Stop violence against women

Pakistan is ranked 6th most dangerous country in the world for women

What happened with a woman on the evening of 14th August at Greater Allama Iqbal Park in the middle of Lahore in the presence of thousands of people was shocking? The woman was publicly humiliated, abused, assaulted; manhandled and groped for hours.

The video clips of this gruesome crime circling around on the social media is enough to show that how we have brutalised our society. How disgusting and sick is it that hundreds of men are molesting a helpless woman for hours just for their pleasure? How low we can further fell? 

The sick and disgusting criminal behaviour and act of nearly 400 men is more than enough to hang our heads in shame. And I don’t know how many times we have to hang our heads in shame.

Even more shocking and disgusting are the arguments to defend such criminal acts. Instead of condemning such criminal acts of abuse, rape, harassment against women, some people continue to blame the victims.

They raise questions on the clothes, character and appearance of victims. If the clothes and appearance are main reasons then why small girls and boys are being molested and raped. The sexual violence against children is also on the rise. 

Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights. Occurring in public and private places, it has many forms, ranging from domestic and intimate partner violence to sexual harassment and assault, trafficking, sexual violence and gender-related killing.

The violence against women in Pakistan has been on the rise. In the absence of rule of law and will to bring the sex predators to justice, the sex crimes continue to rise. The police, prosecution and judiciary need to show the will and determination to punish the criminals who commit crimes against women and children.    

According to statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women's rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases of honour crime was registered. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period.

According to media reports, more than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017. Conviction rates, meanwhile, remain low, with the accused in just 2.5% of all reported cases ending up being convicted by the courts.

Every time a horrifying account of abuse, rape, torture or killing of a woman comes to the light, we hope that this will be last time that such a crime committed against woman.

We strongly react and show our anger after every such crime for a while and hope that one time anger and strong reaction will be enough to change the situation. But we are reminded after every month that we were wrong. Nothing really has changed on the ground.

Many women in our country continue to face abuse, violence, discrimination and sexual harassment. Every gruesome crime committed against women in our country reminds us that many of our women are not safe and we are not doing enough to make our society a better place for women. It’s not seems our priority.

Pakistan was ranked 153rd out of 156 nations by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index; it placed 151 out of 153 in 2020. In a Thomas Reuters Foundation poll in 2018, Pakistan was ranked as the sixth-most dangerous country for women.

We haven't fully realised the magnitude of the problem. We are a patriarchal society in which male dominates. From the decisions of marriages to their education is made by the male members of the family.

They raise questions on the clothes, character and appearance of victims. They try to divert our attention from the real issues. The real issue is the medieval feudal and tribal traditions and values and socio-economic structures. We continue to impose reactionary feudal and tribal traditions and customs on the name of religion and social values.

The social conservative elements of our society declare every criticism on the status of women and demand to improve the situation as an attack on our social and religious values. They declare every progressive demand, law and reform to empower and protect women as an assault on social, cultural and religious values.

The lack of education, awareness, poverty, and rampant misogyny in the country could be blamed. . However, the recent surge in crime against women also points a finger at the complicity of the state for its inability, or even a lack of desire, to protect women.

We strongly react and show our anger after every such crime for a while and hope that one time anger and strong reaction will be enough to change the situation. But we are reminded after every month that we were wrong. Nothing really has changed on the ground.

We need a sustained movement to put pressure on the government to take measures and steps to make Pakistan a much safer place for our women. One time reaction is not enough to generate consistent pressure.

The condemnation on the part of political parties is not enough. They must make women rights as part of their political narratives. The media also has an important role to play not only spreading awareness but also reminding the rulers to take practical steps to improve the situation.

We have made many laws for the protection of women in last two decades but clearly lack the will and determination to implement these laws. Our social norms, medieval traditions and feudal and tribal culture also create hurdles in the implementation of these laws with true spirit. The laws alone are not going to make a big difference.

We need to educate our young men and boys at homes, schools and workplaces about the women rights. They need to educate that women is not inferior but equal human beings. They deserve respect and fair treatment not only as sisters, mothers and daughters but as women. We need to educate our young men and boys how to behave in public places in the presence of women.

The parents just not keep eye on their daughters but also on their sons. Parents and teachers can play an important role in spreading the awareness and education. They must realise that they have to play a role in changing our general attitude and behaviour towards women. 

The government and media should initiate campaigns to educate our young people, teachers and parents about women rights and social relations within our social values and norms. The low cultural level is another problem that needs to be addressed. We need to provide more cultural, entertainment and sports facilities to our young people so they can engage in healthy activities.  

We need to adopt a zero tolerance policy on the crimes against women. We need serious reforms in our police and judicial system. Our police, prosecution and lower judiciary is failing our women.

                                                              Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor                             

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