By Urooj Alnoor
“She has got a burnt face”, cried a girl while pointing at Zainab.
The statement made Zainab remember the bitter tragedy that she had been through a few months back. Being an acid attack victim, Zainab knew she had to get used to the bullying, unpleasant stares, insensitive comments, and disgusted looks; a common manner in which many members of the society react on sight of an acid victim.
The Pakistanis have always been intolerant in nature. Instead of pondering on a situation facing them, they prefer to remain eager to offer a knee jerk reaction. This nature of our society has led the system to deteriorate to the core while giving rise to crucial problems such as the one discussed here.
The problem of acid attacks, in Pakistan, is nothing new. Women, as a matter of fact, are believed to be objects by men who regard themselves as the dominant members of the society. This stigmatization of women hence allows men to treat women the way they want. Throwing acid on a women’s face is hence a proof of their power that the men tend to present to the society. There have been acid attack cases, both reported and unreported, in the past that are both heart wrenching and merciless. All because of some petty issues, some Pakistani women were made prey to the attack which left their lives ruined while their cries went unheard.
The majority of the reported cases, however; highlight a very crucial issue that infuriates men to take such a cruel step. The issue is that of rejection in marriage. Since, a very large male sect of our society considers their self-esteem to be their top most priority, therefore; anything done against their honor become intolerant. Hence, rejection by a woman in marriage becomes a very humiliating situation for such men who then start seeing crimes, such as acid attacks, as solutions to cope with the disgrace caused.
Many of the acid victims have even claimed their relatives to be the cause of the tragedy. Similar to the barbaric era, in which the father used to kill his daughters, the trend continues likewise in many parts of Pakistan as well. Daughters are considered to be a burden on the families that possess a conservative view of the society. Raising and securing a girl child is thought to be a very challenging task which many of the parents avoid via killing the girl child inside the womb. The girls who manage to make it to this world are not fortunate either. Many attempts have been regarded to be made by the father, of acid victims, for the sake of eliminating them from the society. Najaf Sultana from Lahore is an example of a girl whose father burnt her, using acid, in her sleep apparently because he did not desire to raise a girl. Najaf Sultana, as a result of the attack, lost her vision together with being abandoned by her family.
Our society has been suffering from this problem since quite long while no major step has been taken to eliminate this cancer. The only possible solution to this problem is that of women empowerment. Rather than portraying women as weak and helpless, the society can reflect their strong side while making men, involved in such brutal crimes, ashamed of their doings.
The world has seen many acid victims who have stood for their rights, in-front of the media while demanding an end to this problem. These women possess the potential to become an inspiration for many others. However; the trend of raising voice, in Pakistan, is quite limited due to certain constraints as posed by the society. Women who try to speak up, for themselves, are forced to keep quiet, which is the only reason why Pakistan is this far from providing women their rights. Though it’s the responsibility of the government to secure the rights of its citizens, however; in case if the government fails from doing so, the citizens are required to stand up for the cause. As J.K. Rowling beautifully summons the concept in her quote, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” Therefore, until women themselves are not going to unite for the sake of raising their voice, without hesitation, against the issue, no possible change could be brought. In this regards, the work that Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has been doing is commendable and praise worthy.
Furthermore, it is also extremely important for the educated sector of the society to support these women in their efforts. One can simply not continue trying until they are provided the motivation they require to move ahead. Therefore; rather than giving an acid victim a disgusted look, it’s the responsibility of the members of the society to appreciate them for their strength and motivate them to change the lives of others who have been a target for the same.