This March 8, most civil society organisations and women development departments of provincial and federal governments would hold seminars, walks, etc., inviting the world’s attention towards miseries of women. The events will be well attended by women from well-off and so-called liberal families. Yet no good or comfort comes to the suppressed and aggrieved segment of poor women, especially those who live in rural areas. 

These are difficult times for women in Pakistan as the country ranks 106th out of 137 on the Gender related Development Index and 66th out of 75 on the Gender Empowerment Measurement Index. Despite religious, constitutional and legal rights, women’s position in Pakistani society is weak. The most unfortunate events are rather coming to the fore which suggest even harder time for the women especially girls in our society. The recent event of Jacobabad, where reportedly two little girls have been given in ‘wani’ (retribution) by a local Jirga. This is not first time that child girls or a woman has been given in wani by parents to their opponent group rather these incidents routinely take place in rural life but are reported rarely. Another atrocity meted out to women which almost gone unnoticed even by civil society is giving the younger girls in marriages to older men in lieu of money by their parents. This practice is like to take away freedom of life from the women given in marriages against their wishes and aspirations. 

When come to the violence, the women in our society are subjected to most extreme forms of violence and exclusion. Incidents of honour killing, rape, fire and acid burning, dowry-abuse, trafficking are gruesome and frequent. Women’s access to education, employment, health, property and justice had been severely restricted for years. With the rise in extremism, women’s right to mobility has reduced sharply in many parts of the country. These are major contributory in keeping the women backward in our society as all freedom the nature has bestowed with every human-being has been taken away from the women in the pretext of cultural and traditional values. 

On the front of women’s health and education, Pakistan has one of the lowest rates for girl child survival, maternal safety, literacy and employment among women because of prolonged discrimination and injustice. Involvement of men in highlighting these issues remains low and is, therefore, a contributory factor to the deteriorating situation regarding gender equality, empowerment and violence against women in Pakistan. 

In spite of claims for bringing protective law for the rights of women and lodging FIRs against influential holding Jirga’s against women in parts of Sindh, Balochistan and southern Punjab, neither the police nor the government seems to be serious in containing illegal and immoral practices of the Jirga system. This is now high time the government must ensure universal education for the girl child by opening up girl’s school at every village; to ensure enforcement of relevant laws protecting women against discrimination; and to ban of Jirga system and also create awareness about right of every woman to live a respectable and free life at par with a man. This can only ensure a positive progress in our society else we are destined to remain backward for another hundred years to come. 

ABDUL SAMAD CHANNA,  

Karachi, February 28.