Book Review: The Invisible Cage

Book Review: The Invisible Cage

This book has been written by Kashmiri writer Bisma Altaf. It talks about the violence which women face in patriarchal society. Gender-based violence includes domestic violence, which is often considered as belonging to the personal sphere, in which men enjoy impunity. Many feminists have come to the realisation that it is not personal, but political.
In this book there are many characters. The central character is Huda, a girl living with her parents. She is not loved by her father. She has been supported and loved by her mother only. The reader becomes curious to know why she is not loved by her father. Perhaps it is because of stereotypes, biases produced by patriarchal institutions. Her father does not want to continue her education and wants her to be married as soon as possible. In our society men dictate decisions and control women’s bodies. The task of women is supposed to only be domestic work. Huda’s mother, Mariyam, tried to make her child educated so that she will become independent, but she failed. Mariyam’s husband would beat her regularly but she tolerated it for her child, and also because she had no other option. Huda tried to make her father happy by doing all the domestic work, but failed.
After Mariyam’s death, Huda’s condition became all the more vulnerable. She left home and took shelter in a refugee camp, where she met Amina. Amina had a daughter named Sadiya. Sadiya was married but after some time she also faced domestic violence from her husband and mother-in-law. Despite being a woman, her mother-in-law did not help or support Sadiya. Turkish author Deniz Kandiyoti in her article, ‘Bargaining with Patriarchy’, has called it a ‘patriarchal bargain’ that women employ to gain security and autonomy. Facing continuous domestic violence, Sadiya hanged herself.
Huda was reluctant to marry because she had seen its brutal face, but at last she agreed because it was considered as the ultimate aim of women. She gave birth to a daughter and was immediately cursed. Now she faced the same domestic violence. Huda again left home and went back to the refugee camp where she decided to educate her daughter to make her independent, so that she does not face violence. So in this book we have a cycle of violence against women which never ends. It can only end if we change our perceptions and make our institutions democratic.

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