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No country for poor women

No country for poor women

By: Muhammad Hamid Zaman

There is no honour in murder. There is no dignity in violence. Period.

Personally, I strongly dislike to put honour and killing together. It should be called by what it is, a cold blooded murder. A murder can, and should never be, associated with any honour.

Most of us do not remember the names Zeenat Bibi or Ambreen. They are just two victims, among many other nameless ones, who, in just the last few weeks, have paid the ultimate price, in the most barbaric and gruesome ways imaginable, for a choice that is automatically afforded to all males in society. Qandeel is one more name in the long list of our collective shame. It’s anyone’s guess, how long will that stay in our memory before we move on to the next one. Such is our rot.

It is not about some elusive honour that these women of lower socio-economic standing are put to death. It is about a choice. The choice to marry the person they love, the choice to go to school, the choice to help a friend, and ultimately, the choice to live a life. Men in our society do not consider these options as choices, they consider them as their birthrights, and exercise them as such.

Many women in upper social class and economic echelons also have the good fortune of making some choices, though not nearly as many as men, but still far more than the poor women of the nation. If you are a poor woman, you have no rights, no choices, no options. Should you seek one, you become another statistic.

We brag about two fundamental tenets of our “strong” social fabric when compared against the “immorality” of rest of the world. The home, a safe haven for women, and family, that is the bedrock of everything decent, kind and beautiful in this world. Well guess what? If you are a poor woman, and dare to choose, your home is where you are killed, and at the hands of your own family.

Some of us were taught that our society is like a family, the country a big welcoming home. We were not taught to look at the fine print that says that it is true, if you are of means and social status, and true only if you are a male. The bigger social home is no different from the smaller brick and mortar one that these women inhabit, live and die in. In our larger home, people, in the media and on the pulpit, on twitter and in talk shows, justify the actions of killers, condone the murder of women and remind the poor women that dreaming is dangerous and choices have costs. Deadly costs. And they have a pretty stellar record to prove that.

Even the head of our household, the President of the country, tells the world that women get raped to get “visas to Canada or become millionaires”. Yes — that is exactly what Mr Musharraf told The Washington Post on September 13, 2005. I wish we could say that we have come a long way in the last decade, but it would not be true. In just the last few months, a government body said that it is fine to beat wives and a member of the same fraternity says on TV that Qandeel’s “end” should be a reminder never to malign the fraternity.

If we are worried about shame, we just need to look in the mirror. There is no better picture of vulgarity, no better demonstration of immorality, no clearer sign of our deep moral failure, than the reaction of puritans condoning or even applauding at the murder of Qandeel.

Perhaps I have gotten it all wrong. Perhaps, it is part of our own collective plan for development. To improve the standing of women in society, to reduce poverty, and to give women more opportunities to make better life decisions, there are two choices. Either eliminate poverty or eliminate the poor.

We have chosen the second one.

Express Tribune

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