Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Magdalene Sisters

I have been meaning to watch The Magdalene Sisters ever since I heard about it, but have not had the gumption till yet. The Magdalene Asylums was one institution amongst many where disreputable girls were sent away to presumably be reformed although in fact to often live out their lives in hard labor, supposed apt punishment for their sin of being unwed mothers, or raped, or in some cases merely flirtatious and good looking. This film in particular focuses on the fate of four Irish girls. My mother loves the Irish, they're just like us, she's always said. Accordingly, this was a hard film for me to watch, no less because, had I been born in that clime I would have, no doubt, ended up in one of those institutions out of, no doubt, the goodness of my parents's hearts, after all they would have only been trying to save me as well as themselves. How thank full I must be then that Pakistan harbors, at least, no such institutions for fallen women. Of course troubleseome wives, sisters, daughters etc... do often go mad for which there are institutions...

I was shocked to discover in the film postscript that the last Magdalene Laundry closed in 1996.

19 bloody 96. The year I graduated from college. That year I was still trapped in my mind, scared, broken, and trying to make sense of who I was versus where and to whom I’d been born. That year I did not know there were still institutions where my broken, scared, senseless sisters were trapped too.
The Magdalene Sisters is based on the documentary 'Sex in a Cold Clime' which you can watch here (it is also available as an extra on the DVD). Please do take the time to watch it so you can bear witness to these stories which should have never been. I was heart broken by the looks on the womens faces as they relate their losses of so many years ago. And, as usual, really pissed at the way religion and community manipulates females.
The picture above is the cover of the book by James M Smith 'Ireland's Magdalen Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment. Here is a blogpost by the author himself on the Manchester University Press blog.
"Are you the man who wrote the Magdalen book?" A voice, hesitant and frail,
asked from the other end of my office phone. "I just finished it. I read about
ten pages a day." She called to share her story. She wanted someone to listen.
She needed someone to understand.Her mother died when she was seven. Initially,
she and a younger sister were cared for within the extended family. The farm
required her father's attention. At fourteen, he deposited her with the Good
Shepherd nuns in New Ross. Her sister was sent to the congregation's Limerick
convent." read rest here

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