That Pakistan is not friendly to the female gender is no secret but just how harsh it can be to women is typified in the case of 20-year-old Zunaira Muhammad, yet another statistic in the sex industry, trafficked back and forth from Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Vulnerable and in need of financial aid, she was promised a job in a beauty parlour in the UAE to help finance her studies in software engineering. Little did she know that this was just a ruse by a gang from Faislabad to get her to Dubai from where she would be sold into sex with different men from a high-rise apartment. She managed to escape after frequent trips to and from Pakistan and her anguished case reached the notice of Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif who ordered that action be taken. The Islambad High Court even demanded that the gang’s ringleaders be caught but nothing has been done so far. Her lawyers have stopped defending her in the face of intimidation and threats, the police have stalled the investigation and the girl’s character is being brought into disrepute. Is anyone surprised by this? We are a nation that is at war with its women, denying them rights, encasing them within the four walls of their homes and linking family honour to their bodies. Women hardly get any justice here and Zunaira is not going to be the first to be denied this right.
Rapid urbanisation is slated to raise our urban population to 50 percent of the total by 2030. There is a huge demand to cater to all these people, including women looking for gainful employment. Many beauty parlours provide easy jobs without seeking rigourous educational qualifications, giving many young girls from impoverished backgrounds a chance to improve their lot in life. For the police to question Zunaira’s morals because she worked in a beauty salon and travelled to and fro from both countries to be prostituted reeks of ignorant and judgmental behaviour. Many such women are threatened with their own safety and lives and those of their families. They have no choice but to endure the torture of forced prostitution. Zunaira herself was tortured and shot in the legs. How can the criminal justice system not help her? How can we be so callous as to ignore her pleas? She has suffered enough without us adding to her victimisation. Are women so easily dismissed that their repeated abuse and degradation for profit are of no consequence? Zunaira’s case must be expedited and must set an example to deter other such criminal groups from trafficking women with so much impunity.