Karachi: Speakers at a seminar held on Friday to celebrate International Women’s Day vehemently criticised the Taliban for destroying girls’ schools and denying women justice. But, it was a case much closer to home that made the audience realise that powerful feudal landlords are equally to be blamed.
The event was organised by a number of not-for-profit organisations, including Hands and Aurat Foundation.
“This is just a small victory. I will be truly glad when the government of Pakistan gives me justice,” said Kainat Soomro, a 20-year-old rape victim from Sindh, when she came on stage to accept a special award.
The justice she demands is punishment for the four boys from her hometown of Dadu who, when she was 13, drugged and gang-raped her. The locals declared her ‘kari’ for having lost her virginity out of wedlock and gave orders for her to be killed.
When Kainat pleaded for justice through the media, her brother was killed. Seven years later, her case is still pending in court.
“My family lives in perpetual fear. Our lives are constantly threatened. I have not been able to attend school for seven years. I had dreams of becoming a doctor but all of them have been shattered,” she said, as several members in the audience wiped off a tear or two.
Her story, which was the subject of an award-winning documentary by an international news agency, and many other similar ones are a bleak reminder for women that their struggle for justice and equality still has a long way to go.
There was Farzana Bashir, a driver who worked for a not-for-profit organisation. Parveen Bibi, a woman who for the sake of her children divorced her husband and got a job as a lady health worker. “My husband killed two of my children in rage. My two other children are handicapped because of his beatings,” she said.
Anis Haroon, a renowned women rights activist, expressed her concerns over the dialogue between the government and the Taliban. “There should be representation of women in the talks,” she said.
Justice Majida Rizvi, the first woman judge of Pakistan, gave a detailed account on the laws that lead to women empowerment in the country. She termed Ziaul Haq’s rule as the darkest era where, through the Hudood Ordinance, adultery and rape were placed under one head.
“The recent talks with the Taliban have left women wondering about their fate. Will we be able to step out of our house, or work, or celebrate another day like this?” she questioned.