Chained by gender

Since the beginning of this world, women have had to face numerous problems and have undergone immense struggle. It is the general upbringing of a female in comparison to a male, which hampers her progress and development. Their faculties are directed from their birth to be something that they were never given a right to choose by themselves. The general consensus of our society is that a woman’s metier is to marry and procreate. Breaking these chains of society lie within the domain of feminism.

Feminism is the basic ideology behind ‘women’s rights’ but the ignorant people generally perceive it to be something shallow. According to a renowned feminist, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

There are restrictions on women, of a general nature, which are never faced by the male species. A female’s morality would be questioned if she does the same things that men take for granted. In a society like ours if a man smokes in public, that’s acceptable but if a woman smokes she would be labelled as a “fast” woman. If a man swears, it’s considered macho whereas if a woman swears, everyone is appalled. These are the double standards which are churning the insides of our society.

Stereotyping is built into everything against women. If a woman driver makes a mistake, people will say “a woman can’t drive”, whereas if a male driver goes wrong, nobody will say anything. This is blatant hypocrisy. As the renowned social activist, Clare Boothe Luce, puts it:

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."

I recently visited Lahore Central Jail, regarding a survey on the “Hudood” cases. On interviewing several females, I chanced upon a girl, *Fareeha Nadeem (name has been changed to protect the victim’s identity). She comes from the small town of Pakpatan where she lived with her maamu (maternal uncle), after the death of her parents. This uncle used to sexually molest her; therefore, she decided to leave Pakpatan and came to Lahore in search of her chacha (paternal uncle). With only her uncle’s telephone number and address, written on a piece of paper, she reached the city of Lahore one afternoon. She took off from the lorry adda, and walked bare foot in the scorching heat. She was trying to find some place to seek asylum and help, when she came upon the minarets of the shrine of Syed Ali Hajveri, most commonly known as ‘Daata Darbaar’. She saw food being distributed outside the shrine, so she rushed there to get something for herself, as she was really hungry and hadn't eaten since last morning

She was a young, docile girl who was all alone in an unknown city; terrified of the new surroundings and contemplating about her future. While she was eating, sitting in a corner; reflecting on her tragic past, a woman, named Shahnaz spotted her. She approached Fareeha and asked her if she was in need of any help. Fareeha told her that she was looking for her uncle’s house; upon hearing this news, Shahnaz offered to take her there. They went outside, where Shahnaz asked Yaqoob, a male attendant at Daata Darbaar, to take them to the designated place. On the way, Yaqoob said he needed to pick something from his residence, so they stopped at a hostel in Gulberg. He asked both ladies to accompany him inside so they could refresh themselves.

The atmosphere inside was a bit suspicious, so Fareeha asked Shahnaz that she wanted to leave the place immediately, and would find her uncle’s home by herself. Shahnaz told her not to worry, but when Fareeha protested vehemently, she was hit on her face by Shahnaz, and was told to stay there. She tried to run away and pushed aside Shahnaz, but Yaqoob came and punched her and then she was taken to his room by force, where her hands and feet were tied. Then Yaqoob raped her.

This hostel is known for notorious activities, and a raid took place the same night. Fareeha, who was already in a shocked state after being violated, got extremely scared when the raid took place. She was utterly speechless during the police interview and this led the police to believe that she was guilty. Fareeha was arrested along with other girls and Shahnaz was also taken into custody for bringing in those girls. As we are all fully aware of how corrupt our legal system is, this immoral woman Shahnaz got away without facing any charges; while Fareeha was left there on the charge of adultery (zina).

Her uncle never reported her missing; nobody ever bothered to find out if she was dead or alive. She gave me her chacha’s phone number, and our people contacted him and told him about her whereabouts. He did not show much interest, but said that he would visit her the next day. No one came to visit her the next day, when we followed-up on her condition.

What is the fate of this girl and several others like her? Is being a “woman” considered a sin, as we see most females being deprived of their basic rights? Let us stop this degradation of women; we need to speak up right now. One might think that a small group’s views might not change the world, but do not underestimate the power of constant struggle. In the words of Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."


Sidra said…
I am a Pakistani and I prefer to live in the West...people are amazed that I don't want to live in my homeland, but I feel that sure, people do more 'zina' here but they do it with each other's consent while in Pakistan, men forcibly attacking women is much more common. I went to the bazaar and had my butt slapped by some perverted men...when I told my cousins they said it is a COMMON thing in Pakistan!! Can you believe this?? I thought wearing hijab and covering myself appropriately would save me (because I always hear that these activities are due to women's dress)...but then how come I'm safer in America walking around half naked...while in Pakistan even a full chador gets me assaulted?? Anyway it is a very sick and sad society...some enlightened souls exist but even in my family most men are hypocrites.

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