CERTAIN misogynistic practices are sometimes so deeply embedded in sections of society that their unacceptability cannot be emphasised enough. That is especially so when opposition to them is voiced by individuals in positions of authority, who can change the discourse by example, enact legislation to criminalise such ‘traditions’, or enforce compliance by implementing the law. The remarks by Sindh Inspector General of Police A.D. Khowaja on Thursday in Sukkur at the inauguration of a regional women protection cell are thus very pertinent. In his address, the province’s senior-most police official described it as unfortunate that ‘honour’ killings were carried out even in this day and age, and said that such violence against women was based neither in culture nor on religion. He also referred to other forms of gender violence, including sexual assault of girls, adding that parents have a duty to teach their children how to handle such situations.
The Sukkur DIG Khadim Rind also voiced his thoughts on the occasion. While he may have been well meaning, his prescription betrayed the oft-repeated and entirely fallacious reasoning that causes the problem to become more deeply entrenched and renders the public space yet more insecure for women. According to him, parents must monitor their daughters’ mobile phone use to prevent them from becoming involved with predatory men who can later blackmail them with photos or messages of an intimate nature. Such an approach views the problem from the wrong end; indeed, it is the lazy way out. Why should girls and young women be kept under surveillance, in effect pay the price in terms of their liberty, to prevent men from behaving badly? If certain regressive quarters had their way, society would function along strict gender-segregated lines so as to remove all ‘temptation’ from the presence of males. Instead, should we not ask parents to educate their sons not to exploit women and to treat them as having as much right to the public space as they do?
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2018