The past week brought forth the most startling of news one could imagine from the already steady stream of surprises - “12 year old girl beaten to death by father and brother.” The only thing more devastating than the tragedy itself was the cause of it. The young girl, later identified as Aniqa Khalid, was murdered because apparently her “rotis” were not round enough. Not only does this instance signify the prevalent cruelty in Pakistan, it also puts into question the uncertain status of women in our society.

The Pakistani society is plagued with instances of domestic violence: forceful marriages of underage girls, rape cases, and a list of such crimes that is apparently a never-ending one. Sadly, a Pakistani girl’s life is replete with instances of gender discrimination if not the more disturbing accounts of domestic violence. Much of the inequality can be attributed to a long standing gender norms and roles that have dictated the lives of Pakistani women. Even in this day and age, the woman who spends most of her time stranded within the confines of her kitchen earns a status much elevated than that of a woman who is career oriented; the reason being that gender roles surrounding Pakistani woman require her to be a homemaker. Throughout her adolescence she is taught to be passive and submissive. Her conduct must be replicative of the society’s morality; for it is her frail shoulders that the entire society’s morality rests upon. In addition, she must perfect at managing the house while keeping her demeanor overtly shy and decent. Dupatta clad? That calls for bonus points. If all the requirements are spot on, her parents have done a fine job raising her.

On the contrary, a woman who prioritizes her career over family is clearly an abomination. In fact, she is the root of all evil. And if she stays out late at night, God forbid, she could be the reason for the onset of a formidable calamity. These are some of the basic standards that we require our women to live up to. Speaking of bare minimum traits required in a woman, one cannot help but fathom the dress code requirement. She must dress to protect her modesty. Her apparel must not tamper with the minds of innocent men or in such case, must certainly not jeopardize their modesty. A woman who dresses in “provocative” ways indeed “invites” trouble; for the lewd stares were an innocent response to the indecent apparel adorned by these women. In fact, it is precisely what derailed these pious men from the path of righteousness. Hence, the ogling is a natural response and given the circumstances, it is only normal for a man to act in such a way. After all, boys will be boys, no?

Even the minority that does believe in giving due respect to a woman, does so in light of the reasoning that that particular woman is someone else’s sister or wife or daughter. I have been unable to wrap my head around this idea. Are we only meant to respect a woman because she is somehow related to a man? Or because we ourselves would not want any other man to disrespect any woman that we personally know? We must understand that a woman is entitled to respect, not because of her sex, but simply because she is a human. It is her most innate and primal right to get that respect. Her relationship to her husband, father or brother is not reason enough to earn her that respect. Instead, it is her biological make up: she is human and so, worthy of such dignity.

Our society is steeped in a patriarchal system, so much so, that a man’s masculinity can only be warranted if he can exercise control over his woman. Not only is a woman’s subjugation necessary for the society to function, but it must also be made clear that these females are the keeper’s of the society’s honor. In so doing, we not only crush the woman’s dignity but also take away from her, her aspirations, and her dreams. I’m not just referring to aims such as higher education or equal job opportunities, but also an average woman’s everyday freedom. We have excluded them from public spaces; never have I ever seen a woman sitting carelessly under the comfort of a tree in a public place without the presence of her male guardian. Ideas such as women playing street cricket are alien to this society because such ideas are clearly associated only with boys while examples of such marginalization abound.

In short, our society is cursed with some of the worst forms of gender discrimination. While our society so conveniently resides within the illusion of female subjugation, it ascribes ridiculous notions of honor to women. What then results from this is the flustered inflated ego of benighted men that is fed with bouts of misogyny and notions of submission of “weaker sex”. This society clearly requires a strenuous upheaval of these despicable beliefs that have for so long tainted it of patriarchy; striving towards a pro-humane society where cases like that of Aniqa Khalid’s become unheard of.