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Bahiyya suffers from discrimination in her own family. Born of a Muslim family, she needs to succumb to the decrees of her religion. In the Muslim tradition, men are considered powerful than women. In fact, they are vested with the power to rule over women, thus they are given the privilege to dominate the women around them, including their mother and older siblings. In the story, Bahiyya’s mother tells her, “When your father’s gone, he’ll be the man in the family and what he says goes…”(365). This makes Bahiyya feel how unfortunate it is for her to be a woman.
Bahiyya also questions the absurd traditions in her society. When she was younger, she experienced female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the World Health Organization website, FGM is a procedure that intentionally causes injury to the female genitals for non-medical reasons. Bahiyya mentions this experience using a metaphor as she compares her genitals to the mulberry, thus she says that the women “cut the mulberry with a razor” (368). Rifaat did not mention the term FGM to make it sound metaphoric and to illustrate the innocence of Bahiyya but she suggests that FGM can affect a woman’s sexual fulfilment as Bahiyya confesses, “I wasn’t all that happy with him…perhaps the reason was what those women did to me with the razor when I was a young girl” (367). Rifaat may have used “perhaps” to suggest Bahiyya’s ignorance but readers may interpret it as a means to sound less assuming so as not to make the work too controversial.
The story also tackles the unjust marital arrangement in the Muslim tradition. As seen in the story, Bahiyya is in love with Hamdan but is made to marry Dahshan. The inability of women to decide for marriage is still an issue among the Muslims until now. In the story, Rifaat uses the romance between Hamdan and Bahiyya to gain the
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