Violence against women in Gilgit-Baltistan

Amina Khan

The attack on Malala, a 14 year old advocate of female education, made everyone realize how violent and intolerant a segment of our society has become. The reaction to the attack, however, was pleasing and robust. The nation, at least, is not completely sleeping. It was a treat for the eyes to see images of Malala making headlines in national and regional media, on social networks and on different discussion forums. Vast majority of the people of Pakistan condemned the cowardly attack and supported Malala’s stand against anti-education, obscurantist, forces.

While appreciating the reaction to the Malala episode, we also need to take a deep gaze into our society, to see if it, in reality, has become true supporter of women rights. The answer is not very encouraging, I am afraid. Not even in a small region, like Gilgit-Baltistan. Almost every other day there are headlines in newspapers about women “committing suicide”, “being killed” and women being subjected to torture!

These acts of violence are not committed by the gun-toting Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the Malala attack, but ordinary people who live among us, in our cities, village, neighborhoods and even inside our homes, who may share the same violent, intolerant and sick mentality.

Despite of living in the 21st century, our society, at large, is still failing to protect women from domestic violence, forced marriages, rape and harassment at the Workplace. We are not only failed by our government and law enforcers, but also by our religious and social leaders.

Many women who are killed and abused are by their own family members never get justice because in connivance with law enforcers and, in many cases, the media, the powerful families successfully put the cases under carpet, declaring them to be “suicides”. In many cases the perpetrators of these murders use the media for character assassination of the victims, to cowardly justify their heinous crimes against humanity. In many cases, the sick minded people use the garb of religion to hide their crimes, calling the murders “honor killing”.

When I look at our beloved prophet’s teachings, I find that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was probably the greatest champion of women’s rights in his time and context. He gave us, and advocated, equal rights for women, education for women, right to have share in property, right to integrity and honor for women, when the society 1400 plus years ago was not very supportive of the female. How, then, can anyone use the name of religion to justify nonsensical violence against women, while claiming to be a Muslim?

The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that I know supported his wife Khadija (RA) in business enterprises, respected her and loved her. She was the first person with whom the holy prophet shared the details of his first encounter with Archangel Gabriel, at the cave of Hira. He knew that Khadija would be able to help him and give him solace, as she was a strong woman of intellect, insights and wisdom.

We may also look at the life of Hazrat Fatima (RA), the holy prophet’s daughter.  The prophet’s love for his daughter is an example for all parents of the world. The holy prophet sought Hazrat Fatima’s consent, when getting her married to one of the best men of his times and the prophet’s most beloved brother, Hazrat Ali (AS).

Despite of knowing all these illustrious examples from the life of our holy prophet, we have failed to give the women of our society the respect and opportunities they deserve, while trumpeting our allegiance to Islam and justice.

Whether it is the case of the young, newly married, Shagufta Anum’s alleged murder, the proven rape and murder of Nurse Shabana Akhtar, the axing-to-death of a woman by her husband in Gahkuch, or the murder of a woman by her relatives in Gilgit city, or the mysterious “suicides” and “accidental deaths” of women in Hunza valley, Skardu, Ghangche, Astore and Diamer, the examples of our society’s failure to honor the womenfolk are many in numbers and horrifying. Let’s not forget that a very large number of the stories or torture and murder are buried with charred bodies, having broken bones and missing body parts.

The sad part is, these crimes are not only committed by men but women also. In the case of Nurse Shabana Akhtar, the female warden of her hostel was sentenced along with her male accomplices for murdering her.  There are many women who are involved in abusing their daughters in law. They use them as domestic laborers, torturing them physically, verbally, emotionally, mentally, financially and spiritually, by imposing their own religious views on theme. In many cases they are involved in the crimes, but they get away with it because they know they are protected.

Gilgit-Baltistan, in some cases, is the worst place for women where you cannot get outside your house without being followed or questioned by some random guy. To counter this absurdity, the women of 25 years of age are accompanied by 10 year old boys, as “custodians” and “protectors”. All of this is done to “protect us”, as if there are wild beasts roaming around in our societies, who would pounce on you and tear you apart in no time.

Domestic violence, in many cases accepted as a norm, is prevalent in Gilgit -Baltistan at an alarming rate. Our society needs to realize that if we want to protect our women, we will have to enact strong laws, besides providing safety and support for the women and girls who are being abused.

Our society needs to move beyond the rhetoric of “we respect our women”, “we honour our women”, quoting examples from the lives of the religious figures, because for all practical reasons, we are not following what is taught in the scripture, or what was practiced by the leaders of our faith. We need to act more, instead of talking more.

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  1. Congratulation Amina Khan – a very good written article – many people – special male – should read this and think about inshallah
    Continue your work in this quality please.

  2. A good read, well executed and analysed article highlighting the miseries of women in G-B. often we ignore our own area’s situation regarding gender issues and usually look out to the national or international scenario, but when we ponder on our lives we find that our situation is not better from any other part of Pakistan, whether in family structure or community level women face discrimination,and subjugation. GB women are still fighting for their basic rights

  3. Amina as you have described that females are also involved in this violence. Islam teaches us to respect one another. Every society has pious and wicked people whether those are male or female. The Islamic teaching in real sense and education are the only key instruments that reduces these evils of society. If all males and females realized their responsibility and relations as such spouses, mothers, mother -in-laws,daughter -in -laws and father in laws they would never kill one another. we all need to reflect on our actions. The evil where ever it is smelt need to reduce if not eliminated legally or socially. Except Diamer district the emphasis has been laid on female education in all remaining 6 districts. For an example we are facilitating 24 female schools in Nagar and no single school is there for males from our side. It means efforts are being made to make balance in the society through embarking education.The females also needs to be conscious to select the life partner. In teen age though it is difficult but the senior educated females can play their role as mentor in such cases. In Holy Quran it has clearly remarked that spouses are like dresses of each other. But the question is to what extent they are honouring each other and following the instructions of Islam.I have witnessed that some wives have also killed their husbands as well. The fault is not with gender it is due to ignorance and ill intention of individuals ,whether those are male or female. At the end I would say the cruelty and injustice from any side should be discouraged and condemn.

  4. I agree with your points high-lightened in this literally piece, society is interdependent, no one independent entirely, so we have to accept philosophy of respect, on gender matter we should not discuss one side, other side need a care too..this is happening….. indicators indicates..

  5. i agree with Ali Mehr that women are also culprits in keeping other women down, They do not support each other as in-laws. They plot against each other and spread gossip against other women. So we cannot blame just men. Women need to clean up their act too,

  6. This is the first time, I happened to go through the Pamir Times owing to a twit of Pamir Times on Twitter regarding this article with title “Violence against women in Gilgit-Baltistan” that got my attention without my attention.
    In compliance to the same, having gone through this article, I found my self, left with no other option but giving ovation and hail Amina Khan for her impressive rhetorical feat. Amina Khan has done a great job by unveiling the eyesore,soul-searing incidents and the darker side of our society. I request all the readers must imply this great message of Amina Khan besides demanding our law enforcing regencies to lay down a marker against the assailants on the name of honor killing. Once again Thumbs up,Caps off,Hats down to Amina Khan for your this masterpiece!
    Muhammad Sohail

  7. Very true Amna khan. it seems that we are living in the modern era with having brain of stone . what i am thinking is that the Govt of Pakistan should take notice of these case you mentioned above and and give punishment to the criminals. women empowerment is too vital, as we know well that the bird cant fly with one wing likewise the society can not be run with out the mutual understanding of men and women.

  8. Dear Amina you have written one of the best articles I can ever imagine. I must say the only thing to bring a change in any society is to work on bringing the right reforms according to the need of the ERA. Right now we the people of Pakistan are suppose to impart quality education in every individual of our country. Its one of the basic needs which we cannot deny. The well educated societies never act like that what have you mentioned in your article. If we talk about the dark ages in Europe, they were more like us but today we should learn from them and should ask for their help to accomplish a new society in this part of the world. Believe me “Honor killing” is one of the heinous acts, its all about interfering in others personal space. Lots of sin is going on and this society needs confession and repentance. And I am hopeful one day people like you will play a vital role to bring a holistic changes in our society. Lets work together for the betterment of our country and we should do our best and insert our part otherwise each one of us will be accountable to the Creator.

    Hamid Hussain
    Chalt Nagar

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