The International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day, celebrating women’s role in various fields across the world. This year, the UN has decided to celebrate the day with the theme ‘Time to Action to End Violence against Women’.

But when we look into affairs of Pakistan, women’s situation is miserable despite the legislation for the protection of their rights. The World Economic Forum Report 2012 on global gender gap has placed Pakistan with Chad and Yemen where females face the worst gender discrimination. A local NGO reported surge in violence against women in 12 months while newspapers reported 150 incidents of throwing acid on women aging from six months to 45 years the last year.

Every 5th woman in Pakistan faces humiliating attitude and torture from husband, 95% face domestic violence and 97% get no share in their inherited properties. A research shows that around one and half lac per year, women are trafficking from South Asia for prostitution. As per police reports, average one lac women are killed in the name of honour and 550 from every one lac die during delivery.

The miserable situation, in presence of laws especially women protection bill, acid control and crime bill, protection against harassment at workplace bill, law of inheritance and CEDAW convention for which social organisations made long time struggle, clearly describes the challenges facing a Pakistani lady. The incidents of crime against females also need framing of the legislation. No doubt the laws are the woman’s security. The question is why these regulations are ineffective. 

The treatment with women is not different as were in the dark ages. Police attitude and complex judicial system are two main hindrances that stop 90% women for reporting injustice. The questions are why a female life lies in danger zone in a country where a woman served two times as a prime minister does, where government ministries claim working for women welfare and where hundreds of NGOs and lawyers struggle for females’ protection.

All these facts are intertwined with rotten and worn out political, social and economic system in which no process or wish of accountability has ever been longed for. The philosophy of might is right is not only encouraged but also made an inevitable part of life. Nothing could be established succinctly after the independence as to what system should be adopted to run the administrative, cultural and social affairs of the state.

During the last 65 years, experiments have been made apparently in the vast interest of public either on the basis of doctrine of necessity or the parliamentary, presidential, dictatorial and basic democracy as conceived by the foreign power. But as a matter of fact only few groups and individuals prospered through this system and majority of the population remained deprived of basic necessities of life – bread and butter, employment, education, medical facilities, shelter and ever protection to their lives. Besides, they were made to fight on the basis of their religion, race, sect, language and territory.

Corruption, killings, violence, hypocrisy, deception and double standards have become so common in the society that doctrine of showing power and its manifestation is being openly propagated by the highest corridors of power and societies established in streets. This very reason has plagued the society with violence and terrorism. The women who are economically, socially and traditionally dependent on males and have fewer opportunities to education, employment and other facilities, become soft target of male’s violence.

So, they rarely protest against brutality and injustice they are subjected to. On the contrary, they are held responsible for spoiling the reputation and respect of their clan and are considered liable to be condemned and prosecuted.

What other tragedy can happen in this country where her first woman prime minister was assassinated in the daylight and the killers are still at large ever after the lapse of five years. All the people, especially the woman, are suffering from the pains and agony as the elite wants them to keep in and the deprived lot can rarely dare to raise voice against injustice and corruption. When people will exhaust all their energy in earning their bread and butter only, how come they could have any thought as to how their daughters and sisters are living their lives? Preferring vested interests to social issues by the police, courts and political leadership would definitely beget a society in which mothers are committing suicides along with their children and a large number of them are becoming disabled due to prevalent violence in the society. But no FIR is registered against all such incidents and no one is held responsible for it. As the ill luck would have it, the women’s rights are blatantly violated as they are subjected to physical as well as mental torture.

To curb crimes against women, it is essential to change the mindset of ruling class and they must be informed about basic human rights. Access to education, health, shelter and food should be made essential for every individual and similarly no protection is possible without financial stability. Media and civil society should actively perform for the achievement of this purpose.

It is essential to make it clear that several disputes on property distribution later being fixed with honour and criminals get clean chit from the courts in these disputes. They only not freed from courts but also get respectable position in the society to kill a woman in the name of honour. But it is highly condemnable and criminals must be awarded severe punishment. Peace and justice cannot be prevailed in a society without securing women rights.

Human rights respect is a part of Islam but it is regrettable that teachings of Islam are not being followed in the society. Particularly, feudal thinking prevails in case of female rights. Raising voice against discrimination is what we have to do on the women day. Though the government is devising some policies, the speedy work is the need of the hour and all the stake holders should come forward to achieve the task. For the establishment of a better society, we must take practical steps towards sustainable democratic process, provision of speedy justice and end the domestic violence through better legislation and free legal support to women victims of injustice. Establishment of rehabilitation centres for women victims, equal representation of males and females in all walks of life and placement of material about women rights in education curriculum are also necessary measures needed to be adopted. Government administration, social organisations and media should work together to create awareness among the masses about women rights. A joint struggle guarantees the protection of women.

The writer is Working Women Organisation executive director and can be reached through aimawww.brain.net.pk