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Plight of Pakistani women

Pakistan is ranked third on the basis of “cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women”- Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.

A recently published global survey that lists Pakistan as the third-worst country in the world for women should awaken us to the reality that we are systematically neglecting the rights of about half of this country’s population. According to a survey compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Pakistan is ranked third on the basis of “cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women.” Other countries that made the top five were Afghanistan, which took the top slot, The Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Somalia.

But what does this mean exactly? The survey rightly points out that Pakistan is not on the list merely because of its high rate of physical violence against women – it makes the list because “basic human rights are systematically denied to women.” This becomes evident from a merely cursory perusal of local media. The most recent example of horrific human rights abuse was brought to light on June 14, when the media reported that Shaheen, a woman from Neelor Bala village in the Punjab, was beaten, stripped and paraded naked in public on the orders of a tribal jirga – to avenge a rape her son allegedly committed. These practices leave no room for a woman to be viewed as anything but chattel. Not only are women exposed to these barbaric acts and perverse ‘judgements’ on an almost daily basis in Pakistan, they are also losing hope in their right to appeal to any higher authority.

Mukhtaran Mai, who saw all but one of the men who allegedly raped her in 2004 acquitted by the Supreme Court recently, is a prime example of how justice is denied to women. Her case bounced around the courts for years, delayed by inefficient documentation and pressure from local influentials. Though she had in the past expressed optimism about her case, she now says she does not associate hope with the courts anymore.

Rhetoric and political statements will not change the status of women in Pakistan. Only careful revision of existing laws and procedures and their strict enforcement will help safeguard women – and even then, we will still be left with cultural biases to overcome.

Source: The Express Tribune

Date:6/17/2011

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