FOR well over seven decades, we celebrate our independence while making due efforts to remember all those who fought not just against political and communal forces, but, perhaps more importantly, against dread and despair to get a piece of land filled with peace and opportunities that had been denied to them till then. Do we ever take a moment to realise that all these seven decades later, women are denied the same freedom, peace and opportunities on that same piece of land?

To be a woman in a country dominated by men who consider them inferior and weaker is to live a constant nightmare. To be a woman in a country where cries for help are shushed or answered with unwanted advices to be patient, is to be led down a dark, seemingly bottomless abyss, watching the light diminishing, like a flower deprived of sun.

To be a woman in a world that turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to our suffering is to be left with a hallow soul battered with wounds and pain. Being a woman today is like holding our breaths and wondering about our ‘turn’ with each dreadful incident. It is like living with the echoes of our fallen sisters crying for justice.

Human beings are filled with unpredictable and sometimes unprecedented emotions that manifest themselves at unexpected times. And when they do they come in waves and often end up being a ruthless hurricane that destroys the soul. Perhaps, it is a result of the years of silence we are often forced into, or the years of emotions we suppress.

Regardless, when they reveal themselves, they appear in the form of rage — rage from the uncertainty surrounding our lives and for the souls that wander in search of justice for the disfigured bodies they have left behind. There are countless stories we hear almost on a daily basis of innocent lives being taken away due to their gender and the predators getting away, perpetuating the cycle of crime and subjugation. All of these heart-wrenching stories have shaped us into what we are today — vengeful and indignant.

The fact that men in our midst are aware that they can get away even with the most unfathomable of crimes, is a proof that we have failed, not only as citizens of the very country our ancestors incessantly fought for, but as humans. Whether it is Noor, Khadija, Quratulain, the unbearable weight of the souls we have lost and the souls living in fear drives us to continue to fight for the same freedom we thought the country had achieved several decades ago.

Although most of us cannot gather the courage to deal with the trauma our fellow women have gone through, or muster the strength to speak about it, we must raise our voice until every criminal is brought to justice, and until we feel safe.

Women must continue to fight the battle that is not just of those we have lost, but for our own sake. We should talk about their sufferings and make up for the silence we have been told is an essential part of being a woman. We must hold people accountable for their actions and remind them of the strength of the body that brings them to life; the hands that raise them and the voices that once put them to sleep; the warriors they now deem weak.

We should raise girls without burdening them with the responsibilities of being a daughter, a sister and, at some point, a wife and a mother, and teach them to live a life of their own, away from all fears, to be selfish for once and to be free. It is time we taught our girls and women to fight for their right instead of considering it as their destiny.

Alizeh Shah
Karachi

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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