Femicide In Pakistan; No Justice For Women
Repeatedly we come across this notion that Pakistan is a country made for men belonging to the upper class or for dead women. It may come as an extreme viewpoint at a first read. Yet, with just a handful of reported cases on violence against women in Pakistan within the span of a week, without a doubt there is no better fitting line to sum up who our nation chooses to protect and whose needs it caters to. It doesn’t matter if a woman comes from a privileged background or not, neither her status in society nor her contribution is acknowledged. We refuse to take action to address their pertinent issues until these same women are buried under our watch.
Our nation has cultivated an opinion under which we refuse to respect, take action or even recognize what the women in our society face until and unless they become our ‘dead heroes’. It is as if they don’t deserve justice or respect unless they have been at the brink of death or are already dead. This is the same perception that a large chunk of our society carries and applies when they formulate opinions about women progressing in Pakistani society, such as Malala Yousafzai.
Many country-fellows love to hate the women. We saw Malala, a child, go through something so gruesome yet still standing strong to ensure other girls like her do not face what she had to. Regardless of this, we hated her because she wasn’t our dead hero, and didn’t die for us. Instead, she lived to make things better instead of being solely a symbol so we could avoid actual change. Our patriarchal roots in society ensure us to hate those who bring change and adore those who are merely to remain the faces of progressive movements without actually mobilizing them.
Justifying this hate often results in the same argument that if these women wanted to bring about change why have they settled abroad? Why is this change not coming from their own home country? This argument does nothing but circles back to having zero substance to it. The real questions is: what is the guarantee of her life if Malala returned to her homeland? Why is her returning more important than her life? The women who suffered so others could have it better, who mobilized local and international communities to work towards bettering lives for women here cannot leave to save their life; without being labeled as the face of hatred than of change.
We don’t just jump to victim blame those who make it out alive, but we blame even those who don’t. Justice becomes a hashtag to trend for a week and we lose momentum which ends up benefiting the very men in power that don’t even hesitate when turning down bills such as the Domestic Violence Bill intended to protect women, children and other vulnerable groups in society. Our systems fail when we let cases be solved through blood money, where our only form of justice is to beg and plead for it through social media instead of trusting authorities to take just action – we have been failing for decades. We fail every time we let a remark sexualizing women, whether that is uttered through the mouth of peers or family or someone in the position of power, go by as nothing but banter. We fail when we let Khadija Siddique’s assaulter get released from jail after 3.5 years of a 5-year sentence after some remissions in the punishment awarded by the courts. We’ve instilled so much fear into the women and girls of our nation that making them feel secure has become the Herculean task.
Numerous times, patriarchal traditions such as Jirga become associated with problems solely for people with lower incomes or near to no educational background when that is not the case. On the other hand, It is more likely that the cases will be covered up if you belong to the elite class and it is even harder to report cases for women belonging to lower classes. These two notions are interchangeable as any woman who is belonging to upper or lower class can be terrified to report cases, or not be taken seriously. Similarly, they are told to cover up the case in one way or the other.
This country is no longer a place for women; where they can feel secure and excel. It no longer even matters if that woman is dead or alive and there have been many incidents which confirm to this notion but is the justice served? A man was caught raping a female corpse in Okara city in March 2020. Then in July 2021, Usman Mirza tortured a couple under coercion. A girl in the eighth grade is abducted and assaulted in Rawalpindi, and four men sexually assault a student in Kasur. Justice for Saima, Quratulain and Noor trend as these three women become victims of murder within the ongoing femcide in Pakistan in the span of hours. We have failed those girls and women.
The change we require does not solely lie in the hands of authorities. While strict regulation, better and more accessible ways of reporting are required all with a heavy sense of accountability, we also need to trickle down the change beginning from our own circles. We ought to be calling out those remarks we let by as banter and break our patterns of entertaining notions of boys will be boys or what will people say. We can, and should do better before it’s too late to stop failing.