Redefining Justice: Taking Stand for Women’s Rights in Gilgit-Baltistan

Plato, in ‘Republic’, defines justice as the harmony of the soul in the context of an ideal state where each fulfils their societal roles for the collective good. In the modern nation-state concept, political entities are characterized by sovereign governments marked by common culture, language, history, ethnicity and defined territory. Every nation is characterized by its system and how it establishes a system that can cherish its population, irrespective of gender, race, religion, or origin.

Every nation is at a crossroads in the 21st century, the world over! The last three centuries have witnessed crucial human-provoked rational movements that include the American Revolutions, the French revolutions and many other movements including in recent history Arab Spring where the human race rationally demanded equality, liberty and fraternity.

Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is Pakistan’s northernmost region where a very significant segment of society, i.e., women, has been subject to inequalities and social and domestic violence.

Women in Gilgit-Baltistan are heroic, undaunted and vibrant for seeking their due rights and raising their unheard voices at all forums but unless the system of justice for women is redefined and elucidated, women can’t come to the front, move ahead and join hands with men on equal footings, like developed nations!

Gilgit-Baltistan’s population is 2 million. Female literacy rate in the region has been recorded at 41% which is far less than male literacy rate of about 66%, according to the Education Department of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Justice for women must be exercised by facilitating all incentives through governmental structures, as well as non-governmental support, to uplift women of G-B, enabling them to step forward and contribute to establishing a society based on gender equality and equal opportunities and privileges for all, especially women. They have endured domestic violence and social injustice, and it is imperative that women are made aware of these issues and that they are addressed through proper justice and fair play. Women should not be discouraged from claiming their rights and should be provided with a secure environment to voice their concerns. In this regard, the doors of justice must be open 24/7 to hear women, and the government must ensure that justice is delivered to all women promptly, without resorting to delay tactics or fraud.

Recently, two stories of injustice and grave women’s rights violations have been reported in GB. In one case, a 13-year-old teenage girl named ‘Falak Noor” was abducted, per her father, and married off. The  case came to the surface the child’s father Sakhi Ahmed, a daily-wager labourer, filed FIR No. 10/24 under section 364-A PPC at police station Danyore, Gilgit. The father accuses the police of bribery and protecting the culprits.

Falak has been missing since January 20, 2024. A social media video surfaced in the aftermaths of FIR and the news went viral on local and national media, in which Falak reportedly claimed that she was happy and had married Fareed Alam, in Mansehra, KPK, willingly,

However, discrepancies in her age emerged after the Nikah Nama stated that she was 16 years of age, aided by a “medical certificate” issued by a local clinic in Mansehra. Form “B”, and birth certificate, presented by her father and lawyers, however, state that is 12.7 (13 years) old. The child’s father said that the statement issued by Falak Noor was under duress and held on legal significance.

Meanwihile, Fareed, claiming to be Falak’s husband, obtained interim bail from the Abbottabad Bench of Peshawar High Court until the 6th of April 2024. According to the law of Pakistan, the minimum marriageable age for females is 16 while for man is 18.

After hearing the case, the G-B Chief Court ordered police to produce Falak Noor in Court before April 2, but the question arises over the legitimacy of the court’s order as under the G-B 2018 order in which article 77 (2) says, ‘The direction or decree issued by G-B Supreme Appellate Court and Chief Court of G-B will not be enforceable in rest of the country’. But since the alleged crime was committed in Gilgit, the Police has promised to the court to bring the child and produce her before the court.

Another case is the mysterious death of Inara, an 18-year-old girl whose body was found on the riverside in Danyore, Gilgit, after she went missing almost three weeks ago in March 2024. Local activists and the victim’s family have demanded the establishment of a JIT and probe into the matter with full transparency and enforcement of law to deliver justice to the deceased’s family in due time.

Both of these cases are intolerable and reflect how women suffer and how their voices are unheard. These two incidents are only the tip of the ice-berg, so to say, as there are numerous cases of sexual and physical violence against women and girls, and abduction of girls and women.

What is baffling is the lackluster approach of the Police and the judigicary in these matters. These two incidents need to be treated as test cases. All of us should take a stand for protection of the life and honor of the women and girls across Gilgit-Baltistan.

If the barriers to women’s rights are not addressed and society and state don’t hear their legitimate voices, then the system will reflect no change but a complete state of anarchy and social injustice will ensure. In such a scenario, suppressing women will remain a normal thing while protecting culprits will become the norm, indicating how our system is outdated and brutal towards victims or justice seeker.

The contributor is a student of International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Email: naveedakhtar1261@gmail.com

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