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.

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Comments (25)

Harinath
December 26, 2011 4:46 pm
yes, not just the bills but the execution also need to be correct. the problem in pakistan is now, I think the govt and officials are busy managing other things that are more external in in nature. If only the govt. gets to focus on the people and their welfare, rest will be smooth. I seriously wish Pakistan becomes stronger because of the people's will and not just because of the adamant army that grabs power every few years.
Well wisher
December 26, 2011 4:58 pm
I was very saddened by this blog. More because while the article says that such events are being ignored, it was surprising that with 'no comments' the article itself was being ignored. Until a society ensures 100% safety and security of its women, it cannot call its civilised or rather even a society. It has to assume the dubious distinction of being barbaric. Even animals treat their females with equal status, love, respect and affection. What use is being educated or rich or both if such events are being tolerated? What use is it to claim that in Islam, men and women have equal rights if those very rights cannot be guaranteed or protected?
raika45
December 26, 2011 6:38 pm
Mistreatment of women is not only in your country.See India and Afghanistan.The situation is the same.Say what you want nothing will change.As long as these 'beasts' of men and an incompetent or impotent government is in power in these countries there is no hope.
ILKAHN
December 26, 2011 7:07 pm
The perpetator who commits against women in whatever manner is subject to the law of the Land. Where is the law of the land which acts either as a deterent or punishment? Being a victim of these heinous crimes and still do not do anything about it or make limited efforts, makes me wonder when will this ugly part of society die? Look at India, crimes against women are common but they have laws, women organization, legal fraternity, etc to help them punish the perparators. Women of Pakistan should first organize themselves in groups, then organizations and then challenge against the atrocities. And by the way Islam supports women rights in a big way
V K Bajaj (Delhi)
December 26, 2011 7:56 pm
Baap re Baap! Till now I believed that such incidence are occurring in India only. Pakistan also faces the same human problem. In such cases LAW is weak and the investigating agencies like Police have to adopt different means to capture the real culprits. And to get quality and quantity proof would be a hilarious job. Let India and Pakistan share knowledge and expertise on this common problem.
amir
December 26, 2011 8:05 pm
This is a very gloomy picture of whatever is going in our society. This has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. This is our narrow, myopic, cynic cultural ignorance, which prompts us to commit violence aainst our daughters,sisters and future mothers. We have to revise our approach in this issue.
Naveed
December 26, 2011 8:45 pm
Very true, but women will have to stop thinking of themselves as victims and take things into their own hands. They must hit back. I know that this is easier said than done, but respect is never handed to anyone on a platter.
Mohammad A Dar
December 26, 2011 10:11 pm
they have fulfilled their obligations as a man and a woman. Propagation of crimes against women for one reason or another are more prevalent in western world than in Pakistan and reference to them to promote and propagate them in Pakistan specific is nothing but a lie to promote some thing not permissible under the cover of self prescribed civility.
Ahsan Masood
December 26, 2011 10:14 pm
This is indeed a very sad blog post. As a young academic, i try to encourage my female students to be vocal and try to achieve that which they fear is only available to their male counterparts. I have had personally requested some of my female students to dress more modestly, for which i am ashamed. Though i pride myself on being a feminist, but things change when paranoia sets in. I fear for my female students and young nieces. I fear that the world that i paint in front of my female students and ask them to conquer is anything but welcoming towards them. Even at times when the fear and paranoia is not there and i advise a potential female graduate student that she needs to pursue a career i am told that she is to be married and would not be in a position to work. I do not have an answer to these questions, only hope that things would perhaps improve one day.
Talha Vaqar
December 27, 2011 7:10 am
Justice is an essential ingredient for a successful society be it worldly success or the hereafter.
Sobia Fayyaz
December 27, 2011 8:44 am
Two things need to be understood right away; first, when the criminals go unpunished it's a green signal for others to follow suit and second, we as a society by playing dumb and pretending that all is well are equal criminals. I wonder what do the women in power do except defending the government's acrobatic feats. What have the (so called) educated women of Pakistan, myself included, done for the oppressed. Not much. It's not the government's fight. It's a far cry to expect any progressive measures from a regime who has done nothing to investigate the death of their twice-elected woman prime minister. Women in Pakistan have long ceased to be independent beings with souls, minds and bodies of their own. We are defined as sisters, daughters, wives and mothers. It is high time we redefine ourselves. It is high time we muster courage, share resources and change public perception. The responsibility rests on each and everyone of us born of a woman. You and I are equally responsible for changing the status quo. Or we will go down the drains of history, as a nation known for brutalizing, burning and banishing their womenfolk.
Nasah (USA)
December 27, 2011 9:13 am
There is plenty of respect for women in Islam -- but in the hearts of its followers -- we Muslims are the worst tormentors of the women in the entire world.
Majid Mirza
December 27, 2011 9:34 am
'2,900 Pakistani women were subjected to sexual assault', I think to venture that the statistics cited were exaggeration to the point for proclaiming that the women living in Pakistan society are not safe. For the sake of argument if it is so, then haven't we reached a point to consider ourselves to respect women by providing them a place were there rights and chastity are safeguarded. As a Muslim I would prefer to follow the Quranic injuction in this respect. The solution lies in following this verse, as Allah says to the wives of the Prophet in Surah Ahzab "And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance..." (33:33). The argument is if the wives of the Prophet are told to restrict themselves at homes, then how-come the believing women can enjoy the liberty for being more modest by stepping outside the premises of house and keep themselves secure at the same time. Is our society competitively more secured then the Prophetic times?
Raj
December 27, 2011 12:33 pm
Very sensible thoughts Sobia. With such immense resources I sincerely believe your nation will come out successfully of all hurdles.
salman
December 27, 2011 6:22 pm
I wonder why Dawn decided to Censor my comments? It had no bad language...just my opinion... It is interesting that now DAWN who raised the flag against censorship is censoring comments to this blog...quite shameful.
adeel
December 27, 2011 7:02 pm
True , the situation is not as alarming as the writer has mentioned. Actually its not only women which is not safe in pakitsan ; its the weak which is not safe in unbridled society. Where only power rules , moralities are at their lowest ebb. But i ll contradict with your argument and the reference that you have mention --- The Wives of Holy prophet were restrained to go outside as At that the Non-believers used to misbehave with women and that was part of their culture. When the muslims thwart their ill-acts they made an alibi that they did unintentionally as they failed to distinguish them as Muslim Ladies. so thats why this order was given to the women of that time. The Point is now we have a muslim society not non-believers , we are to develop a flexible and respectable society in which respect is given and taken. The men ought to respect every women and honour her very existence. To restrict women within the boundries of home is not the order of islam --- If it is , then why Women perform Hajj with men and intriguely , women do not cover their whole face and hands as they normally hide in normal Veil. With respect i might be wrong in my approach. May ALLAH blessed us with Righteous path.Ameen
Sana Wafa
December 27, 2011 8:19 pm
I think your ‘argument’ is an affront to both Muslim women and men. As it suggests that not only are Muslim women weak and feeble minded with very low self-respect but also Muslim men also have no self-control. So accept my sympathies on such flawed thinking also thank you for providing a live example of demonization of victims in our society. Anyhow my point is that people such as you and I who can at the very least read and write should be able to reason better. I would also like to assume that our country has respect for women and admittedly in the confines of our own homes and families that may very well be the case. However this privilege is not enjoyed by women on the street this includes children and women we see begging on street on a daily basis……and they may not be part of our ‘scene’ they are part of our society. He sad truth is that we as a society do not protect our vulnerable sections. As for the Quranic reference I will direct your attention to another ayah of Quran: “O wives of the Prophet! you are not like any other of the women; If you will be on your guard, then be not soft in (your) speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease yearn; and speak a good word.” (33:32) As sated ordinary Muslim women are ‘NOT’ the same as the wives of the Prophet (SAW). The reason for this is pretty obvious as Muslim women come from all backgrounds and all kinds of circumstances and just asking everyone to sit at home in order to avoid being mistreated is really quite ludicrous and. So no it ‘not’ the solution and I think it is dangerously irresponsible for anyone to use Islam to shield the indefensible.
DrA.R.Jha (Sr.Consul
December 27, 2011 10:48 pm
In my opinion women must be respected in all societies irrespective of religion, country, geographical region and political environments.
Javed
December 28, 2011 12:57 am
I agree, we do not give any freedom to women. Prime example is Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive. This is a basic right of any person in the present world.
Aby kamal
December 28, 2011 12:58 am
Our's is a country where a woman cannot even apply for a passport without providing the ID card number of either her father, husband or brother or other male blood relative. If she cannot provide one there is no way for her get a passport. A place where the government itself does not recognize women as having an individual identityq other than being daughter of /wife of/sister of is not a place where respect for women is top priority.
Nasir S
December 28, 2011 2:13 am
Great article, after reading some of the comments, I get very scary feeling, as the young lady commented that we cannot look at our government to protect the women, it has to be done at civil level, but unfortunately from the comments I get the feeling that the citizenry is not even on borad with this.
NJ Star
December 28, 2011 8:52 am
One of my family member visited Lahore and surrounding area and she complained that there is lot of eve teasing and inappropriate touching. Even the elders male do not spare. Guru Nanak said on the same land “Why suppress & curse those who have given you the birth”. Hey wake up it is still not too late. Respect the wording of the great saint who belongs to the great land of Lahore.
Awais Khan
December 28, 2011 11:15 am
Awareness has to be raised regarding gender based violence and issues.
Kasim Hussain
January 1, 2012 6:04 am
This is a rather saddening article. A few thoughts from myself: 1. This is not a religious issue; it's a cultural phenomenon that has plagued the nation since its inception. It is important to realise this as it will be of paramount importance to draw this line clear and hard against the religious hardliners. 2. This is in my humble opinion, like much else in Pakistan, a symptom of the constitutional inadequacy in protection of human rights. Whilst the issue of women's rights is a major issue I believe the protection of human rights goes further in providing the solution. Having an entrenched bill of rights would arguably win half of the battle for women. 3. Women need to come out for their rights. History bears witness that rights have never been given - they have always been taken. Refer to the example of Emmeline Pankhurst who headed the suffragette movement in Britain and eventually succeeded in gaining women the right to vote. 4. This will take time but persistence will be key. It has taken developed nations decades of work to get to a position where men and women are treated equally. The right for women to vote came about in Britain around 1918 with a universal right following in 1928 and the roots of the nation go back to the days of the Roman Empire... Conclusion: whilst the answer to this issue may lie in a constitutionally entrenched bill of rights in the first instance, the root cause of this is much wider and relates to the supremacy of the rule of law in Pakistan which according to established legal jurisprudence is arguably the first building block for a civilised society.
R C Desai
January 2, 2012 3:38 pm
Very saddening! The country had leaders like Fatima Jinnah and a P M in Benazir Bhutto!
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