Amidst the clouds of political and economic turmoil looming over Pakistan, including fiascoes as big as “memogate scandal” and “President Zardari’s departure to UAE”, Pakistanis, through no fault of their own, tend to overlook many issues and news stories that demand more constitutional probing. On December 14, 2011, when the news agencies were more interested in providing gory details of the aforementioned stories, an eight-year-old girl was found dead on a vacant plot opposite Sheikh Zayed Islamic Center of Karachi University. The victim was raped, brutally tortured and later on strangulated, which resulted in her death. Various incidents reporting such atrocious crimes have been brought to our attention in the past; however, we have turned a blind eye to such matters and continue living as if nothing has changed. These young girls are either killed deliberately or left to die a social death which is more dreadful than the former. Most of the times, the culprits are never caught or released instantly, due to lack of evidence. According to Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid the conviction rate in Pakistan, pertaining to various crimes committed, is less than 10 per cent, and this is mostly because the evidence and witnesses are absent to report a crime.
Many a times, families of the victims refrain from reporting rape, child abuse and other related crimes because of socio-cultural implications. Most of the crimes pertaining to sexual assaults and abuse remain unreported as the general mindset prevalent in Pakistan does not allow victims any relief or protection whatsoever. The conviction hardly ever happens and out-of-the-court settlement is the best available course of action to adopt. But is monetary compensation enough to substantiate the scars resulted by these crimes? Can the victims even comprehend coming back to normal life?
The bigger question is whether the streets of Pakistan are safe for women? Students, nurses and women from all walks of life are being raped and traumatised every day and the statistics keep increasing by the day. According to a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women, after Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Approximately 2,900 Pakistani women were subjected to sexual assault and rape in the year 2010, which accounts for roughly eight women being raped in a day.
Thousands of capable women in Pakistan have been subjected to domestic, social and sexual crimes. Brilliant students who could have done wonders for Pakistan have been traumatised and left scarred for the rest of their lives. The resonance of the acts carried out against innocent minds and bodies will continue to shatter their entire existence and impede their psychological and physical growth.
Women in Pakistan have been stigmatised and the mindset pertaining to women who prefer western clothes and women who work, to churn the economic cycle or for any other reason, is absolutely hideous. Women clad in western clothes do not send men “virtual invitations” to “mistreat” them in any way whatsoever. A working woman does not intend to “get raped” every time she leaves home for work. These social prejudices and injustices against women are not only restricted to uneducated factions of the society. Many educated men endorse the same mindset and become rather incoherent when it comes to social empowerment of women. Moreover, divorced and single women have always been back lashed for their opinionated selves. Women professing and fighting for their rights are misjudged and considered “insipid” to say the least, providing “sufficient grounds” for harassment and abuse.
We talk about women empowerment, we approve various bills and petitions to grant justice to the mistreated sex but nothing will change unless we truly transform the way we think. Women are entitled to social and economic empowerment as equal citizens of Pakistan. Molesting, harassing and sidelining them will only deteriorate our standing and orientation as a nation.
Women are an asset for any society and are responsible for laying the foundations of that very society. Bearing, raising and counseling a child are a very few feats performed by women every day so Isn’t it time to respect and accommodate their ideologies? A nation which lacks respect for women can hardly be called a nation of “upright stature”. I truly hope that one day we are able to think about gender equality and women rights as much as we “discuss” them.