By: Reema Abbasi
THIS is stating the obvious but sadly, it cannot be underlined enough – our society has long been riven by brutal, almost wild inequalities. Be it severe social hierarchy, parochialism, or fierce gender inequality, we remain mired in regression.
A recent instance is the amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to withdraw “grant for bail for women from a simple surety bond in non-bailable offences”. Hence, we have yet more proof that women in Pakistan continue to survive on the periphery of society, at the mercy of a misogynistic politico-legal structure that ensures both delay and eventual denial of justice to female victims.
This revision in the code, as the legal fraternity and activists point out, ensures that women can now be in custody for petty misdeeds such as trivial family clashes, as bail will not be their categorical right. This will translate into a rapid rise in female prisoners as it extends unbridled powers to law-enforcement forces to slap any random accusation on a woman and put her under arrest until she can prove her innocence. Thus, we have gone back in time – from being able to secure release on a surety bond, it will now become increasingly difficult to escape castigation.
Given rampant police crimes against women with legal processes often falling by the wayside as perpetrators get transferred or disappear from collective memory through supposed suspensions, making bail harder will trigger a surge in police excesses against female inmates in jails and police stations.
The revision so far does not come with a clause that addresses a very real danger to not only their dignity but also their lives, making them helpless within their societal framework and amongst the custodians of law.
This modification also appears at a time when women are already hard done by. The statistics of crimes against women in 2010 alone are staggering: Aurat Foundation’s annual report shows 8,000 cases of atrocities against women with 5,492 in Punjab, 1,652 in Sindh, 650 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 79 in Balochistan.
A vast majority of sufferers are prey to offshoots of revenge, punishment, family feuds or simply for having the courage to stand up for their own cause and respect. Misogyny is primarily rooted in self-hatred, and, therefore, the most typical trait of ‘misplaced manhood’, in almost all strata of society, is a man’s conditioning to launch an attack on the character of his own or other women. Almost as if his psychological salvation lies in switching blame and playing victim.
The heinous Haripur atrocity is just one case in point that has irreparably tainted our mindscape. In an Islamic state, which loses hundreds of its women to alleged trangressions that threaten ‘honour’, a middle-aged woman in Neelor Bala, Haripur district was forced to walk naked in her ‘orthodox’ village because her son was said to be involved with a married woman.
The influential patriarchs of the area had clearly found a loop whereby it was ‘easy’ to humiliate the mother. Given the new alterations in the CrPC, where would another woman go to find speedy justice? How would she ever prevail against a system designed to disfigure her fate? What would constitute her innocence? Victims of blame games across this society are rarely blessed with witnesses that stand by them.
There is precious nothing that disproves the truth that a woman’s dignity cannot be secured without the inclusion and the education of the male. This journey begins in the home where the male child is reared and has to perceive his mother as a self-respecting individual, moving on to similar role models in his teachers and the clear notion that a male’s duties cannot be confused with power play.
In the end, the state has to facilitate this path by formulating laws that support easy, speedy, gender-sensitive justice. This does not involve a woman’s validation alone. Here lies the redemption and evolution of society.