GENDER-BASED violence is deeply rooted in regions like South Asia even today. Stereotyping women and discrimination against them get even more dangerous and terrifying in tribal or semi-tribal societies, like that of Gilgit Baltistan.
Today women in Gilgit Baltistan are faced with a plethora of problems in their day-to-day life, leading to the drastic and growing trend of suicide. Gilgit Baltistan could be a paradise on earth for its pure scenic beauty, cultural diversity and natural resources. However, the region has shown a tendency of being a dangerous place for women.
A majority of women are trapped in their traditional roles, like domestic work, agricultural activities and caring for children, spouses and parents or in-laws. Their daily workload is heavier than that carried out by men.
But at the same time their work remains invisible, poorly recorded and unacknowledged.
Women are expected to rigorously follow social, religious and cultural traditions. If a woman tries to break the cycle of discrimination, she might face physical and psychological violence at the hands of her first-degree relatives like father, brother and husband.
In addition, second-degree relatives like uncles and male cousins frequently have the right to deprive her of her liberty or threaten her.
It often happens that women are beaten if they try to express themselves freely or murdered in the name of honour or burned to death under the pretence of an accident.
Ghizer is one of the districts of Gilgit Baltistan where almost 369 women have committed suicide since 2005 due to family conflicts and other domestic problems. These incidents have mostly taken place among literate women in the Yasin valley, Ishkoman, Gupis and Ponial.
The government noticed only a few suicide cases which are registered in police stations.
Many of these ‘suicide’ cases have in reality been proven as murders.
The irony is that several bodies have not even been handed over to the police for an autopsy.
Media reports say that the majority of ‘suicides’ are being committed by school and college students.
It is imperative for all of us to speak up and take action against such terrifying crimes of violence against women.
The increasing incidents of suicide by women in Ghizer district is a big cause for concern, and all the more so when all political, administrative and social organisations, including NGOs, remain silent spectators to the issue.
No one has tried to provide tangible and sustained social, moral, technical and legal assistance to the women to eliminate violence against them by imparting knowledge and to make the communities aware about changing the role of women in the family. Besides, space should be provided for women to demonstrate their abilities for the benefit of their family, as well as for the whole of society.
Since the media is highlighting the issues of women, they must also telecast follow-up stories of the affected families so that the public may come to know what sort of life is lived by the women of the region.
When the masses come to know how the families suffer, it will help to stop the vicious trend of suicides and murders disguised as suicide.
However, there is a need to work on the ground and to start a movement to strengthen the faith of women. Besides, social reforms should be initiated in this regard.
Civil society organisations and the government need to initiate programmes that could bring a change for the better for women. Besides, they should also go into the depth of the issue to find out whether cases of murder are not being termed suicide to escape the law.
SAFDAR ALI SAFDAR