotional Abuse From My Zimbabwean Ex In-Laws
Before I knew it I was surrounded by over 20 people calling me names, physically assaulting me and bullying me. This included my ex mother-in-law and my ex-husbands cousins and sisters. My ex mother-in-law would call me ugly, called my children ugly (her own grandchildren) and she would say I was a witch who had used juju (Black magic) to seduce her son into marrying me. She would threaten to beat me up and also told her relatives to assault me.
Her daughters, my ex sisters-in-law would turn all my friends against me. At one time I was pushed in the streets of Southport by my ex-husband’s cousin whiles pregnant with my first child. I went on to tell my ex-husband what had happened and he assaulted me. I was also spit on right in the face by my ex sister-in-law’s best friend whilst she stood there encouraging the assault. My Zimbabwe culture taught me that I was not in any position to stand up for myself, especially against my ex mother-in-law.
So despite all the abuse I endured, I went out of my way to try and buy their love. I would buy them expensive gifts and would sacrifice things for them. I lost my sense of self worth. I believed they were justified to hate me and treat me the way they did. I started to believe that I was not worthy of love because no matter what I did to earn their love, I never got it. The whole family was extremely religious, they managed to convince me and my ex-husband to join their cult. I even testified that I was blessed to have a mother-in-law whom I could call mum. I would praise her so she would stop being mean to me.
2 years after I joined my ex-husbands family’s cult, I got to a place where I could not handle the abuse anymore. That is the day I decided to throw away everything I had been taught about honouring mother-in-laws, especially evil ones. I realised that there was no one in this world to help me. There was no organisation or charity that dealt with this sort of abuse. There was no online information to help me. My ex-husband was never going to stand up for me.
They Tried To Get My Children Into Care
On 13 July 2013, this was one of the biggest turning point of my life. I stood up to my in-laws after a church/cult service. I told them in their faces that they would never get away with abusing me again. So shocked were they that Jean could finally speak up. My ex mother-in-law and ex sister in law called 999 for an ambulance and the police to come and section me under mental health act because they said I was “not acting myself”. They also asked for my children to be put in care as they said I was an unfit mother.
The police and ambulance came and after 13 years of been called ugly, witch, demonic, unfit mother and all sorts of derogatory names that had taken my self worth away, it was the paramedics who spoke some words of life into my broken spirit.
The paramedics told them that I was not going to sectioned of course. The lady told me that I was been abused by my ex in-laws and calling the ambulance was part of the abuse. She told me to never leave my children in the hands of my ex mother-in-law and asked me to go home, stay away from the people I called my “in-laws” and also from the church/cult that allowed such inhuman abuse. She told me I was a beautiful woman who should be a model and said there was nothing mentally wrong with me. That was the day I said to myself; “I Am Not Mad, I’m Just A Woman”
A week later, I took my children and fled with them ending up in a women’s refuge. Today my eldest daughter tells me she wants nothing to ever do with paternal grandmother or her wicked aunties. The family and the cult has been banned by authorities from ever coming anywhere near my children.
However if I was still in Zimbabwe, my culture would have told my children that they have to see their paternal relatives, even though their lives where being risked by such a family. One thing I thank the United Kingdom for is giving me the chance to stand up for myself against such cultural abuses, and having the law to protect me.
Blood relations can be so overrated, sometimes it is in the children’s best interest not to be in contact with abusive and barbaric relatives. My children have not seen their abusive blood relatives ever-since the day they called the ambulance on me. They have been healthier and happier since.
There comes a time when the best thing to do is to ban an evil mother-in-law from seeing her own grandchildren, and I do not care what culture says. A lot of wives are suffering in silence in the hands of in-laws. There is no help and or support system for such abuse, but as women of today, we can stand up for ourselves and protect our children from evil in-laws.