Zainab Sarwar Sheikh
Pakistan is no stranger to violence against women. The particularly male-dominated society of our country has almost ensured that female emancipation is not possible at all in the wake of rising female subjugation. Rape, acid attacks, honor killings or forced conversions; you name it, we have it. According to data provided by Madadgar National Helpline Founder Zia Ahmed Awan, at least 370 women were raped while 185 incidents of gang-rape were reported across the country in the year 2013. The same source also verified the fact that more than 1600 women were killed in the Islamic Republic in the same year.
To determine the root-cause of such menaces and crimes against a particular gender is not rocket science. Pakistan’s society is predominantly a male-chauvinistic society in which women have a difficult time surviving. Men can commit and get away with some of the most heinous of crimes whereas women do not enjoy the same amount of luxury. The lack of education and intellectual grooming among societal members has contributed much to this mentality and thus, in turn, leads to female oppression on a large scale.
Acid attacks are also fairly common in Pakistan, unfortunately. According to a local NGO Aurat Foundation, 42 cases of acid attacks have taken place in the country’s most populous province of Punjab, only. Again, the perpetrators of this abysmal offence are mostly males and the victims, women. Acid attacks mainly stem from issues such as failed marriages, rejected marriage proposals, extra-marital affair suspicions, revenge and marriages of choice or property disputes. A poor prosecution rate and out-of-court settlements further ensure that justice is not delayed but denied in Pakistan.
Speakers at the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) earlier this year also revealed the facts that more than 365 cases of forced conversions had taken place in the country last year. Given the fact that an extremist mindset runs the roost in Pakistan, such menaces and social crimes are not surprising at all. Many Hindu girls in interior Sindh are kidnapped and forcibly converted and subsequently prostituted.
In conclusion, such cases of violence and female subjugation in Pakistan are alarming, horrifying and condemnable at the same time. Pakistan must look to where its flaws are and rectify them immediately. Strict legislation against those who orchestrate and commit gang=rapes, acid attacks, forced conversions and any crimes which exploit women, should be adopted. Awareness campaigns that highlight and advance female empowerment should also be promoted, especially in interior Pakistan. Almost a half of Pakistan’s population is comprised of females; hence the need to advocate their humane treatment cannot be understated.
The contributor is a student of IOBM, Karachi.