Traversing the news these days would compel one to come to the conclusion that it is a bad time to be a woman in the subcontinent. While their gender is close to being a curse for many women in India and Pakistan, the world ought to know that it has always been a bad time for the fairer sex; it is only now that the media is beginning to highlight the tip of this horrible iceberg. We were reeling from the brutal murder of Farzana Iqbal by her father, brothers and former fiancé in front of the Lahore High Court (LHC) when news came from Katra village in Uttar Pradesh, India on Wednesday morning of two teen girls found gang raped, dead and hanging from a tree. They were dalit (untouchable) sisters and their violation and murders are creating an outrage in India, just like Farzana Iqbal’s brutal killing has created a hue and cry here.
The common thread between these deaths in India and Pakistan is that women are not considered to be human beings. A strong culture of patriarchy has reduced them to chattels to be negotiated and bartered according to male whims. Farzana chose to break away from her father’s choice of spouse, marrying of her own accord, for which she paid the ultimate price: she was stoned to death. Women are seen as nothing better than sex objects to be done away with when men have had their fill — the poor dalit sisters, only 14 and 15-years-old, were raped by three men and two police officers have been charged as co-conspirators to the rape and murder. What does all this show? It betrays that women still have a long way to go in the subcontinent until they are seen as human. However, this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that women are treated like chattel; it is only now that more cases are being reported and the media is projecting them to the world at large. Pakistani men continue to kill women to protect their ‘honour’ and in India, rapes are commonplace with the bustling city of New Delhi being dubbed the ‘rape capital of the world’. Many female tourists have gone on record to say that they do not feel safe in India. The media is now on top of the situation, casting the spotlight on such heinous crimes, thankfully riling people up to work towards change. The infamous Delhi bus rape in December 2012 brought people out onto the streets to protest and get India’s anti-rape laws amended to punish rape more severely.
However, we still have a long, long way to go. Farzana’s savage murder taught us one thing: we are becoming more primitive and narrow-minded when it comes to women. The media needs to work doubly hard to raise awareness so that this never-ending stain is washed away, once and for all. *