Time to stand up and say NO!
By Noreen Haider
“It was around six in the morning. I go out of the house everyday at about the same time to make breakfast for my father at the brick kiln. I don’t know where they were hiding , all I know is that as I walked away from my door, two men grabbed me by my neck and started to strangle me. They were hurling obscenities and this is how I recognized them. I couldn’t breathe, everything went dark and then a red hot sharp pain sliced through my face. It seemed as my face was put on fire. I don’t remember anything after that”, says Fazeelat in her first statement to police investigation officer after regaining consciousness on the hospital bed in Kasur.
On 28th October 2009, nineteen year old Fazeelat was attacked by two men both desirous of her hand in marriage and on being turned down by her family decided to teach her a lesson. Amanat and Sher Muhammad of Fazal Key village in district Kasur attacked Fazeelat around dawn near her home and cut both her ears and nose before escaping, leaving her in a pool of blood. Fazeelat’s mother could not sustain the trauma of seeing the state of her injured daughter and died of cardiac arrest.
On the same date in Thana Thikri wala chak 58 JB a mehboob Alam brutally beat his wife Kausar on a petty issue, critically injuring her and crushing her nose.
In another part of Punjab on the same date, in Chak 230 on the outskirts of District Jhang Hifazat Khan shot his real sister Nazia Bibi on suspicion and threw her dead body in River Chanab. In Moza Ali Pur Sajjad and Iftikhar killed Zarina Bibi by slicing her up with a hatchet and cutting her body into small pieces. They too were suspicious about her character. In Moza Mokhiana , Thana Jhang Faraz shot his real sister Saima Bibi dead, again on suspicion.
In Faisalabad two men threw acid on the face of a girl, injuring her critically and mutilating her for life, as revenge for a turned down marriage proposal.
In the wee hours of the morning on the same date in Gujranwala a man killed his wife, mother of five girls and a boy and chopped off her nose, hands and ears. All the children were home and saw the mutilated body of their mother.
In Sialkot Uzma Jabeen was killed by multiple gun shots by her brother Muhammad Shahbaz as she was paying a visit to the grave of her parents.
On 27th September in Sheikhupura, the dead body of five year old Daman Zahra daughter of Syed Zia Ul Haq was found in an empty plot near her house. She was raped and later strangled to death.
This is not an annual report of the incidences of violence against women of the past year. These gory incidences have happened in forty eight hours in Punjab and these are not all. There are literally hundreds of cases of rape, kidnapping and violence against women that go unreported every single day in our country. This insanity has got to stop.
Violence against women is not a new phenomenon in our part of the world but it was undoubtedly none other than Zia Ul Haq who took it to new heights. The Hadood ordinance – one of the vilest acts against humanity ever done in this unfortunate country- institutionalized violence against women and made it legal if not actually giving sanctity of a religious obligation to it.
The dictator is long dead and his evil anti human ordinance almost revoked, but the brutality against the women has not lessened. In fact it has increased. The Taliban gave new dimensions to violence against women. Although their brutality heavily laced with stupidity reached proverbial levels but their brethren in other parts of the country match their chauvinism easily and are not far behind. It was last year that the case of brutal killing of women, others attacked by killer dogs and then being buried alive by their own family men came to the surface in Nasirabad District of Baluchistan & Sindh. How they were hunted and killed by ferocious men who must have great deal in common with their hunter dogs is beyond the imagination of an ordinary mortal.
The HRCP 2008 gives the latest figures of 1,210 reported cases of women killed all over the country including 612 for “honour”. Over a thousand harassed, three hundred and fifty reported cases of rape, 45 gang raped and 13 were stripped,138 injured and 38 killed by burning. There have been 185 cases of amputations. Only in last two months 122 cases of burning of women have been reported in Punjab alone.
But whether its Punjab or NWFP or Balochistan and Sindh, the causes of violence against women are deep rooted in her very low status in society and her multiple vulnerabilities. Only two percent of Pakistani women participate in the formal sector of employment. Ninety-three percent of rural women and seventy-seven percent of urban women are illiterate. Strict family, tribal and traditional and patriarchal system dictates that women are the property of male family members. This commodification of women is the main factor contributing to violence against her. As long as men believe woman to be their property, they will continue to feel that they can do as they please with her.
It is insane that marrying without the consent of family is still the cause of countless murders of women, often by their own family. Sadly it hardly matters how ill-matched or unhappy the marriage arranged by the family may be. The society accepts that unhappiness as a norm and endorses it completely. In fact the society even attaches a certain reverence to the unhappily married women who have suffered long at the hands of husbands and in-laws but has been “noble” enough not to complain or tried to get out of a horrible marriage and has suffered quietly. Divorce is still believed to be a social stigma.
Approximately seventy-percent to ninety-percent of Pakistani women are subjected to domestic violence, murder, rape, spousal abuse including marital rape, acid attacks, and being burned by family members. A rape occurs in Pakistan every two hours with one in every 12,500 women being victims of rape. Five women per day are killed and two women per day in the region of Punjab alone are kidnapped. And these are only the reported cases.
Women in Pakistan continue to be victims of this senseless violence. It is ultimately the responsibility of the Pakistani government to protect women and to prosecute those who commit these horrible atrocities. Instead, perpetrators of violence against women are provided with impunity by Pakistan’s society, laws and judicial system and the government. Pakistani women are left with little, if any, protection from violence and discrimination. In addition to Pakistani laws being discriminatory, the judicial system condones and exacerbates the problem by failing to view violence against women as a serious violation of women’s human rights. The judicial system, including police officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judicial medical examiners and judges, is plagued by gender bias. This bias is reflected in the number of violent crimes against women that go unpunished, let alone investigated.
Our regressive, illiterate society has no trouble accepting the self proclaimed right of its men to kill, maim or torture women without even the slightest remorse. The most horrible thing is not that they have gone scot free and escaped the law but the fact that they are honorable members of society and people have no qualms in interacting with them at all.
The time has come to stand up and say NO to violence against women. Unless the society and the people of this country decide to reject wife bashers, killers of wives, daughters and sisters in the name of “honour” and tradition the senseless circle of violence will not end. We all have to consciously decide to socially boycott the people who commit acts of violence against women and consider it an acceptable norm. We must not look the other way when we see violence being committed against women in our families and neighborhoods. It is not anyone’s personal affair to abuse a woman, whether she is his wife, sister or daughter. There should be strict laws against all forms of abuse and the government should establish new institutions like rescue services for prompt response for distress calls even in case of domestic violence.
It is also time that political leadership, lawyers, civil society, people of this country should start another movement. A movement for the elimination of all violence against women in all shapes and forms at all levels. The political leadership has a huge responsibility of steering this nation out of its regressive and degenerating state. The state must ensure the protection and well being of all its citizens and the government must deliver its responsibility towards the rights of women.
This country can never have any hope for the future if the society continues to regard women as second rate citizens to be exploited mercilessly.
Lets have a Change – please.