Pervasive violence against women

The people of Pakistan have to face different problems every day. From rising inflation to the energy crisis, from lawlessness to heightened terrorism, from sectarian violence to religious fundamentalism, the lives of Pakistan’s citizens have become an endless tale of woes. One thing that has remained constant in Pakistani society over the years is the subjugation of women. According to a report by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), there has been an 18 percent increase in crimes against women over a period of one year in the country. These crimes include forced marriages, sexual assaults, honour killings, etc. A society that does not treat its women well is the poorest of all. In the words of Mother Teresa, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” In a patriarchal society like ours, people dread the birth of a daughter. From birth, most girls are made to feel unwanted and a burden on their households. This mindset has to change if we want to progress.

Just the other day, a young female nurse tried to set herself ablaze in front of the Lahore Press Club because the Punjab government was not willing to listen to her complaints against a doctor who was sexually harassing her. Punjab Health Secretary finally took notice of her complaint after a report of this incident was published in this paper. In a civilised country, a woman would not need to set herself ablaze for the authorities to take notice of sexual harassment. In a separate incident, Rana Zulfiqar, Station House Officer (SHO) of Shadman Police Station assaulted a female curator of the Nairang Art Gallery for wearing a sleeveless shirt. An inquiry has been initiated against the SHO but the incident proves how misogynistic and intolerant our society has become. A police officer felt no shame in beating up a woman and acting like a moral ‘guardian’. This is a perfect example of how our society treats women.

It is hard to believe that we live in the 21st century. It is time for Pakistani society to change these bestial trends and start treating women as equal citizens.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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