EVERY year International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 across the world.
This year’s women day is the third time under an elected government of a party, whose leader Benazir Bhutto was not only a woman herself but also championed women’s rights. Unfortunately, crimes against women are on the rise from sexual harassment at workplaces in urban areas to acts of karo-kari in rural areas. Despite the fact that the government has claimed that projects like distribution of land among landless Hari (peasant) women, Benazir Bhutto income support programme, Union Council-Based Poverty Reduction Project and Benazir Low-Cost Housing Scheme are as per the vision of their assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto and part of the commitments of the PPP’s election manifesto, there is a dire need to demonstrate political will to change the mindset.
Economic empowerment is linked with their say in political and social spheres of life. Women should not be treated ‘equal’ on the basis of headcount but should be respected on the basis of equity.
In 2009, about 39 women were killed on the pretext of karo-kari in the district of the Sindh Chief Minister. All misogynist Sindhi feudal lords who were hand in glove with Musharraf are now enjoying power under reconciliation and ordering killing of innocent women under harsh tribal code of jirga.
Recently a Kohli (dalit) girl was allegedly kidnapped and assaulted by some influential people of Khoso tribe in Nangarparkar. In another case, 60 families migrated to Mithi because their girls were threatened with kidnapping and rape.
Party cadre, legislators and government people were approached but ‘vote bank’ took precedence over respect for minority communities and women specifically. Civil society and human rights organisations are raising their voice but then who cares. There is a need of a paradigm shift of mindset. There is a need of a radical change from gender blind syllabus to state laws and implementation of women empowerment projects and their say in policy and decision making process.
It is time the media and civil society put in serious efforts to educate people about their individual responsibility to enforce human rights and respect the rights of their women. Change starts at home.
Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF)
TODAY most of civil society organisations and women development departments of provincial and federal governments hold seminars, walks, etc., inviting the world’s attention towards miseries of women.
The events will be well attended by women from well-off and so-called liberal families. Yet no good or comfort comes to the suppressed and aggrieved segment of poor women, especially those who live in rural areas.
These are difficult times for women in Pakistan as the country ranks 106th out of 137 on the Gender-related Development Index and 66th out of 75 on the Gender Empowerment Measurement Index. Despite religious, constitutional and legal rights, women’s position in Pakistani society is weak.
Women are subjected to most extreme forms of violence and exclusion. Incidents of honour killing, rape, fire and acid burning, domestic violence, dowry-abuse, trafficking, under-age marriage and trade of young girls among tribes for dispute settlement are gruesome and frequent. Women’s access to education, employment, health, property and justice had been severely restricted for years. With the rise in extremism, women’s right to mobility has reduced sharply in many parts of the country.
Pakistan has one of the lowest rates for girl child survival, maternal safety, literacy and employment among women because of prolonged discrimination and injustice.
Involvement of men in highlighting these issues remains low and is, therefore, a contributory factor to the deteriorating situation regarding gender equality, empowerment and violence against women in Pakistan.
In spite of claims for bringing protective law for the rights of women and lodging FIRs against influential holding jirgas against women in parts of Sindh, Balochistan and southern Punjab, neither the police nor the government seems to be serious in containing illegal and immoral practices of the jirga system. The government needs to ensure universal education for the girl child by opening up girls school at every village; to ensure enforcement of relevant laws protecting women against discrimination; and to ban of jirga system.
ABDUL SAMAD CHANNA