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The Fault In Our Society

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Our society clearly has double standards. What is worse is that they remain largely unquestioned. But those who do question the double standards pervading our society get labeled pejoratively as “liberals”, “moderns” and “extroverts”, and are considered threats to our so-called civilisation.

And God forbid, if that questioner happens to be a woman! Women who raise questions about our society’s hypocrisies find themselves being bombarded with foul allegations in attempts to silence them. Character assassination is employed as a major tool to make silence an outspoken woman. Thus, we all have to be naïve and pretend to be living in this “perfect” society, because it is far from it.

There is never a shortage of evidence to expose the double standards of our society. Not long ago, before she was brutally murdered, social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch commanded followership of over 28,000 subscribers on YouTube. There were over a million views on her videos. Yet, it seemed as if everyone had their fingers pointed at her for being “characterless” and “inappropriate”. The same people who watched her videos were also the ones who subjected her to such slander.

On the one hand, we labeled her harshly for her videos and on the other, we happily watched all of her videos and, in doing so, encouraged her to make more. Would it be wrong to say that it was we who killed her?

Who can turn his or her eyes away from the blatant hypocrisy involved in the way daughters are raised in our society? Girls are married off at a young age, while it is also a common practice for families to take money in exchange for their daughters. If a woman or girl were to offer her services in exchange for money outside marriage, she automatically becomes the shame of her family. Are the double standards inherent in this too hidden to be noticed? Or do we deliberately ignore them, even though women even keep losing their lives as a result of these?

Then, a large number of families who force women into marrying without their choice when the “perfect rishta” comes along. How somebody could be forced to live their lives with someone they do not approve of, I cannot begin to understand. Men, on the other hand, face no problems in rejecting a rishta they do not like. When issues of incompatibility arise later on in a marriage, the wife is quickly shut up before the society can hear about her problems. Thus, through such cruel suppression, our society is guilty of repeatedly killing its daughters.

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Our society neatly divides its women into “good” and “bad” girls. The latter seems always to be one who has dared to think of herself as being worthy of happiness. Worst of all, a “good” girl can never be sure when she might suddenly be transferred to the “bad” girl category.

Our society is also shaped so that a man can easily go to prostitutes to fulfill his needs while having a wife and daughter at home. Self-correction must be our major concern here, nobody is willing to do that.

Moreover, society provides the circumstances in which cruel and unnatural treatment of women is normalized. The World Health Organization in 1988 made a film about social problems being the reason why preventable and avoidable “medical” causes can lead up to the death of new mothers.

The film was called ‘Why did Mrs. X die?’ It followed the story of a woman who had died in the eighth month of pregnancy due to hemorrhage, or heavy bleeding. The clinic where she died, had put that down as the official cause of death and closed the file.

However, the film explains that Mrs. X died not just from hemorrhage, but social injustice. On the surface, Mrs X’s death may have been due to hemorrhage. But the real causes of her death were much more and far too many:  she was poor and illiterate; she had no say in when to get married and in when and how many times to get pregnant; there were transport problems; there were no trained health workers; the hospital was ill-equipped and the staff was poorly trained and inefficient.

Believe me, every other woman, from Qandeel Baloch to Uzma Khan, and even the sensational Meera, right now is a Mrs X in our society, dying a social death but, ironically, not being responsible for it!

Pakistan is considered as the sixth most dangerous country for women. We live in a country where almost 80% of women go through sexual assaults. Our rates in sexual assault are increasing day by day. Stats in 2019 show that almost 99 cases of sexual assault were registered in 2019, 25 of which were in Kasur and 53 in Sheikhupura. The stats are even more alarming in 2020, with more than 75 cases being registered in Lahore already, including 5 gang rapes.

In another instance recently, the house of Uzma Khan and her sister Huma Khan was barged into and vandalized by an influential family member, who accused Uzma Khan of having a relationship with her husband. Happily, this time, a large segment of society backed Uzma Khan for the injustice done against her. However, it took such popular support from the people for the police to finally file an FIR against the perpetrators of the crime. Don’t we all know why they wouldn’t lodge it earlier?  At the same time, while everybody’s attention is focused on the women in the incident, Usman Riaz, the husband in question, walks free and blameless.

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Nor too is Shahroz Sabzwari being called out for his conduct after his wife accused him of infidelity and obtained a divorce from him. Shahroz went on to marry Sadaf Kanwal, the woman his wife had accused him of being in a relationship with, but all it took for Shahroz to ward off all blame was for him to deny the accusations leveled against him.

In both scenarios, no one is blaming the men. This is where we lack as a society: while both men are out there living with respect and integrity, there are incessant personal attacks on the women. Is this because our society collectively considers women to have weak personalities?

Why can’t we tell a man that he is wrong even once? Why can’t we start a maligning campaign against a man as we do for women? As women, we do not ask to be made identical to men, but we certainly want our share. We are designed like it, the two genders cannot compete. We as a society can only progress if we realize that no man can compare with the menstrual pain that every girl goes through every month, or the excruciating pain of labor, or of carrying a baby in her womb for nine months.

Where are we heading? Do we want to give our future generation a land where justice is attainable? Or do we want to end in a place where happiness is gender-discriminated, where daughters and sons are raised with different expectations of the happiness they deserve? We shall strive for giving our youth a land where our daughters can walk fearlessly on streets, and where a man cannot even dare to drool over a 3-year-old girl, where parents can get happy over a daughter’s birth. We should work to have a country where a girl can tell her parents whom she wants to marry, where she has a say in her nikkahnama, where if a girl raises her voices people don’t start digging in her past, where a girl’s promotion can be equated with merit.

Let’s work on educating more men than telling women how to sit.

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Naya Daur