LAHORE: Human rights activists and other members of civil society have condemned the remarks made by religious leader Maulana Tariq Jamil on national television during the PM’s telethon on April 23.
The remarks have been called ‘callous’ and ‘demeaning’ to women who make up half the country.
Nida Aly, director of the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid cell (AGHS), said Pakistan had seen a rise in the cases of violence against women, and extreme situations, including honour crimes, domestic violence, assault and abuse of women.
She said while women under lockdown needed security from the community, “the government ‘trotted out Tariq Jameel on a broadly televised programme who not just objectified women but declared them and their individualist actions to bring the wrath of God and punishment in the form of Covid-19’.
Nida Aly said the AGHS was providing relief to women, children and minorities during the lockdown.
“Our 17 legal centers in Lahore and Kasur have reported that there has been a drastic rise in domestic violence cases,” she said.
“There has been a surge in suicides and suicide attempts by women due to domestic violence. At least 75 women from Lahore alone have approached our centers and reported being subjected to extreme domestic violence at the hands of their husbands.”
Mamtaz Gohar, national coordinator of the National Child Rights Movement, told Dawn that children were also in extreme danger while being at home with abusers.
“Most child physical or sexual abuse happens at home, by men (or women) in the family, and children have nowhere to escape during the lockdown,” he specified.
Barrister Maleeka Bokhari, parliamentary secretary of law and justice, tweeted: “The spread of a pandemic must never and under no circumstances be correlated or linked to a woman’s piety or morality. It is danger to make this correlation as violent crimes against women/girls continue to take place with impunity.”
Shireen Mazari, Federal Minister of Human Rights, said: “We will not accept the targeting of women on the pretext of such ludicrous accusations. We in Pakistan have fought hard for claiming our rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.” She posted online: “Simply absurd for anyone under any guise to even suggest the Covid-19 pandemic is a result of women wearing short sleeves or because of private schools/universities misleading the youth. This simply reflects either ignorance about pandemics or a misogynist mindset. Absolutely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the HRCP in an official statement said it condemned the statement.
“The HRCP is appalled at Maulana Tariq Jamil’s statement which inexplicably correlated women’s ‘modesty’ to the Covid-19 pandemic. Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and, when aired on public television, only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society,” read the statement.
Tahira Abdulla, human rights activist, said it was shameful that the male and female journalists and anchors present in the telethon did not object to the comments.
Meanwhile, appearing in some talk shows on Friday, the Maulana tendered an apology for his remarks about the media.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2020