In September, the torture and rape incident of a mother in front of her three children highlighted the moral and administrative weakness of Pakistani society. The incident took place on the road connecting Lahore to Sargodha. The incidents of women violence and rape are not new in the country as according to Lahore police, 73 cases of rape were registered in the first 60 days of 2020. From these statistics, it is easy to understand that the number of unreported cases in the country must be much higher. The motorway abuse case is a unique event of its kind, especially from two angles. First, the mother was raped in front of her three innocent children. Second, before this incident, the victim sought help from law enforcement agencies, whose sloppy response contributed towards this tragedy.

There is no doubt that the patriarchal mindset—considering women weak and vulnerable—is responsible for the rapid increase in crimes against women. Nevertheless, apart from this, there are many other factors responsible for encouraging such cruelties against females. First is the training of a male or a female child by their mother. She is the first person with whom a child interacts frequently since birth. Thus, he/she adopts the mother’s thoughts, values, and responses, which later reflect in his/her personality through various gestures and actions. Thus, the discrimination between a son and a daughter by parents especially mothers permanently sets their pattern for future lives and families. Now is the time to hold mothers responsible for their gender discriminatory training and attitudes, which treat sons with more privileges than their daughters. Sons are taught that they are physically, mentally, and socially superior; while the daughters are persuaded to remain silent, patient, and forgiving towards all injustices. Such training in the long run encourages the general oppression of women in the hands of men. Sadly, such an attitude has gradually become a norm in our society, which believes a woman on a street, is a weak and vulnerable creature and thus deserves to be treated roughly and indecently. This becomes a main cause of the incidence of street abuse and harassment.

Another important reason is the misinterpretation of religion, based on the principle of gender discrimination. While highlighting women’s chastity in Islam, the often-cited examples are of the wives of the Prophet, Hazrat Khadija and Hazrat Ayesha. However, while quoting these women, the narrators often overlook decision-making and autonomy as their dominant personality traits. Similarly, while citing the role of women in Islam, the historical sermon of Hazrat Zainab in the court of Yazid is often slightly referred. She was a lady, who not only represented her family but also challenged the oppressor. She was a correct image of a Muslim woman, who despite losing significant male members of the family, would not surrender in front of cruelty and injustice.

The third important aspect is that society has made women symbols of honour, making them believe that they are the sole custodians of the family’s respect. If something goes wrong, it would tarnish the family’s honour. Such expectations burden her in a way that she prefers silence for all atrocities. The motorway violence and rape case happened with a middle-class woman. Therefore, the case was not only registered but also received quick national and international media coverage.

There are a number of women in the country, who are subject to such atrocities daily at home or outside, but the majority of them prefer to bear with silence just because of their underprivileged family background. They neither have the resources nor does the power to register and pursue the cases, which often take years to resolve. Furthermore, they are fearful of losing respect in family and society, in case they informed the police. The fourth important aspect of this debate is the absence of a considerable number of men in rallies and forums on women’s equal rights. Society demands the role of both genders on this issue. Unless men are not part of the women’s rights movement, significant progress is not possible.

Finally, I would like to say that Pakistani society should neither be patriarchal nor matriarchal, but just a humane society, based one forgiveness and respect for all genders. We need a society where a man will not harass a woman because of her gender and choices in life; a society, where women also consider men a part of the greater society, by acknowledging their social and economic pressures. We need a society, where the relationships are structured on the principals of mutual consent, respect, and self-esteem; instead of bullying, harassment and blackmailing.