The suicide of Fakhra Younus, whose face had allegedly been disfigured by the acid attack on March 17 and some other stories have added to the sense of deprivation in women in the callous patriarchal society of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, we inhabit a society where the hierarchy of the gender has been constructed in such a way as to legitimise the establishment of male authority over women. This social construction has conversely provided the basis for gender – based violence in our society.
Women in Pakistan suffer all kinds of violence ranging from rape, mutilation, petrol burning, and custodial torture and abuse, to disfiguring of the face, ritual honour killing, forced marriages and marriage with the Holy Quran.
The widespread domestic violence which ranges from slapping, hitting, kicking to murder goes unnoticed in most cases as society, tribes and different clans and the police view it as a private matter.
One of the most shocking and ruthless crimes committed against women is the ‘honour killing’. In our society, honour does not really mean what it actually means. It is, however, meant as “the fundamental right of a man to possess a woman as a property”.
This form of ‘honour’ not only restricts the liberty of women under the pretext of protection against immoral acts, it has also authorised (though not legally) men to take lives of women if they defame the (so – called) family’s honour through marriages of their own choice etc.
This brutality claimed the lives of 943 women in 2011, according to the report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Various independent reports and surveys conducted on the rights of women have shown an increase in such inhuman acts because of ineffective legislation or the failure on the part of authorities to implement the laws that protect women and punish men for perpetrating such crimes etc.
Parliament has just recently passed the Prevention of Anti – women Practices Act 2011 and the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010 with a view to strengthening women’s protection against abuses.
The government, on the one hand, needs to take adequate and effective steps to ensure full implementation of these laws.
On the other hand, the government and independent organisations should conduct public awareness programmes among the masses for the public disapproval of violence against women.
The media should also play its part in this regard by discouraging social practices which are injurious to women. Women should be educated so as to make them aware of their due rights. Their active participation should be encouraged for social and economic development.
Above all, the effective rehabilitation programmes should be introduced by the government, in particular, and the psychiatrists and educationists, in general, for those women who have fallen prey to acid attacks, rape, domestic violence, forced marriages or any other form of brutality. Such programmes will not only help them overcome their inferiority complex and contribute effectively to the society, but they will also prevent another Fakhra Younus from committing suicide.
FAZAL MUHAMMAD KHAN