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Improving women’s status

Letter to the editor…

In our milieu, women are treated as possessions / commodities. Violent crimes against them occur all over the country. These are commoner in the rural areas as compared to urban areas where the literacy rate is high. Still reports of abuse of women there appear frequently. It is women in the rural areas who are subjected to much repression.

The most gruesome aspect of violence against women is the killing in the name of honour. In the rural areas, women are not given their proper status and rights which have been accorded to them by Islam. Women cannot even marry of their own choice. This sorry state of affairs reflects poorly on the moral fabric of society.

The number of cases of physical and sexual abuse of women reported across the country during 2003 was around 6,000 – up to 979 were raped, 1,261 killed in Karo-kari and about 1,500 subjected to harassment at work.

The correct proportion of such crimes cannot be ascertained since many cases go unreported and only a few victiMs. mange to reach the media. Even when a case is registered, criminals go scot-free as the law-enforcement agencies leniently deal with them. They are both very powerful and corrupt.

The Gender Development Index ranks Pakistan at 120 out of 144 countries. It is behind many Muslim states – Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt. Socio-economic and political indicators show that women in Pakistan are discriminated against.

Besides, they face social custoMs. and cultural taboos that keep them from meaningful economic activity. They are thus placed at a disadvantage and are much behind men in education, health and other walks of life.

Feudal values may be their worst enemy as rural women in particular are exposed to honour killings and Karo-kari. Much has yet to be done for women’s emancipation from oppression.

The education authorities should either prove their worth or let others who are competent and qualified take over. The well-being of women is as vital as any other issue.

Top most importance has to be given to the women’s right to education which can enable them to gain some control over the size of their families and also help them understand how their fundamental and legal rights apply and how they can ensure their protection. Educated women can transform a society and a country in many advantageous ways.

In this context, it is imperative that the class -based system of education should be immediately done away with. Good governance can only come with education and knowledge.

Efforts should be concentrated on education of the highest quality and on achieving 100 per cent literacy within the shortest possible time. More spending on education would make the majority become literate which can prove to be helpful in making technical and scientific progress and putting the country on the right track.

The Hudood ordinances are a most discriminatory law practised against women. It is imperative that the guilty are arrested within 24 hours. A good beginning might be for the government to announce that SHOs will be held responsible in case arrest and prosecution are not effected within a predetermined period. In the event of failure to meet the deadline, those responsible should at least be transferred forthwith or suspended.

S.A. KHOKHAR
Lahore

Source: Dawn

Date:3/22/2004

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