By: Ali Moeen Nawazish
An 18-year-old maid, Jameela, was shot dead by a man named Sajjad, in Gulistan-i-Jauhar in Karachi by mistake as she resembled his niece, who had run away to elope a man she loved. Fear or resent were not seen on his face as he felt he had cleansed the society from evil an individual who could have done the same. This news was just the topping to the cake as I left for work after meeting an old friend.
During our meeting as we discussed this news, she shocked me with another brutal news, where she narrated the story of her friend being burned in the ‘urban’ part of our country in the name of honour. It seems ironic to see, that despite so many years since education has started to penetrate the society, we as a country fail to grow with the essence of education.
The word “woman” in Pakistan is synonymous with “endurance”. Despite being aware of rights, literacy, and law we fail to incorporate any change towards this major percentage of population; women. As my friends’ words sunk in, I fell lower and lower in terms of humanity, where she narrated the story of her friend being burned in the urban part of our country in the name of honour.
Why is it that these days’ honour killings, acid attacks, and suicides, have become as simple to demeanour as buying a pain killer from a pharmacy. A society where violence against women is prevalent can it ever fully develops, either socially or economically? Violence at home is undermining women’s confidence and self-esteem and has led towards deteriorating not just their health, but also the growing fear of sexual assault in the public domain deprives them of their full participation in all aspects of development. Crimes against women increased 7% this year as 57 districts reported 982 cases in May 2012 compared to 922 in the same month last year.
Punjab reported a 17% increase in FIRs for anti-women crimes between May 2011 and May 2012. Khyber Pakhtunkhawa had an increase of 15% but Sindh registered a 35% decline. In ICT, where nine cases were filed for crimes against women in 2011, the number of FIRs increased to 24 this year. Balochistan had three cases reported in May 2012 as compared to two recorded last year. Further, in 2012, 31 cases of honour killings were reported in 15 districts as compared to 24 in 11 districts last year. Faisalabad with five cases was the highest reporting district in May this year. Similarly, as the number of reporting districts increased from nine to 11, FIRs filed for offences relating to marriage also went up — 131 this year compared to 112 in May 2011.
Almost 2000 women have been killed in Pakistan last year for just talking to a man who was not a relative, sharing a meal while working in the fields, or for offence as trivial as shopping.
In most parts of the country, except perhaps in Islamabad, Karachi, and wealthier parts of a few other cities, people consider a woman and her family to be shameless if no restrictions are placed on her mobility. What society are we building for the future?
MPA Humera Alwani has said that among all the issues, injustice to women is the worst as they make up more than half of the population, “Crimes against women persist because we have become tolerant of them, and it feels like it’s a target killing in which the entire act is planned.”
Additionally, today Pakistan tops the list of incidence of acid attacks on women. Numerous stories of disfigured women are reported every year by this brutal act; one such example is of, Zubaida Khatoon who was burnt by her husband to resolve an argument. Her objection was that her husband, whom she met through a matchmaker, had made a hobby of marrying women from families belonging to lower economic groups. When she discovered this, Zubaida protested against her husband’s actions. All it took to settle this argument was for him to set her on fire. He poured kerosene on her and then put a match to her.
Raising an objection was her only crime, and she bears the scars. Her husband’s crime had far-reaching consequences, but he bears no bruises. Not even the burden of his act.
Acid attacks are now stated as reasons such as people calling their ‘girls’ pretty, assumed betrayal, raising of voices, lack of obeying their men and his family correctly, the list for excuse are endless as lies to cover the truth are always more easily created.
Furthermore, work harassment in the form of deprived employment opportunities, biasness or even the eyeing of women as sexual objects is openly demonstrated even in our urban society. Sadly an abnormally biased attitude towards women is exhibited openly in every walk of life. Women are being caged, towards insulting relationships, lacking the means to escape their imprisonment for life be it the social or cultural pressures. Why is it that even parents do not encourage their daughters to return home? Just for fear of being ‘labelled’ as a divorcee, which is equivalent to being a social exile?
We have developed cultural attitudes towards female chastity and male honour which serve to justify violence against women. If criminal violence continues to surround us in this manner the challenge of creating a successful country will always remain a dream. Is that we are leading towards dreams? When will we stand and make these dreams reality!
Women are not objects, but individuals bestowed with the gift of motherhood, a woman alone is the nurturer, provider, bearer, groomer and pivotal force of a family. No man should state his power over a woman, who not just endures the pain, but happily sacrifices and dies each day for these men. A woman is not just a cook, or cleaner, but the source to creating the future of our nation. A woman should be seen as an honour to the world, but to the dismay of our society, why is a woman is nothing but means to barter for all gains of their life; be it money or pleasure?
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, said in a speech in 1944, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”
We sit and crib towards the path of opportunities that exist in the west, that cause thoughts of immigrations to form with the hope that it will help us develop. Excluding reality checks, where we never shed light upon ourselves that shows how we undermine our own potential from growing. The rights of being elected as justices, speaker for House of Representatives, or a four star (General Ann Dunwoody of the US military) have been granted to women in the west. We hardly get female representation in census in Pakistan!
Limited opportunities and degrading of the women gender are leading towards a pit of doom for our society, where we snub, kick and misuse our women; that make up more than half the population. On the other hand women are seen to evolve into entrepreneurs, leaders, politicians and symbols of self-development in the west. This is no rocket science, the answer to a better tomorrow is simple where our souls need to be awakened, the call for reforms starting from ourselves.