The perils for the women in this part of the world are not veiled anymore. Many human rights watchdogs, both national and international have been actively monitoring the status of women of this country and things could not be more ominous. The subordinate gender role has rarely left Pakistani women alone. Recently, back to back horrific stories of sheer brutality against young girls brought various groups of the society together to make a solid front against child abuse. For a while it sounded like never again a little Zainab or Asma will face what they had. However, it did not last long and it was not meant to either. The kind of absolute reversal of the culture of ignorance we need requires far more than a few days of media hype and candlelight vigils. One aspect of things to consider is that there are a very few organizations working to gather the data on human rights violations against women. Other than these non-profit organizations, the main sources are the journalists, bloggers and human rights activists who pick up individual cases. However, these human rights defenders often have to go through a lot of harassment and trouble of entirely different kind.

The most recent report of the Human Rights Commission Pakistan has painted another grim picture of the status of women in Pakistan. It should be kept in mind that it only catalogued all the reported cases of abuse and violence against women in the previous year. In their own words, the 5,660 cases reported two months before the year ended are only the tip of the iceberg. It is apparent that we are steadily failing to protect the children and women of this country. The pressing matter of concern is that whether we have already reached to the point where reliance on short-term measures is becoming only counterproductive.

What is yet to be seen is any kind of serious measure taken by the government according to these statistics. The Amnesty International opens the preview of women’s rights in Pakistan by stating that there is a very little legislation done to protect women and the existing laws are not implemented. It has also noted that women of minority groups face another layer of negligence. A couple of years back, the Sindh government attempted to make a feeble front against enforced conversion of local Hindu girls. The bill never saw the light of the day in the governor house and that was the end of it. Similar ends were fated for another bill aimed to raise the age of consent to marriage and was blocked in the parliament.

The Amnesty International also reflected gruesome statistics in the profile of Pakistan. A little less than a hundred women were murdered in the name of honour in the northwest of Pakistan. All these crimes were committed by none other than immediate male relatives and family members. A clear majority of the cases are still waiting for fair trials and a due process of law. The government indeed implemented a law against these crimes in the year 2016. However, a loophole that allowed the cases to be reviewed with the lens of “honour”, the culprits end up getting a far lesser sentence than they would for outright murder in cold blood. Several other outdated laws that are still operated in the country, let the families forgive the crimes in exchange of blood money, if nothing else works in the favour of the accused. As most are aware of the pains of delayed justice, a few decide to opt for alternative speedy means. The so called jirgas and punjayats still operate throughout the county, despite strict laws. They often give verdicts that pave the way for extreme brutalities. Almost all victims remain to be the women, even when the crimes were committed by the male family members.

One might think that the almost stable political system, pro-women legislation and women rising to the seat of the leader of the opposition in senate show that things are better. We’ve had a woman prime minister twice and many veteran women politicians take part in the traditional politics. Top universities of Pakistan are filled with determined women from faculties to classrooms in every discipline. However, it is still hard for an average girl to go about her day inside as well outside the confines of her home. Just a couple of days ago, three female students were injured after their own uncle threw acid on their faces. They were just waiting to catch the bus to the university. Any woman who goes outside, has to face layers of threats that takes immense courage and bravery to battle. In order to really empower the daughters of the land of pure, our sons need to be brought up to play an active role in this movement that is not only a matter of dignity but survival of this country in the future.

 

The author writes on the social issues of Pakistan.

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