Plight Of Women: Lack Of Political Will Leaves Half Our Population Suffering

Plight Of Women: Lack Of Political Will Leaves Half Our Population Suffering
When a video emerged on Twitter that featured a girl—a medical student from Faisalabad— being tortured, beaten, harassed and sexually assaulted by an influential businessman and his daughter for not accepting the man's proposal, there was a wrathful expression of outrage at the barbaric incident by the public on social media.

In fact, such barbarities have become quite the norm in Pakistan. Women have become the general victims of masculine violence, irrespective of their faith, creed and colour. Hardly a day passes without a case of a woman being maltreated getting the attention of the general public on social media. While violence against women is prevalent in Pakistani society, only those cases are listened to that make their way to social media platforms. Other cases are easily pushed under the rug, and thus those victims of sexual violence keep on suffering only because their cases were unable to land on social media platforms.

Sadly, the inhumane and beastly treatment meted out to the women of Pakistan by men is deeply disturbing and appalling in nature. Forced marriages, rapes, harassment and quite a lot more are, unfortunately, in the sealed and unchanging fate of Pakistani women. In Pakistan, it has become very normal for women to be treated terribly as if they are the lesser children of God and not entitled to equal and better treatment.

In all kinds of environments, women are facing a discriminatory attitude from the men in Pakistan. Whether it is in homes or at work stations, the male gaze is always sexual towards them, as if the women are objects of sexual gratification. In no way are women considered the same human beings as are the men in Pakistan. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report 2022, Pakistan has scored the second worst country on the Global Gender Gap Index, leaving only Afghanistan behind.

Domestic violence at the hands of husbands is not so new for the women of Pakistan. What is astonishing is that compliance and obedience are considered virtuous in women even after receiving constant beating sessions from their husbands. In fact, domestic violence has the backing of religion, which likens an obedient and submissive wife to a paragon of virtue and piety, while that which defies and wants to be treated equally is termed as wicked and sinful.

One may ask: where the fundamental law of a society not only allows but endorses domestic violence, can there be any hope of improved life for women? There are other such questions that aim at the foundations of our society, but the oppressiveness is so stiff that one can't break through and hold someone and some norms responsible.

As per the recent report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), at least 11 rape cases are reported daily, with over 22,000 such incidents reported to the police between 2015 and 2021. Remember that these estimates are just the tip of an iceberg. A huge number of such cases go unreported, either due to victims' fear of being revenged upon by those men against whom they are reported, or the dread of losing reputation by making such cases public. This is truly alarming. Our women are not safe. It could be the general fear in every woman's heart that when going out of her home she may get sexually assaulted.

Perhaps this atmosphere of sexual predation against women could have been improved and women given some safety through legislation, only if our lawmakers had found some respite from indulging in political machinations, intrigues and all sorts of political filth.

But as it is, the political figures do not find this issue of any interest if it would not increase their wealth and political power. Also, when any law related to violence against women is made, it falls short of enforcement, as such laws offend the masculine perspective which is instinctively predatory.

This underlines the importance of a large-scale induction of women into the legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies, as their presence there would ensure them protection from daily harassment at the hands of men. Then we would be capable not only of formulating women-friendly laws but also of executing them with full force.

One doesn't need to look far to find evidence of brutalities against women where the state institutions impede the punishment process of culprits. Noor Mukadam's case is one of the many in which justice got delayed due to institutional duplicity. Her murderer is still alive, although he had been awarded a death sentence in February. In late July, there were calls made by Noor's parents and her activists to the judiciary to expedite the death sentence award to the murderer, but still nothing concrete has come out of it. And this case is the most publicised one. So, imagine if a case having this much notoriety has not reached a conclusion yet, what of those cases which are not even reported?

The worrying increase in violence against women on a daily basis calls for the sincere attention of government and all the other stakeholders to these rapidly multiplying and terrifying cases of sexual violence against women. Pakistani women can't live in such a fearful environment where they can't be even sure about their physical safety. They are also entitled to the same kind of freedom and liberties as exercised by Pakistani men. They have a right over their bodies, and it is sacred and rigidly inviolable—in case of any violation of which the violator should be handed severe punishment.

Osama Ahmad is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist and researcher. He writes about
democracy, human rights, regional security, geopolitics, organized crime, technology, gender
disparities, political violence, militancy, conflict and post-conflict, climate change, and ethnic
nationalism. His works have been published by The New Humanitarian, The Jamestown
Foundation, The Contrapuntal, FairPlanet, South Asian Voices, The Express Tribune, and
The News on Sunday. He tweets at @OsamaAhmad432.